What are Electives?

October 2, 2022
By AdmissionSight

What are Electives?

Did you know that students who take part in extracurricular activities tend to be more motivated to complete their academic programs in a timely and successful manner?

When you enroll in classes to earn a degree at a college or university in the United States, you will typically encounter three different types of classes: those that are required for your major, those that are required for general education, and those that are electives.

Your college education has the potential to significantly improve if you take advantage of the many different electives that are available to you.

Teacher talking to students in a room.

Electives are classes that a student can choose to take or not. Even though students are required to take electives to graduate, it is up to the individual student to decide which elective classes to take.

Electives can be things like:

  • Courses that are never required, but can be chosen instead
  • Those courses must be taken to graduate.
  • Academic courses that a student takes in addition to those required for graduation.

Electives are classes that can be applied toward the total number of required credits for graduation, but they are not mandated by the curriculum of the degree program that you are pursuing.

You are free to fulfill your elective requirements with any of the classes that are available to you at your educational institution provided that they do not have any other prerequisites or other significant conditions.

You are not required to take electives related to your major because you have a wide variety of options available to you.

For instance, if you are planning to major in English but also have a strong interest in psychology, you might think about taking some psychology classes as electives to broaden your resume.

Adding to your education by taking a relevant elective can also be very beneficial. When pursuing a degree in art and literature, for instance, expanding your knowledge by enrolling in classes that focus on art history or historical literature can be beneficial.

Students have the opportunity to choose their paths through electives. Students have the opportunity to take classes that are not included in their required curriculum through the use of elective classes in both high school and college.

It is important to be aware of the distinctions between required subjects and electives before attempting to comprehend how electives might influence your overall study strategy.

What are electives in college?

Elective courses are classes you get to choose. It is possible to fulfill a degree requirement with an elective, but the choice of which class to take is entirely up to you. There will be times when you choose electives that double up as prerequisites for classes that are necessary for a major or minor. The following is a list of some of the many different kinds of elective courses that are available to college students:

Courses outside of the core of General Education

The courses that make up a student’s general education requirements are those that must be completed successfully. These requirements typically include some number of elective credit hours, during which you are allowed to choose how you satisfy a particular requirement.

Group of students using a computer.

Elective subject  in the areas of study

The majority of majors and minors necessitate the completion of a predetermined amount of elective credits. Although they are part of your program, these are not required to earn your degree and can be considered electives.

For instance, a bachelor’s degree in psychology might allow students to choose from elective topics such as the psychology of animal behavior, the psychology of corporate culture, and the psychology of science fiction.

You can also use these electives to take classes that will prepare you for particular career paths, such as a class in forensic psychology.

Free and open options

This category of college elective does not relate to either your major or minor or to any particular general education requirement that you need to fulfill.

Instead, the purpose of these classes is to provide students with the opportunity to graduate with a well-rounded education and to satisfy the requirements for general credit. You have the option of enrolling in a physical education class in snowboarding, a hip-hop class, or a film course.

How many different electives are there to choose from at college?

To graduate from a university, you need a certain number of credits, and each college or university has its own set of rules regarding how many electives you need to take.

Your advisor at the university or college you intend to attend can collaborate with you in advance on a study plan to ensure that no unpleasant surprises are waiting for you after you enroll.

Even though there is a wide variety of classes available, some of the most common electives are as follows:

  • Composition or Creative Writing in English — If you take electives that are related to writing, you will have the opportunity to practice your English language skills, improve your grammar, and enhance your ability to communicate and tell stories.
  • Marketing — Marketing electives provide you with the opportunity to gain knowledge about a variety of promotion strategies, consumer psychologies, and market trends. These are extremely valuable skills that can be applied in a wide variety of settings.
  • Foreign languages — Being able to communicate in more than one language makes you more marketable to companies that serve a global clientele or provide international services. Additionally, it can significantly improve your ability to collaborate with multiethnic teams. It’s even possible that you could look for work in a different country if you want to!
  • Psychology — Having a fundamental understanding of psychology will assist you in comprehending how to work with other people, how to communicate with customers, and how to comprehend human behavior and thought processes. By gaining these insights, not only will your soft skills improve, but you will also stand out to potential employers as a strong member of a team.

A great number of community colleges provide students with access to a diverse range of elective classes. There are some instances in which the range of available electives at a community college is significantly wider than what one would find at a traditional four-year university.

This is because many traditional colleges have a concentration on particular degrees, and as a result, the majority of the classes that they provide are geared toward achieving those degrees.

Before you enroll in any electives at your community college, you should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks of doing so, regardless of the range of options that are available to you.

What are electives and their benefits?

  • You have the opportunity to investigate a variety of topics and fields of study through your electives, and you might discover that you enjoy something that you had never tried before.
  •  Taking courses that aren’t required for your major but that is still relevant to your field of study can give you a fresh perspective on your degree and the way you plan to use it in the future.
  • It is possible that having elective courses listed on your transcript will make you more appealing to prospective employers because it indicates that you have a more diverse educational background.
  • You may be able to broaden your educational horizons by taking electives, which may provide you with insight into other subject areas or improve your overall thinking and learning skills.
  • It’s possible that taking electives will help you develop solid core values that will serve you well in achieving the degree you want and being successful in your chosen field.

