Piecing Together: How to make the most of general requirements

Freshmen majoring in political science may be pining to jump into courses on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, but class registration gets a little more complicated in a liberal arts-based education.

Engineers still may have to trudge through philosophy. English majors have to break out their calculators. Students map out course requirements with an academic advisor and through the online program DegreeMap to check off each course requirement for their majors, signing up for at least a few courses over the years that fall outside their academic discipline.

There are some tips to ensure students can sail through general requirements – or at least enjoy stepping out of their academic comfort zone – when freshmen start registering for classes July 12.

No matter what, use RateMyProfessors.com

RateMyProfessors.com, which publishes student reviews of professors’ courses, can be a student’s best friend and a professor’s worst enemy. Courses with professors who earn a rating of four-out-of-five or higher often fill up fast. Professors who dole out busy work or deliver boring lectures find themselves with low ratings.

But be wary: More challenging professors can often be the most rewarding. You may want to opt for easier professors when taking courses just to fill a requirement, but step up to the task of learning from a tough professor in a subject you are passionate about.

Find a University Writing topic that won’t put you to sleep

Freshmen must take University Writing on the Mount Vernon Campus. There is no getting around it, even if you are more comfortable solving derivatives than delving into a research paper.

That is why finding an engaging topic is crucial. University Writing offers classes that center around different themes ranging from the television show “Mad Men” to Dutch painting to media coverage of climate change. Class sections are capped at 15 students, so they fill up quickly, and finding a course that fits your schedule can be challenging. But shoot for finding one you will not dread three days a week.

Courses to try out if math and science make your head spin

The course Physics for Future Presidents fills a natural science requirement for Columbian College of Arts and Sciences students. By the course’s name, students can see the class is geared toward non-science majors. It is also not taught in a lecture hall, but in a classroom with round tables and television screens to encourage group work and problem solving.

The Math and Politics class is widely considered as math-light for students with a numbers phobia. Put a D.C. spin on a typical math class by learning about the probabilities behind electoral college and voting systems.

Biological Anthropology is another popular introductory course that fulfills a science requirement and can still hold the attention of students who are generally interested in the topic. With readings chronicling the origin and evolution of man, students of the humanities can engage with the course material and achieve a high grade in the class.

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