General Education Requirements….
You’ve heard of them, you know you have to satisfy them, but what exactly are they?
Most four-year colleges require students to take a variety courses that provide exposure to a number of disciplines. These courses are meant to help students develop some of the key skills and general knowledge they’ll need in life beyond the coursework required for their majors.
These requirements vary from school to school. Some colleges have a list of specific classes ranging from College Algebra to American History to British Literature. This is referred to as a core curriculum. Others create groupings of courses that represent categories of learning. You might be asked to take a certain number of credits within each of these broad categories such as The Arts, Foreign Languages, Social Sciences, and Quantitative Reasoning. This practice is generally known as “fulfilling distribution requirements.” In addition, some schools may require freshmen to participate in interdisciplinary seminars and writing workshops.
It’s a good idea to know what the General Education Requirements are at schools you’re thinking of attending. If the course list is extremely specific, it may contain classes you don’t want to take. Many students tell us they never want to take math again; others are done with foreign languages. While we may not agree with their point of view, it’s important for each student to know what they’re getting into.
There are a few schools out there that don’t have Gen Ed requirements at all – Brown, for instance. This is known as an “open curriculum.” If complete freedom to choose your courses is what you want, be sure to investigate whether or not you’ll be presented with a list of required classes that doesn’t allow for wiggle room.
While the idea of Gen Ed requirements may feel restrictive, there’s an upside here. Leaving college with a broad range of competencies, including sound communication skills, leadership potential, the ability to analyze data, comfort working within groups, and the beginning of a life long love affair with learning will set you up for success regardless of your career aspirations. Gen Ed classes will help you shore up each of those skill sets. What’s more, sampling classes within disciplines you might not have chosen left to your own devices, may end up introducing you to the discipline that turns out to be your destiny.
Depending on your ultimate major, there may be some crossover between Gen Ed requirements and your major’s requirements – this may leave you with some additional freedom in course selection.
Rather than a burden, however, it’s best to see Gen Ed requirements as an opportunity to spread your wings. And college is the ideal place to do that.