What is General Education?
As students get into college, it’s common to hear that they’re going into “general education” courses, but what does that mean? General education (or “gen eds”) consists of an array of courses focused on a variety of disciplines. Often, general education includes courses in math, natural science, behavioral science, writing, art, physical education, and other areas depending on the school and state requirements. Traditionally, the first two years of a student’s Bachelor’s degree experience are in general education, with their Junior and Senior years dedicated to their major-related courses.
The Myth About General Education
General education has regularly been criticized as being unnecessary and irrelevant. Why does a Business Administration student need to take an American History course, or an English student need a math class? Many assume students would receive greater value by simply focusing on courses related to their major; however, it becomes easy to overlook the many benefits provided by gen eds.
Exposes students to new ideas.
- Without the inclusion of gen eds in a major program, students lose out on the opportunity to gain new interests and knowledge that they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Many students find that their general education courses expose them to exciting new information that shapes their interests and academic goals going forward.
Helps students choose.
- Many students arrive at college without a clear idea of what they want to major in. General education not only gives students additional time to think about it, but it also gives them an opportunity to do a trial run in a variety of areas and fields before they commit.
- Fun fact: 30% of students will change their major at least once!
Improves communication skills.
- Communication skills are essential in the contemporary workforce. Taking several courses devoted to promoting communication, especially across disciplines, boosts students’ ability to effectively communicate across a variety of formats and contexts.
Creates a well-rounded education.
- While American History may not seem immediately relevant to a business student, the research skills taught in this type of course will significantly benefit the business student both in and out of college. Additionally, gen ed courses are often relevant to seemingly unconnected majors in many sneaky, indirect ways.
Forces students to think outside the box.
- General education promotes critical thinking and problem solving by pushing students to expand their knowledge base and engage with unfamiliar and challenging topics. These courses also carry a greater diversity of individuals than a typical major-related class, allowing students to share and learn from a wide variety of perspectives.
Boosts job prospects.
- In this day and age, many employers are looking for candidates with a variety of skills and a broad range of knowledge. The skills picked up in a general education course can help students stand out in the application pool.
At Iowa Wesleyan University, students have a wide range of general education courses to choose from; often with the added benefit of engaging in community service and experiential learning. Check out our degree programs!