If you are just beginning your college career, or even if you are a returning student, the prospect of picking your classes may seem daunting. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school we all pretty much were told what classes we were going to be taking and we had to take them to pass to the next grade (with the exception of elective courses in high school that were the student’s choice).
As with many things in higher education, class selection is a different beast entirely. To start out with, colleges draw up a set of core requirements that each student must meet throughout their time their to be able to graduate. These requirements can make freshman year seem like an extended version of high school to many students, with subjects such as quantitative reasoning, science exploration, and socio-cultural analysis. There is a difference between high school and freshman year at college, and that difference comes in the form of variability.
In high school, these general areas of study would be fulfilled by math, science, and social studies classes respectively. The only form of variability available to students here, at least in my high school, would be the option to take advanced placement versions of the required areas. I personally opted to take as many AP classes as I could. These AP credits were able to transfer to my college, and as a result most of my core requirements were completed before I even began. This is not the norm for all incoming freshman though.
Even without any AP or other types of credits to your name entering college, students are still provided with a wealth of choice as to what classes they wish to take. Their choices usually center around their interests or in their desired career path. Many students come in not knowing what it is they want to major in however, and that is totally fine. For each core requirement there are multiple courses over multiple disciplines that will satisfy them. For instance, say a student needs to fulfill their socio-cultural analysis requirement. If their interests lie more towards the humanities, an intro level anthropology course would fulfill the requirement. Similarly, if their interests sit more in law enforcement or economics both intro level criminology and economics classes would likewise fulfill the requirement.
After freshman year is over, more variability and choice in course selection will open up. Many of the intro level classes are required as prerequisites for higher level courses. Hopefully, by the first or second semesters of sophomore year most students will have figured out what they would like to pursue. Based upon what majors and minors a student picks, courses will also have to be selected by themselves to complete. While majors and minors do have quite a few specifically required courses, there are many requirements that can be fulfilled by varying courses and electives on vastly different subjects. One could say that, in college, with greater experience comes greater choice.
In addition to choosing and completing core and major requirements, students should also be on the lookout for electives that might strike an interest in them. For instance, I am currently taking a class on J.R.R Tolkien as apart of my honors society. In order to stay in the society, one honors class a semester must be taken. Out of at least five or six choices I picked this one. Partly because I love the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and also partly because for years now I have been enthralled with the desire to pen my own novels and thought that it would be a good idea to learn how the grandfather of the fantasy genre started out.
Once you get the hang of it, picking classes in college can be a fun and empowering thing to do. A nice change of pace from earlier years where classes, that may have been boring to you, were forced upon you. Now is your chance to take charge of your learning.