Why Should You Take Elective Courses at Community College?

Updated  February 10, 2016 |
Why Should You Take Elective Courses at Community College?
Many degree programs require students to take electives but what are the pros and cons of elective courses?
When it comes to taking college classes there is a certain degree of planning and forethought required. Different schools have different requirements in order to earn a degree and most colleges do not offer all of the required courses every semester. This is why you need to be very careful about planning your course selection to ensure that you get all the credits and core classes you need.
 
Core classes are the main part of any degree, but most colleges – both community colleges and universities – also require their students to take some elective courses. In some cases, students are required to take electives from certain categories but the beauty of elective courses is that you get to choose which ones to take. Even if your degree does not require any electives, however, you should still think about taking some because they can be very valuable for your education.
 
What Are Elective Courses?
 
The courses that you are required to take for your degree are typically referred to as core classes. These are the classes that every student must take in order to receive that particular degree. Elective classes are extra classes that may count toward your degree but which may not be directly related to the degree program you are in. You might choose to take elective courses that complement your degree or you could use them as an opportunity to explore another subject you think you might like.
 
For example, if you are going for a Bachelor of Science degree in Math you may be expected to take core classes in Calculus, Differential Equations, and other math-related subjects. You may also be asked to fulfill a minimum requirement for electives – you may choose to take a science class, for example, or a business class. The credits will count toward your degree if your degree program has an elective requirement, even if the course isn’t directly related to that degree.
 
Types of Elective Courses
 
There are three different categories of electives. Free electives are the most flexible option – they may include any credits that are not a requirement for your degree program. Many students view free electives as a time to take an easy class or to explore a subject they have interest in. Area of study electives allow students to have some choice in the matter but the options are all related to the degree program in some way. For example, a communications major might take area of study electives in journalism, communication law, or other relevant subjects.
 
General education electives are designed to help you achieve working knowledge of core subjects. An example of core subjects from Thomas Edison State University includes: Civic and Global Leadership; Intellectual and Practical Skills; Understanding of the Physical and Natural World; and Knowledge of Human Cultures. These options might vary from one school to another and some of them may overlap with multiple categories.
 
The Pros and Cons of Elective Courses
 
Many community colleges offer a wide variety of elective courses. In some cases, the selection of electives is much larger at a community college than it would be at a traditional college. This is because many traditional colleges have a focus on certain degrees, so most of the courses they offer are geared toward those degrees. Regardless the selection your community college has to offer, you should think about the pros and cons of taking electives before you sign up.
 
Benefits of Elective Courses:
  • Electives allow you to explore other subjects and areas of study – you might find that you like something you never tried before.
  • Taking electives outside your core coursework may give you a new perspective on your degree and your future career path.
  • Having elective courses on your transcript may make you more attractive to potential employers – it suggests a more well-rounded educational background.
  • Taking electives may expand your educational horizons, giving you insight into other categories or increasing your overall thinking and learning skills.
  • Electives may help you to build strong core values that will help you in achieving your desired degree and being successful in your field.
Drawbacks of Elective Courses:
  • Some students feel that elective course requirements are less likely to provide a dollar-based return than core classes related to their degree.
  • Elective course requirements may limit the student’s ability to participate in internship programs or hands-on experiences.
  • Students who are completely dedicated to their degree program of choice may feel as though unrelated electives are a waste of time.
Tips for Choosing Community College Electives
 
Before you register for any classes or even decide which classes you are going to take, it is always a good idea to talk to your academic advisor. In most cases, community colleges assign their students to academic advisors within their degree program – this ensures that the advisor has a sound knowledge of the degree program and its requirements. Your academic advisor will be able to tell you which classes you need for your degree and he or she will help you create your course schedule each semester. With the help of your advisor you will be able to get your core classes in, fitting your electives requirements in around them.
 
One way to make sure that your electives do not interfere with your core classes is to wait to take them. If you wait until you have completed all of your core classes then you won’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts when it comes to taking electives. Of course, you still need to plan ahead to make sure that the electives you want will be available by the time you finish your core classes. You may even be able to work in an elective or two if some of your core classes are not offered during a particular semester. No matter when you choose to take your electives, be sure to keep a detailed list of your degree program requirements including both core classes and electives to make sure you don’t miss anything.
 
Taking elective courses at community college is a great idea, even if you are taking your core classes elsewhere. You can save money on electives by taking them at community college, but you do need to make sure that your credits will transfer – obtain preapproval from your academic advisor before you choose any classes and before you register..

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