Choosing an elective can be both exciting and intimidating. As part of Catholic U's liberal arts education, most majors have room for you to take several free electives: courses that don't contribute to any particular list of requirements. These courses still count as credit towards your degree, since you need to complete at least 120 credit hours (depending on your intended major, comprised of 40+ courses, typically 3-credit each) to graduate with your Bachelor degree. Consult with your advisor to determine the number of free electives you have in your degree program.
There is no one-size-fits-all method to determine what elective to take. You can take a course because it seems fun and interesting or because it aligns with your academic and career goals. So, here are some things to think about and resources to use to help you decide on an elective course.
Why take the course?
- Electives can help you explore majors, minors, and other disciplines you may be interested in. Electives are an excellent way for exploratory students and students who are unsure about their program to consider alternative academic options. After taking a course, you may want to declare a minor or double major in that area.
- Elective courses can be the means to build knowledge and skills that may be relevant and beneficial for your future academic and career goals. A politics student may want to take an economics or history class to give context for policy. A business student may want to take public speaking or language classes to aid intercultural communication. An engineering student may want to take an English or philosophy course to build logic and writing skills. Think about how subject areas outside your major can set you apart.
- Having experience and knowledge in areas outside of your major makes you a more informed and well-rounded individual. Taking classes in other departments or on new topics/academic areas may give you insight into things you may have not considered before. You never know how different perspective can help you grow as a person.
- Elective courses can be just for fun. You do not need a practical reason to take an elective course. If it seems fun and interesting to you and you have room in your academic plan, that's enough of a reason to take it!
Is the course interesting to you?
- Read the course description for the class. This can be found in the course catalog and on Cardinal Students.
- If you'd like a more in-depth look at the content of a class that has been taught in the past, you can check the syllabus repository. All Catholic University students can log in to the repository. Most courses that have been taught before have a syllabus you can download and look at. Keep in mind that different professors will often teach a course a little differently.
Is the class at an appropriate level for you?
- Some courses are at a more advanced level than others, such as those intended for students in a given major. Though course numbering systems vary by department, a good general rule for your first semester is to look primarily at 100- and 200- level classes. If you are unsure, you can always ask your advisor!
- Some courses have prerequisites such as placement or earlier classes. You can check to see if there are any prerequisites for a class on Cardinal Students in "manage classes" under "class search."
- Some courses require departmental consent (also called permissions). This information can be found on Cardinal Students in "manage classes" under "class search."
Is the course being offered this semester and when?
- Most courses are not taught every semester. Both the course catalog and Cardinal Students allow you to search by semester, so be sure you are looking at the right one.
- In addition to looking up the days and times a course is taught the course catalog and Cardinal Students, you can also make use of Coursicle, which allows you to visualize a weekly schedule.
Is there space in the class?
- You can look up if a course is full or not on Cardinal Students. There, you can also see if there is a waitlist that you can put yourself on.
Cardinal Students: The main database for enrollment. In "manage classes" under "class search," you can find most of the details of a course, including the course description, prerequisites, and the number of seats remaining in the class sections.
Course Catalog: A simpler way to view the courses taught in a semester, their descriptions, and the days and times.
Coursicle: A scheduling tool that allows you to mock up and visualize a weekly course schedule.
Syllabus Repository: A database that holds the syllabi from past semesters. If a course has been taught before, you can get a sense of the content and work of the class.
Liberal Arts Curriculum Outline: Lists the approved liberal arts classes. For those who are undecided or unsure about their majors, starting on the requirements for the Liberal Arts Curriculum allows you to explore without worrying about how the courses would count once you decide on a major.
Minors and Certificates: Lists all the minor and certificate programs offered at Catholic. If you are somewhat interested in a subject area but unsure how much you want to pursue it, the introductory courses of a minor can give you an idea of good electives to take.