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Elective classes are like the silver lining of any class schedule. Electives can be fun, unusual, or easy, and they still count towards your degree. While other classes may be required or part of your major, electives provide a breath of freedom to choose something different, unrelated, or purely for fun without it interfering with your degree progress.
Typically, colleges use a credit system, where each class counts for a certain number of credits, and those go towards a total number of credits needed to graduate. Elective classes are great because they provide credits that can be put toward the total but there is complete freedom in what the class is about.
There are a couple types of electives. There are elective classes within your major, which are classes that will satisfy certain requirements for your degree, but you can choose from a couple options. For example, if you were an English major and you needed a writing class to put towards your degree, you could choose between an essay class, a creative writing class, or a research writing class.
The type of elective classes that we’re talking about are the free electives. These are the classes that do not have to be a part of your degree field, or your core curriculum classes (ie. Math, science, etc.).
It could be a class about movies, drawing, Zumba, or any topic, really, and still count toward your credit count even when it has nothing to do with your degree. The catch, of course, is that not all of your classes can be electives. Colleges typically allow only a certain amount of your credits to come from elective classes. Usually, the amount allows for at least one elective class each academic year.
The Best Electives to take in College
The beauty of free electives is that you can choose whatever you want. You can go with something practical, like a finance class, or something purely for fun, like skiing. Or find something with the best of both worlds. Whatever you choose to use your elective credits on is your decision, but here is a list of what we think are the best electives to take in college:
Some colleges offer classes that teach first aid or will accept and reward credits for first aid courses that you may have taken elsewhere. Learning first aid has clear benefits for you and for others. From learning to clean a cut to performing CPR in an emergency until help arrives, a First aid class can prepare you for life (and saving it) in a big way.
P.E. (But Better)
Yes, even in college, there is P.E. class. But, not to worry–gone are the days of running laps in your gym and passing the school fitness tests. P.E. classes in college are often more focused on a specific sport or activity and much more about participation than meeting a specific benchmark.
There is also a lot more freedom in college to choose an activity that you like or want to learn more about (unlike high school, where you get to class and are told you’re running a mile). Yoga was a really popular option amongst my peers. It offered a way to stretch, relax, and learn breathing techniques that helped with stress (very applicable to the college population). Some schools even offer classes like skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and horseback riding.
Most colleges require some kind of P.E. as part of the core curriculum, but you are not necessarily limited to only one. P.E. classes are great electives with health benefits and can be a lot of fun.
No one reads economics and thinks, “oh wow, sounds like fun!” Here’s the thing, economics or personal finance may not be the most exciting class, but the information is super valuable. Understanding the way that money and cash flow work and seeing how you fit into the system can teach you how to better prepare for economic turns.
When you’re out of college, the bills waste no time in stacking up. Knowing how to handle your money is an absolutely essential skill. Economics or personal finance classes are great electives that we can use as building blocks for life after college.
Like economics and personal finance, entrepreneurship, even at an introductory level, is a great elective to take. Entrepreneurship provides a business prospective but shifts the focus on us and how we can affect and fit into it. It also connects creativity into the process of how we can make money. Even if you aren’t interested in business, entrepreneurship is still a great elective to consider.
Knowing how to write and clearly communicate your ideas through writing is necessary in the business world (most likely where you’ll end up after college). Creative writing classes are great opportunities to sharpen that skill in a fun and engaging way. You learn how to tell a story, how to use words to convey deep meaning, and how to communicate understanding effectively, all while stretching your creative muscles.
You also get experience taking creative criticism, which is not nearly as harsh as it sounds. Creative writing classes often involve peer editing, so you read each other’s stories, make suggestions, and learn from each other. Overall, creative writing classes are great electives that can offer lots of growth and fun.
It’s no secret… pretty much everything is done with computers or some form of technology now. Learning how to navigate your way through basic computer programs and IT issues is a service to yourself—not to mention, it looks great on job applications.
Taking a basic computer programming or IT elective in college can put you ahead of other job applicants in the future. It can also help you in the present for when your laptop is acting up and you need it to act right to get that assignment turned in before midnight.
Public speaking is hardly anyone’s favorite thing to do. Trust me, I get it. Unfortunately, a lot of jobs require the ability to voice your ideas and talk in meetings/presentation settings. Learning to comfortably present in front of groups is a necessary evil.
An alternative to a basic public speaking elective would be an acting or theater elective. Theater/acting classes are often less pressure, more fun, and still teach you the basics of performing/speaking in front of other people. Public speaking and acting are great elective classes that will help you gain experience presenting/speaking in front of others before you are out in the professional, post-college world.
Foreign Language elective classes are great tools for the future. Learning a second language (or at least the basics of a second language) can be super helpful post-college. It looks great on resumes and can be an asset when traveling.
These elective classes will also give you a better understanding of different cultures and open doors for more opportunities that require experience with multiple languages. This can also be super helpful for mission work and ministry trips.
Elective classes in the field of psychology are incredibly interesting. Now, this may not interest everyone, and that’s alright. Psychology studies people’s minds, the way that we think, and how we make decisions. Even just taking a basic psychology course can provide us with lots of insight into why we behave the way that we do and why we make the decision to stay up super late despite knowing we have an exam the next day.
Other options in psychology electives could be things like abnormal psychology, which would be interesting to those of us who watch crime shows or serial killer documentaries. There are even psychology classes about animal behavior, for those animal lovers. Psychology elective classes are super interesting and a great way to go for an insightful and mind-bending experience.
Any elective classes that encourage creativity are a green light. Art classes that teach you style, painting, sketching, sculpting, pottery, or anything like that are great for creative outlets and expression. Including classes like that in our schedules are great ways to ensure that we are practicing creativity regularly and can be a great source of calm, even as a class.
Music elective classes are also a great way to go. Music has a way of speaking to the soul. Learning new instruments, taking music theory or history, or even a choir or acapella class can give us an avenue for expression and space to appreciate music on a different level.
How to Choose the Best Elective Classes
Sadly, we may not be able to take all the elective classes that we want to, so how do we choose the best elective classes? Simple: the best electives to take in college are the ones that YOU are most interested in.
You will have plenty of other classes that you have to take either as part of the core curriculum or part of your degree. Electives should be ones that are not bound by “have to” or “required.” Electives should be those classes that offer a small escape for you from the regular “school” feeling. Choose classes that interest you, or sound fun to you, or, honestly, that sound easy.
Not everything about college must be a challenge. Choosing elective classes that sound like they will provide you with space to breathe and be an “easy A” is totally fine. Elective classes are yours to decide, so use them for whatever you want.
However, you should know that just because a class sounds like it will be fun or easy, it may not be what you expect. You should always do your research beforehand, so you know what you’re signing up for. The professor makes or breaks the class. Use ratemyprofessors.com to look up the class and the professor to see what other students have to say about the experience. What you don’t want is to search for a relaxing, easy, fun elective and get stuck with more work and stress than your core classes.
Elective classes are gifts from above: fun and credit toward your degree. There are so many great options available at college, so choosing the best elective classes can be difficult. The thing to remember is that the best elective classes to take are the ones that interest you the most.
You want to learn to play the guitar? Go for it. You want a glimpse into the mind of a pig? Have at it. Elective classes are an escape from the regular requirements of your education to stretch your mind and allow you some freedom in your experiences. The list above is a great reference for classes to look for, but the decision is ultimately yours. The best elective classes are the ones YOU enjoy; so, have fun!
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