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What Is General Education (Gen Ed)?
If you’ve looked at your own college transcript, friends, or even siblings, you’ve likely seen something listed on it that says general education. In fact, you likely saw a lot of spots that said that, but what does that actually mean? And why do you need to take so many of those classes? Let’s discuss it together!
General education definition
General education credits, also known as “Gen eds”, are a requirement that you will find when you begin to receive your undergraduate degree. A gen ed is just what it sounds like, it’s a generalized course of study in a certain subject, think classes like:
- English I and II
- Basic college math courses
- Science (including social sciences)
- Arts and humanities
These are all some subject areas of general education classes that you might take throughout the course of your degree.
The purpose of gen eds
The gen ed classes you take in college won’t be all that different from the courses you took in high school. In high school, you likely had a certain number of classes you had to take in basic subjects such as math, English, history, science, and maybe even foreign language. Well, college is no different. No matter what subject you are majoring in, your school will want to make sure that you have a strong and balanced foundation in all areas of academics.
It may feel like they’re just keeping you from major specific courses as many gen eds need to be completed before you enter higher level major specific classes. However, general education classes are expanding your foundation and exposing you to subjects that you may have never otherwise been exposed to!
Gen ed classes
Let’s take a look at more specific classes that you may come across at your college. Unfortunately, each college will have their own general education classes and requirements, which means there is no universal list of courses you’ll have to take. However, the range of courses you can take is what makes gen eds so great! Below are just a few examples of some classes that were recently offered that thanks to gen eds, you may have the chance to take!
Conflict resolution in a divided world
Conflict Resolution in a Divided World is a class offered at Harvard. The goal of this course is to help prepare students in a practical way for something that they will face in all areas of their life!
Introduction to Scandinavian Folklore
Yes, you read the title of this class correctly. Introduction to Scandinavian Folklore is a course offered by UCLA. In this course you can expect to learn about all things fairy tales, but also explore a deeper side that asks why people tell the stories that they tell.
Just like the previous class, this course is exactly what it sounds like, watching mafia movies. In this Ohio State University class you’ll get a chance to learn about all things mafia! Alongside watching movies you’ll get to learn about the real history behind the Italian and Italian American mafias!
There are literally hundreds of other courses available that are just as interesting and surprising as the ones listed above. Our point is that these classes don’t need to feel like they are just wasting your time. Take your time to look for classes that really interest you. We promise you will find some!
When do you take gen eds
Most of your gen eds will be taken during your freshman and sophomore year of college. However, if you find that you still have a few leftovers during junior and senior year, that’s completely fine as well. Some of your last semesters in undergraduate can get quite heavy with major specific courses. When you have the option, adding in a gen ed that is about another topic can be a nice way to break up your mix of classes.
Shouldn’t you just take easy gen eds?
If you’re at all familiar with gen eds, then you may have had people give you advice in the past that you should just take the easiest ones you can. While it’s true that taking hard, high level gen ed classes isn’t always the best option, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself or take your time finding classes that really interest you. Each semester you can assess what sort of classes you need to take for your major. If you have a particularly heavy or light semester in terms of credit hours and degree of difficulty in classes, you can use that to measure the amount of time you’d be able to put into gen eds.
Frequently asked questions about general education
What if my college doesn’t have general education courses?
Do gen eds matter in college?
Does Yale have gen eds?