08/07/2013 10:54 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2013

Why You Need to Take Gen Eds and How You Can Appreciate Them


Every fall, millions of eager college freshmen move into their dorm rooms with high hopes of finally being able to only take classes that they specifically select. However, these students find a rude awakening when receiving their proposed class schedules from their academic advisers. Computer Science majors will find that they are taking history, political science, and geology courses along with their major's requirements. English majors will find that they have to enroll in some quantitative reasoning courses in addition to taking their literature and writing classes. Thinking they are free from the rigors of high school classes that they found boring and uninteresting, college freshmen will soon realize that they will be now be taking the advanced versions of those courses that they abhorred.

So, why do colleges require their students to study these general subjects that they may have already partially covered in high school?

The purpose of a college education is to not only make our future professionals and leaders erudite in their intended fields of study, but to also make them well-rounded. College is intended to make students aware of as much as possible about the world they live in, while at the same time preparing them for the specific profession that they have chosen to pursue. Therefore, a great portion of a student's first two years at a college or university is devoted to rounding out their knowledge base and making them as educated as possible in many varying fields. Students are then able to completely focus on their major and chosen field during their remaining semesters. These short four years of intense studying eventually translate into knowledge, discipline, and responsibility across several areas. Needless to say, college is where students grow up, and receiving a well-rounded education is one of the ways that happens.

Why take Political Science when all you plan to do is program computers or write software for a living? Why try to master a science lab when you're only hoping to start a marketing career? It may not feel like it now, but being able to have a wide breadth of knowledge in so many vastly different topics will prove to be incredibly beneficial to your career, whatever it may be. Every field teaches you certain, basic skills that can (and probably will need to) be applied to whatever profession you end up pursuing. Tasks such as composing well-written emails and reports, calculating mental math to determine financial solutions, or applying examples from history to identify the best course of action in a challenging situation are all examples of skills you acquire by taking various Gen Eds. In short, a business consultant's or editorial manager's knowledge is not complete without what he or she learned from these first few semesters of general education classes.

So, if you are an incoming college freshman -- be prepared. Although college will a be a fantastic time for you to learn more about yourself and the subject you excel in through the study of your chosen major, you must still be ready to take the courses that you may not want to take. Don't worry, you will still be able to do what you love if you study well dedicate yourself to each course. Also, who knows? Maybe that Political Science class you take freshman year will take you by surprise and lead you to switch to this field of study. It is extremely common for college students to change their mind early on and pick a different major than the one they originally selected. Gen Eds are a great way to make sure you give each of these areas a chance; you could end up learning more than you expected, ultimately identifying the career path that is ideal for you. Don't miss out on this potential discovery just because you failed to take these classes seriously. Appreciate these general requirements and see where they take you on your journey.