Taking elective courses when you’re at college can seem like a waste of time. History majors have to take advanced math, and math majors will spend time with a history book. When I was in college, I thought it was pretty pointless to be sitting through lectures on topics I didn’t understand or didn’t take interest in. Electives, however, changed my entire educational journey. Colleges have you take these courses as a way to not only round out education, but to get you to think outside the box of your skill set. Follow this guide on how to select your elective courses in a way that helps you both meet your requirements and grow as a student.
Many colleges have a staggered system for when a particular class can sign up for courses. Sometimes it is based on graduation year but it can also be based on the number of credit hours you have taken. I went into college with a lot of credits from high school, so I always signed up before many of my classmates. Check your school’s website or check with an adviser to determine when you can sign up. Then, plan ahead so you have time to really pick courses that appeal to you and have a list of back ups in case the courses are filled. No one wants to get stuck with random courses because they didn’t prepare.
What is Required?
Most colleges are going to require you to take a certain number of courses from a variety of subject areas. My college, for example, required that we take three science courses, three arts and humanities classes, and three history courses in addition to a careers course and a freshman introductory class. When it came time to sign up for classes, I logged into my account and pulled up what requirements I had already fulfilled and what I needed to take. This allowed me to only take courses that were necessary and to not take any extra from a particular category, which can slow down your graduation.
List Your Interests
After figuring out what you need to take, make a list of subjects you’re curious about within that field. For example, with science, I was interested in astronomy and earth science. When you make a list of your interests, it makes taking on a category you’re unfamiliar with seem less of a hassle. If you don’t like history as a subject, but enjoy learning about the military, you could take a military history course. Make every class you take work for you and expand your knowledge.
Conversely, if you feel bold, take courses that are opposite of your interest area. By doing this you can open up your knowledge base to entirely new topics. I took a chance and took a folklore class, which sounded strange and unlike anything I had heard about. Once I took that class, I was hooked, and ultimately majored in folklore instead of the business marketing degree I was seeking. Sometimes stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you grow as a person and student.
Read the Course Descriptions
Most colleges either have a book of course offerings or a website where you can read all the listings of classes offered in a given semester. Find the category of class you need to take and have matched either to your interests, or are opposite your interests. Read the course descriptions and see what sounds intriguing. I took a course on World War II that was from a European perspective, but it was simply titled “World War II History.” Reading the course title isn’t enough, and sometimes, and as I read further I got more details about the course. It became one of the most interesting classes I took in college, but if I hadn’t read further, I probably would have skipped it.
This is where planning ahead makes a big difference. There can be hundreds of course offerings available at your college and you can’t read them all in one afternoon. Use a highlighter or pen to mark classes you find interesting, and then narrow them down and rank them over the course of a few days. I always listed the course number that I would enter in the sign up system next to the course name, so if a course was filled when I signed up, I could move down the list and still meet my requirements.
Now that you have chosen your courses, you can prepare to sign up. Most colleges have a digital system where you sign in, plug in the course numbers and sign up. Be prepared as an underclassman to have back up courses because your favorites will probably be filled. I always save my list of back up courses in case a class gets canceled so I wouldn’t scramble to find a course over the summer. With a little planning, you can take courses that truly help your education, even when it seems that they won’t come in handy in your career field., and also graduate on time by meeting the requirements.