Gen Eds 101: What to Know and How to Pick Them

General education requirements are important to your college career. Here are the basics of what gen eds are and how to choose the right ones for you.

You're probably wondering what general education requirements in college are all about. At first glance, it may seem like these required courses don’t have much to do with your major. You may be hoping to jump right into your field of study and learn everything you can about it right away. After all, what do English courses have to do with Health Administration or Psychology or Engineering? The truth is that general education courses are significant and important to your studies. Here's why you need to take gen eds in college, what options you can expect, and some tips on how to choose the right ones as you work toward your degree.

The importance of gen eds

General education courses are a requirement for all degrees at most colleges. But they’re required for a reason—they can broaden your knowledge and help you gain valuable skill sets that apply to everyday life, including your major and future career.

They prepare you for a career

General education classes help you adequately prepare for your chosen career. While you need to have a rigorous education, you'll also find that the curriculum can help you focus on developing soft skills. Soft skills are the core skills that give you the ability to succeed in any profession. Employers want to see candidates with certain attributes that keep their company running smoothly. Gen eds can also help you develop skills that are similar to ones you’d gain during internships, which are a great way to show future employers you have experience. Gen eds can do just that by assisting you in certain areas, such as delivering presentations and enhancing critical thinking.

They help you become well versed

You’ll also find that gen eds expose you to a wide range of subjects and ideas, which is important to helping you find a major if you’re undecided or for helping you branch out beyond your field of study—which also looks impressive to future employers. Being well versed in a broad range of perspectives gives you the ability to look at problems from different angles. You'll notice you can navigate through information more effectively and make sound decisions quickly in your more concentrated field of study.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Education in College

Types of general education courses to consider

What type of classes can you take to fulfill your general education requirements? The sky is the limit at most colleges. Generally, you should choose courses that pique your interest and/or give you an idea of what you'd like to further study in your college career. Gen ed courses include areas such as:

  • Arts & Humanities: Classes that satisfy this requirement could include visual arts, theater, writing, dance, and music.
  • English Language & Literature: Most colleges require students to take English. This ensures you learn how to write, analyze writing to form educated opinions, and appreciate world literature at a higher level.
  • History: History classes offer you the opportunity to learn about worldwide cultures. Specific courses may include Western Civilization or US History.
  • Mathematics & Science: Mathematics and science courses are especially helpful if you're interested in a career in the STEM fields. Even if you're majoring in something other than Math or Science, you should still gain basic knowledge of these subjects.
  • Social Sciences: These courses teach you how people interact in a society. It can also help you develop meaningful relationships. You might take classes such as public speaking or sociology.

How to choose your gen eds

When choosing which gen eds to take, it helps to think about how they will set the foundation for your future career. Don’t think of them as something you need to “get out of the way.” The purpose is to help you gain transferrable skills that lead to better opportunities later. You should judge them on whether they truly add value to your education. 

You should also avoid choosing classes just because they’re easy. It's vital to find a proper balance between easy and difficult courses. For instance, if you're taking mostly challenging courses, you'll find it harder to succeed in college. On the other hand, easy subjects won't challenge you, and they certainly won't help you learn anything new. Find subjects that speak to you and encourage you to be more engaged so you learn something valuable to take with you. 

Lastly, avoid putting it off ’til the last minute when choosing courses. Gen ed classes are typically taken early on in your college career because students at this stage haven’t yet decided upon a major. But they can fill up fast, and you don’t want to miss out on the ones you really want to take. 

Related: 4 Expert Tips for Choosing Your Best–Fit College Major

If you've completed your search and found a school match already, you're most likely dreaming about your time in college. Figuring out which major you should go for can be overwhelming. However, general education courses will help you with that once you enroll. Remember that gen eds will provide you with wonderful opportunities—and it will be exciting to see where they take you.

Learn more about your educational options in college—and maybe even discover your field of study!—in our Majors and Academics section.

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About Ginger Abbot

Ginger Abbot is an education, learning and student life writer, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Read more of her work for college students on her Classrooms author page.


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