How Will I Know What Courses to Take at Community College? (page 2)
Once you've been admitted to the college, there will still be more to do! Being admitted does not mean that you are registered. When you select, schedule, and enroll (secure a place) in your classes, you'll be officially registered. The college will able to record and track your academic progress. You need to register and enroll in classes each term. You'll also need some advice about what to take based on your interests, personal schedule, and educational goals. You'll have experts and resources available to you to help you make these decisions.
FAST FACT: Many community colleges offer an Associate's degree in General Studies (AGS) for students who want maximum flexibility in meeting requirements for transfer to a four-year institution, exploring a career, or meeting other personal goals.
You may be fortunate enough to know exactly what major (your primary field of study) or career you want to pursue. If you don't know, don't panic. Many students enter community college without a clear idea of what they want to study, or what types of jobs they can get when they study a particular subject.
You can, however, begin to explore choices. The earlier you begin, the better chance you have to create a long-term road map for achieving your associate's degree or certificate, or for transferring to a four-year institution. There are plenty of resources and people on campus to help you make a decision. Keep reading for more information.
What You'll Need to Take
You'll need to fulfill requirements for your certificate or degree by balancing courses and meeting requirements in several different areas:
- General education requirements
- Courses in your major (your primary field of study)
- Electives (courses that interest you but that may not be related to your major)
If you intend to transfer to a four-year college or university, you'll also want to be sure that you're taking courses for which you'll get credit when you are admitted to that institution. (See Chapter 10 for more information on transferring.)
You'll want to create a checklist of all the requirements you need to meet and keep track of your progress each semester.
General Education Requirements
Many community colleges have general education requirements, also called general core curriculum (course of study) requirements. These are courses that all students need to fulfill to have a well-rounded education.
The core curriculum is centered on subjects such as English composition, mathematics, arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and natural sciences. Students in vocational and technical programs are also required to take the "core courses." Many of these courses are ones you'll take in your first several semesters at college.
You may think that the core's a bore, or that it will take you off track from your career interests. Try to look at these courses as an opportunity to explore a subject you might enjoy or as a way to help you select a major. They might be your best chance to explore a field that you didn't even know interested you, or to dig into something you always wanted to know about, but simply didn't have time to learn about.
Deciding On a Major
You won't need to declare (choose) a major, the primary subject you have decided to study, the moment you are admitted, but it's good to start thinking about your major sooner rather than later if you want to earn your degree in a specific field.
For example, you may choose to major in English, computer science, or accounting. The majority of courses that you take will be in the field of study you choose. If you are undecided about a major, don't worry. You can follow a course of study in general studies and still get your associate's degree.
It's important to realize that choosing a major isn't always the same as choosing a career. If you study math as your major, it doesn't mean you have to be a mathematician when you graduate. Your major can be the broad base for a number of different career options. Majoring in math, for example, might prepare you for a variety of careers in science, business, insurance, or engineering.
It's also important to understand that once you've chosen a major, it doesn't mean you're stuck with it. You can change your mind if you think you've made a mistake, or find that the selection you've made won't lead you where you want to go.
Most students change their minds at least once about what they want to study. But you don't want to change majors too often, as it can cost you time and money to start over in a new area.
Once you do decide on a major, you'll want to examine the required coursework, be sure you understand what the pre-requisites are, and know the number of credits you must earn to complete the degree or certificate in that major. The sooner you choose a major, the more time you'll be able to spend taking courses that count toward your degree.
Academic advisors, professors, and career centers are are all resources that are available to help you choose a major.
These are courses that may complement your major or that you choose just because they interest you. For example, if you're majoring in English, you might choose an elective course in communications as a related field, or in accounting as an unrelated field.
Vocational/technical programs tend to have a more defined curriculum (course of study) and often do not offer as many opportunities for elective coursework as do liberal arts-based programs of study.
If you think you'll want to transfer to a four-year institution, you'll want to select courses early on that will transfer smoothly to the institution you want to attend. You may even be in a special transfer studies program geared especially to this goal of helping you switch into a four-year institution and helping you prepare for a major there. Different four-year colleges have different requirements for transfer. See Chapter 10 for more information about transferring.