You did it. You got into your dream school, you’re picking out dorm supplies, you know what you want to major in, and then it hits you. All those cool classes you wanted to take will have to wait, because guess what? Your college requires Gen Ed classes, or those sets of classes that you have to take to fulfill academic area requirements. “But—” you stammer. “But what about all of the cool classes I already picked? Shouldn’t my AP credits take care of Gen Eds?” Or, you might be thinking something along the lines of Hey, I’m a history major, why do I have to take Calculus?
But eventually you accept the fact that you’ll have to take some different classes than you would’ve before. Really, though, it’s not so bad. In fact, Gen Ed classes can be highly beneficial, and you might discover that your interests are in fact a little different than you thought at the beginning of your freshman year.
At most schools, you’ll probably have a pretty wide range of classes to choose from, although it might be more restrictive depending on the subject. Some requirements, like mathematics, you really can’t get around—you might just have to take Calculus, or statistics. However, you could find that at the college level these classes are far more appealing than they were in high school. Maybe you end up with a really great professor—then statistics might not be quite so boring, and even if it doesn’t end up as your major it definitely helps in a wide variety of fields.
Other area requirements will give you many, many options, and you’re guaranteed to find at least one class interesting. At my college, for instance, we have a “History From a Non-Western Perspective” requirement, which is pretty much any history class that doesn’t focus on the United States or Europe. There are a ton of classes that I could take to fulfill this Gen Ed requirement, and a lot of them look pretty intriguing even though I don’t plan on majoring in history. Keep an open mind—many schools that have Gen Ed requirements are liberal arts colleges or universities, a teaching model which exists to provide breadth to a student’s studies.
What is most difficult to stomach for many students is their college’s language requirement. If you didn’t take an AP language class in high school, or if your college still requires a language, you may typically have to take up to four semesters of the same language. This can be a lot—especially for those who find learning a new language challenging. When picking a language, it may be wise to find one that you would enjoy learning the basics of, along with a culture that interests you. There’s no point in taking French if you have no interest in going to France; conversely, there’s no point in taking Russian if you staunchly refuse to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.
At my college, the two Gen Ed classes that I think will be most useful in the long run are the creative arts requirement and the science requirement. Many students jump whole-heartedly into their arts Gen Ed—I know one future business student who is currently taking a clay modeling class, something fun, artistic, and educational that he would never have done otherwise. Science classes are similarly helpful—it can be refreshing to learn about the natural world after taking a full schedule of humanities classes. Either way, crossing disciplines because of area requirements can expand your mind and introduce you to subjects you would never have glanced at before. So embrace your Gen Ed classes—who knows, you might actually learn something.