When it comes to taking college classes, a certain degree of planning and forethought is required. Different schools have different requirements to earn a degree, and most colleges do not offer all required courses every semester. This is why you must be very careful about planning your course selection to ensure 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 can choose which ones to take. However, even if your degree does not require any electives, you should still consider taking some because they can be very valuable for your education.
This video offers advice on how to choose your electives.
What Are Elective Courses?
The courses you must take for your degree are typically referred to as core classes. These are the classes that every student must take to receive that particular degree. Elective classes are extra classes that may count toward your degree but may not be directly related to the degree program you are in. You might choose to take elective courses that complement your degree or use them to explore another subject you think you might like.
This video explains what elective courses are.
For example, suppose you pursue a Bachelor of Science degree. In that case, 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 not required for your degree program. Many students view free electives as a time to take an easy class or explore a subject they are interested in. Area of study electives allows 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 an area of study electives in journalism, communication law, or other relevant subjects.
General education electives are designed to help you achieve a 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 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 at a traditional college. This is because many traditional colleges focus on certain degrees, so most courses they offer are geared toward those degrees. Regardless of your community college's selection, you should consider 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 have never tried before.
- Taking electives outside your core coursework may give you a new perspective on your degree and 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 build strong core values that will help you achieve your desired degree and succeed 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 completely dedicated to their degree program of choice may feel that unrelated electives are a waste of time.
Tips for Choosing Community College Electives
Before you register for any classes or decide which classes you will 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 the requirements of your electives around them.
One way to ensure 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, you won’t have to worry about scheduling conflicts when taking electives. Of course, you still need to plan ahead to ensure that the electives you want will be available by the time you finish your core classes. You may even be able to work on 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, keep a detailed list of your degree program requirements, including both core classes and electives, to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Even if you are taking core classes elsewhere, taking elective courses at a community college is a great idea. You can save money on electives by taking them at a community college. Still, you need to make sure that your credits will transfer – obtain pre-approval from your academic advisor before you choose any classes and register.
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