What are Elective Courses?

When you enroll in a college program, you take a combination of required classes and elective courses. Also known as electives, these are “free” classes that you can take that do not apply to your major. If you major in business, you have the chance to take classes in ceramics, performing arts or even a foreign language. Those courses will count towards the minimum number you must take to graduate. It’s important that you look for classes that will help you in your future career.

Types of Classes

Colleges give new students a list of all classes they must take and all requirements they must meet before graduating. Most bachelor programs require that students take 120 credits of classes. A smaller number of those classes will include general education requirements like English, math and life science. The college expects you to take a certain number of courses within your major too, which will include introductory classes and advanced courses. The remaining courses that you must take to meet the minimum number of credit hours will come from the electives that you take.

Why Choose Electives

Choosing electives is a great way to take a break from some of the harder classes you take within your major. When you have a semester filled with hard courses, you can take a fun class to get some free time. Electives also allow you to declare a minor in a field completely different from your major. If you major in education, you might declare a major in film studies, romantic literature or psychology. Depending on the number of classes you must take to fulfill a minor requirement, you may even have the chance to minor in two separate fields at the same time that you complete your major requirements.

Sticking to Your Major

Though some students select fun elective courses that do not relate to their majors, others take electives that help them achieve their career goals. You might major in psychology and take social work courses as your electives to work as a social worker later. Those majoring in business often take electives within the communications department, which helps them learn how to talk with their own employers and clients later. You should talk with your college adviser to get help deciding which electives to take based on your goals for the future.

Tips for Choosing Electives

USA Today recommends choosing electives that will help you become stronger in certain subjects. If you have a sharp mind for math but struggle with research and writing, you might enroll in a research heavy class to improve your skills. USA Today also suggests looking for classes that cover subjects you feel passionate about. If you have an interest in human rights, you can take classes on the history of the civil rights movement or classes that look at the rights of women in impoverished areas. The best thing about electives is that your college will often let you take any type of class you want.

College programs require that students take a variety of different classes, including general education courses, courses within their majors and electives. Though your college might give you the chance to take any elective courses that you want, you should look for classes that cover a topic you feel passionate about, fun courses or those that relate to your career goals.


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