What are electives and their drawbacks?

  • Some students are under the impression that elective course requirements are less likely to provide a monetary return than the required core classes that are associated with their degree.
  • It’s possible that the student won’t be able to participate in internships or other hands-on experiences because of the requirements for their elective courses.
  • Students who are committed to the degree program that they intend to pursue may have the misconception that taking unrelated electives is a waste of their time.

Choosing Electives Wisely: 5 Pointers for College Students

It is not enough that you know what are electives, it is also important that you know how to choose electives wisely. It is always a good idea to talk to your academic advisor before you register for any classes or even decide which classes you are going to take. This will ensure that you are making the most informed decision possible.

Students raising their hands on a classroom.

The majority of the time, students at community colleges are assigned to academic advisors who work within the degree program that the student is pursuing. This helps to ensure that the advisor has a solid understanding of the requirements of the degree program.

Your academic advisor will be able to tell you which classes you need to take to earn your degree, and he or she will also assist you in developing your semester-by-semester class schedule.

You will be able to complete all of your required core classes with the assistance of your academic advisor, while also satisfying the prerequisites for all of your elective classes.

Waiting to enroll in your electives is one strategy you can use to avoid scheduling conflicts between your mandatory courses. When it comes to choosing your electives, you won’t have to worry about timetable clashes if you hold off on doing so until after you have finished all of your required coursework.

You will, of course, need to make preparations in advance in order to guarantee that the electives you want will be open for enrollment by the time you have completed all of your required coursework.

If some of the required classes for your major are not being offered during a particular semester, you may be able to substitute one or more electives in their place. Regardless of when you decide to take your electives, you should make sure to keep a comprehensive list of the requirements for your degree program. This list should include both the core classes and the electives. This will ensure that you don’t forget anything.

In college, selecting which classes to take for your electives can be a challenging and time-consuming process. We strongly suggest that you schedule some time in which you can plan out the requirements of your university, investigate the available elective courses, and consider your long-term professional aspirations.

Find out how much wiggle room you have in the classes you have scheduled.

When planning out your class schedule, make sure to include a variety of classes that range in level of difficulty and subject matter. You don’t want to get mentally and physically exhausted by taking too many challenging classes and having a varied schedule can help keep things interesting.

For instance, taking three history classes may be more challenging than taking one math class, one history class, and one elective that involves physical activity.

Young female student raising her hand in a classroom.

Before you start filling up your schedule with electives, you need to make sure that you give the requirements for your general education the highest priority.

Because the vast majority of students are required to take the same general education courses, it may be more difficult to enroll in those classes in your first few years of college. In the case of others, you can only take them during particular semesters, or they are part of a predetermined series that must be completed in a particular order.

Pay attention to the things that interest you the most

Students who haven’t decided what they want to major in can use electives to investigate different career paths while still meeting the requirements for their general education. Many times, introductory courses are counted toward your elective requirements and can give you an overview of the topic.

Students who have a wide range of interests have the opportunity to broaden their horizons by taking introductory courses in a variety of fields, including psychology, journalism, statistics, kinesiology, geology, art history, and finance.

In addition to that, you can supplement your major with electives. To complement your degree in culinary arts, you might, for instance, choose to study a foreign language. You might also consider supplementing your degree in computer science with a sequence of graphic design electives.

Talk to your school’s guidance counselor

Your educational journey and the ambitions you have for your future career can be tailored to determine which electives would be most beneficial for you to take. For instance, a career advisor can help you find a minor that might be a good fit for your career path as well as electives that can serve as prerequisites for that minor at the same time.

Professor teaching someone using a laptop.

Your academic advisor may also be able to point you in the direction of classes that will help you improve in areas of your education in which you struggle. For instance, a student majoring in business might find it useful to take an elective in writing to learn how to write proposals and communicate business ideas.

Think about the structure of the class

The structure of your class may affect your schedule, the amount of work you have, and your overall experience. Take into consideration whether the elective is a lecture or a seminar; the format of the class will affect the way you interact with other students and the instructors, as well as the level of participation that is expected of you.

If the elective you choose is a laboratory class, you might have to attend an additional class once a week for the lab work. You also have the option of selecting electives that are delivered in an online or hybrid format, which may provide you with greater leeway in organizing your time.

Make the most of this chance to experience something different

The opportunity to explore new interests and give something you’ve always wanted to do a shot is presented by the electives. A significant number of students make use of their electives to enroll in interesting and unusual classes such as dance, glassblowing, game theory, photography, and the infamous underwater basket weaving.

You can utilize your elective credits to add something fun to your schedule, such as a hobby or a skill that you have an interest in learning more about.

Through AdmissionSight’s private consulting program, we will be able to help you with academic and extracurricular strategies that will help you on your entire college journey. Don’t forget to get in touch with us and schedule your appointment today.



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