If you going into college already set on what you want to study and the degree(s) you hope to graduate with, then college electives may seem like stumbling blocks to the finish line. But they’re actually incredibly useful and can improve your overall job prospects if you approach them right; it’s not just universities trying to take an extra dollar out of your pocket. Although it can sometimes feel that way – try to make the most of your required electives! Plus, if you go into school with no idea what you want to do or what you want to study, they’re just that much more important and helpful for exploring.
College electives can be used as doorways into fields you think you might be interested in, but simply aren’t sure because you lack the exposure. How are you supposed to know you’re meant to be an architect if you’ve never had the opportunity to learn about design? And if you’re really struggling to pick an area of study, taking a couple very out of character classes can be a great choice and can maximize your contact with new skillsets you might pick up more easily than you ever though possible. It can also be a great way to find out about jobs you’d love, but have never even heard of.
College electives are also a really good way to make yourself seems like – and actually be! — a more well rounded student. If you’re an engineer, taking a class that demonstrates your ability to communicate clearly and creatively can be useful. A student in art and design showing some comprehension of physics and movement science can be a giant boon to their resume. And that’s a key thing to remember that not all students keep in mind; depending on how fleshed out your resume is and how specialized a job is your applying for upon graduation, listing particular classes of note isn’t unusual. If you’re applying for a chemistry based job at the EPA, it would be good to show that not only do you have a degree in chemistry, but you used your electives to explore invasive species and environmental influence on infectious disease, for example. Or an engineer hoping to work on a more business oriented project would undoubtedly be glad to put some business related curriculum on their resume. If you’re applying for a job out of country, it’s good to be able to show international experience, or even if the job simply requires a great deal of travel.
Electives are also useful in that they constitute a break from your normal curriculum, which can sometimes be hyper focused and for some degrees, very repetitive. If you’re an English major, taking an elective where less reading and writing is required might be just the breather you need. A student in the STEM field might prefer to do a little extra reading but take a break from a heavy math and science course load. And while it’s not good to take a class just because it’s “easy” (remember, easy is subjective, so word of mouth isn’t always dependable anyway!) it can be smart to offset more difficult classes with easier electives to help give your GPA a boost if it needs it.