Picture of a young man sitting at a desk, reading a book.

“The Student” by Julius Thiengen Bloch (American (born Germany), Kehl 1888–1966 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

Most online colleges and universities have some general education program in place. In fact, according to a periodical published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, general education courses “may comprise as much as one-third of [a student’s] college education.” Now, you might not be too keen on having to complete a cluster of core courses, but general education programs aren’t going away anytime soon.  So, you can approach your general education courses in one of two ways: you can bemoan the fact that you have to take courses outside of your major, or you can decide to make the most of all the learning opportunities that general education courses present

Personally, I recommend the latter! The truth is your general education courses can teach you a lot. Here are some of the things you can learn if you keep an open mind:

1. How to Bounce Back

General education programs require you to step outside of your comfort zone. These courses ask you to think and write in unfamiliar ways. You may have a difficult time adjusting. To get your desired grade, you must learn how to push through adversity and adapt to a different aa environment with different expectations.

2. How to Motivate Yourself

Anyone can get pumped up for a course within their major. It’s harder to get jazzed about a required course in a subject you know nothing about. I speak from experience! My senior year, I found myself in a pinch. I had to fulfill my Quantitative Reasoning requirement, and I didn’t have many options that fit my schedule! So, I enrolled in an Applied Statistics course, one that met at 8:30 in the morning. At first, I found it difficult to get up and show up. However, eventually, I was able to see the bigger picture. I realized that doing well in this course would help me in the long run. To do well in school, you have to learn how to get and stay motivated. Gen. Ed. Courses can help you look inward for inspiration!

3. How to Communicate Effectively

Most Gen. Ed. Courses are designed to enhance your written and oral communication skills. They require plenty of writing, group work, and class participation. To succeed in these courses, you need to learn how to communicate your ideas succinctly.

4. How to Ask for Help

As I mentioned before, Gen. Ed. courses are designed to challenge you in unexpected ways. Even if you are a very efficient and effective learner, you may find yourself stumped. So, you may ask your instructor, peers, and advisors for assistance. You may even start to take advantage of some of your school’s support services. That’s a good thing! In life, you’ll need to know when to tackle a project on your own and when to reach out to someone with a little more experience.

The bottom line: you don’t have to love your Gen. Ed. Courses, but you do have to take them. Why not gain something meaningful from the experience? Go into those classes determined to learn something, and that’s exactly what you’ll do!