4 Things to Consider When Choosing Electives in College

Electives shouldn't be considered throwaway classes you have to take to earn your college degree. Here's what you should think about when choosing your gen eds.

Elective classes are unique opportunities to explore new subject matter in college. Every college student will have the opportunity to choose a limited number of these general education courses. Unfortunately, many students simply choose classes that fit into their schedule. But that’s blowing a chance to make your college experience more well rounded and enjoyable. Here are four things you should consider before choosing an elective course.

1. You can explore majors through your electives

Undecided students (aka, the majority of entering freshmen) are encouraged to take electives in fields of study they're considering. If you're contemplating majoring in Psychology, Philosophy, or Chemistry, these courses should all be on your electives list. Many students take an introductory class in a field of study they're considering only to find out they have little to no interest in the subject. And if you're bored with the subject after only three months, you probably won’t want to work in the field for 30+ years. Also remember that freshman year of college can be stressful, and lower-level classes often only skim the surface. So it’s a good idea to take two or three classes in any given field before making any major decisions.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Gen Ed Classes Aren't a Waste of Time

2. Try taking a class you've always wanted to but never could

Remember that college students are free to explore their education and broaden their horizons with the subject matter of their choice. This isn’t like high school, when students often choose electives they think will look good on their college applications. If you always wanted to paint but never had a chance to take an art class, now is the opportunity to receive credit for it. Or if you always wanted to learn about the science behind yoga, you may be able to take a kinesiology class or, in some cases, an actual yoga class in order to receive elective credit. Elective courses offer students a chance to truly love their course material.

Important note: You should make sure you're taking these experimental classes as a non-major. For example, students taking Painting 101 for non-majors will often be graded on effort, improvement, and ability to follow directions, whereas students majoring in Art will be graded on their talent and technical skill.

3. Consider the social aspect of the course

Many students find the large lecture hall experience to be impersonal. Although a number of introductory courses are only offered in this format, most students enrolled in these courses are losing out on valuable social experiences. If you'd like a more social experience in your elective class, look at the number of students allowed in the course. If the course closes at 30 students, you're more likely to have a chance to get to know some of your classmates in a more intimate setting. On the other hand, the elective course might close at 300 students—just another lecture. Also consider the setup in the classroom. Art classes offered in a studio and science classes conducted in a lab often provide a more intimate setting where students can collaborate on work and get to know each other.

4. Choose a class format that's convenient to you

When it comes to choosing college electives, students are encouraged to think about the particular class format they prefer. For instance, if you're working a part-time job to supplement your education, you may find that it makes life easier to take electives online, if they’re offered in that format. Online classes still have due dates but generally don’t require students to attend class at a specific time, which allows you to work your assigned shifts. Blended learning courses are also a good option for students who are balancing work and academics. If you're only accountable to go to campus twice a month, it may be much easier for you to maintain your part-time job and continue to study online in your free time.

Related: How to Take Charge of Your Education in Online Classes

General education courses are a great opportunity for students to explore their interests, discover their major, make friends, and have fun while working toward their degree. These classes won't seem like a waste of time if you choose them with intention. And you never know—your ballroom dancing elective may be the class you draw from the most years down the line. So have an open mind and take advantage of all your options! 

Learn more tips and tricks for choosing and excelling in your courses with our "college classes" tag.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

Ana Sophia Garcia-Cubas Assemat

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2020

CollegeXpress has been an instrumental resource for my scholarship search and has given me the opportunity to try my best so I can graduate from college debt-free.

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

Rana Slosberg

Rana Slosberg

Slosberg College Solutions LLC

My favorite part of CollegeXpress is the 800+ lists which have all kinds of hard-to-find information. These lists are helpful when I’m creating college lists, and I also use them to give students a feel for a particular college or university.

Amari Toussaint

Amari Toussaint

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress helped me narrow my school choices down from 10 schools to four and then two. It also gave me information on a school I had never heard about or thought about attending until now, which is the school I will be attending in the fall. I am thankful for CollegeXpress and its helpful tools.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Moody Bible Institute

Chicago, IL

Stevenson University

Stevenson, MD

Sacred Heart University

Fairfield, CT