Let’s Talk About GEs

General Education courses or “GEs,” as we like to call it in the academic realm, can be some of the most interesting courses you will take in college. Some students think of it as an annoyance, an obstacle that keeps them away from their major courses. However, when I was in college, I didn’t see them as annoyance and I still strongly promote GEs to my students. So, allow me a chance to get you excited about GEs.

GEs were some of my favorite courses. I was a Mathematics & Education interdisciplinary major with a History minor at my institution and already that was quite a diverse education. But once I added GEs into the rest of my schedule, new worlds and topics and people outside of major/minor were welcomed to my every day.

General Education or GEs is a curriculum containing a wide array of courses that cover various themes that all students must complete before graduation. Here at USC, the curriculum is structured to provide a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge you will need to consider yourself, and by others, a generally well-educated and well-rounded person. However, please do not confuse GEs to be the same as an elective course. In order to graduate, each student has required courses such as: major courses, minor courses (if selected) and GE courses. But these three main requirements do not fulfill our total course count so the remainder of courses can be filled with elective courses (courses in whatever topic you wish).

USC updated our GE requirements in 2015. Within this update, there is a total of ten GE courses that are categorized within our two themes: Core Literacies and Global Perspectives. There are eight courses under the Core Literacies (GE – A to F) and two courses under Global Perspectives (GE – G to H). There is also a GE-Seminar that is required of all First Years and must be taken in your first year at USC.

I know that this may sound like a ton of courses and work but it can be so fun! There are a variety of interesting courses that you can take to fulfill these categories. For example, you can take a course called “Hip-Hop Music and Culture” and that would complete your GE-A requirement. Or you can take a Human Biology course called “The Human Animal” to complete your GE-D. Check out a complete list of USC GE courses on our website!

I think the common misconception about GEs is that students must complete them in their first two years of college when, in fact, most students will complete them throughout their four years at USC alongside their major requirements. This also means that if you weren’t able to get into a GE that you really (REALLY) wanted, you may be able to wait to take it another time. Or get adventurous and register for a GE course you never thought you’d take to learn something totally new! The main goal is to finish them before graduation (since they are a graduation requirement). And be sure to update your Academic Advisor along your GE journey as well!

As you can see, there are many areas that you get to discover when taking GEs! As Dornsife School of Letters, Arts and Sciences so eloquently put it: we want to “prepare students to act as socially responsible members of the global community, respectful of the values and traditions of diverse cultures, aware of the structures of power that affect people differently by race, class, gender, and other socially constructed categories, sensitive to the interplay between worldwide problems and specific, local challenges” (G.E. Program Requirements). In other words, we want that future doctor to be aware of the social sciences and humanities so they can improve their practice and make better relationships with their patients. We want that art students to be fully able to understand the STEM areas so they can be innovative in their art and aware of STEM issues around them. We want our future change makers and world leaders to be well-versed in all areas so they can be better critical thinkers.