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Courses of Study

Undergraduate colleges vary widely in the courses they offer and the courses they require. Traditionally, students at colleges enrolled in three basic types of courses:

  1. Core courses in basic subjects. Students were required to spend most of their first and second years in college taking basic courses in mathematics, English literature, history, and often a foreign language.
  2. A college “major,” or concentration in a certain specific subject area. If you were an “economics major,” for example, you would be required to take a certain number of basic courses in economics, then select from additional optional courses to fulfill the economics departments requirements for the major. Sometimes a student would also take a college “minor,” dealing with another subject area in which fewer courses would be required.
  3. ”Elective” courses in any subject of the student’s choice, filling out the number of college credits to graduate.

Over the past few decades, colleges have relaxed or eliminated core course requirements. Requirements for college majors are also often less rigorous than in the past. This leaves a situation in which the student enrolls primarily in elective courses, which can involve nearly any subject under the sun, at the expense of the basics. Many commentators criticize this trend, judging that it leaves American college graduates at a disadvantage in the world market compared to those from other countries where educational requirements are more rigorous.

As an example of potential college majors, one large urban university allows concentrations in the following subjects: African & African American Studies, American Studies, Anthropology, Art History, Classical Civilization, Classical Languages, Communications and Media Studies, Comparative Literature, Computer Science, Dance, Economics, English, Environmental Policy, Environmental Science, French Language and Literature, History, Information Science, International Studies, Italian Language and Literature, Latin American & Latino Studies, Mathematics, Medieval Studies, Middle East Studies, Music, Natural Sciences, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religious Studies, Social Work, Sociology, Spanish Language and Literature, Theatre, Theology, Urban Studies, Visual Arts, and Women’s Studies.

Next Section:The College Credit System

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