Is that an effective elective?

student reviewing her elective choices

There comes a time when you have to pick some classes that are totally up to you. Whether it be to fill in your last semester to meet the full-time requirements of a scholarship, maybe you need an elective for your major, or perhaps you just need a certain amount of credit hours – regardless of the reasoning, it’s important that you pick an elective that is effective for you.

Know your options. At my university, there is a variety of electives that are popular among students of any major – Horseback Riding, Yoga, Wine Tasting – yes, that’s right, there is a course on wine tasting at my university. When it comes to electives, it’s important to consider three things: your future career goals, skills you wish you had, and areas within your major you need to strengthen.

Consider your future career goal. Ask yourself an important question, “Where do I see myself a few years after graduation?” This is difficult to think about, but you will have some general idea of where you want to be. For example, I am studying Marketing. This degree could lean me on many different career paths. I could work in an advertising agency, I could be a marketing director in several different industries (fashion, accounting, cruise ships, universities,) or I could even open my own business Each of these three paths, while related to my major, are very different avenues and require very different skill sets. Knowing my path when choosing electives is important since these are the classes that will strengthen any additional skills my major didn’t. For example, I took a lot of marketing and management courses, but only a few accounting classes. My career goal is to open my own business, and therefore I took Tax Accounting and Investments as two of my electives.

Learn skills you wish you had. It’s time to dig out that funny little life bucket list you had to make your senior year of high school. We seemed to be much more creative and aspirational then, didn’t we? If your list was anything like mine, it included things like “become fluent in German” or “learn how to invest in the stock market.” While these things might have been silly in high school, now is the time to make them a reality. As a college student, we have the tools and opportunities to learn how to do the things we desire.

You’ll need to some research on the electives offered at your university to find the right ones for you. Don’t be deterred if the electives you want to pursue seem weird; my university even offers classes in cake decorating, ballet, and salsa dancing – in case any of those are on your list. I always wanted to learn a second language, such as German, because as a business professional, I hope to have the opportunity to travel abroad, and knowing a foreign language makes me all that more qualified for the position.

Strengthen the “weak areas” of your major. Fast forward to your senior year exit exam, when you are required to write about things you wish you would have learned in your degree program but didn’t. Instead of blaming your school’s program or course requirements, use electives to close the gap. I personally, as a marketing major, felt I could have learned more about accounting and investments. I realize that this is not directly related to my major, but definitely is useful to know moving forward. Therefore, as tedious as it might sound, I am taking some extra accounting classes to balance out my options for future career opportunities. Also, marketing and graphic design are two totally different fields when it comes to majors, but two very similar concepts when it comes to application. I never took a graphic design class for my major, but am interested in the course because if feels like it could be part of my major.

When it comes to choosing electives, students can feel overwhelmed with the options and usually take classes just because they “seem fun.” It’s important to remember electives should help you achieve future career goals. Consider the options offered at your university or ones that can be transferred from a local community college. Think about your future career goals by asking yourself where you see yourself a few years after graduation. Everyone has a passion toward learning something outside of their major, whether it be dancing or a foreign language, and you can pursue this through your electives. Lastly, consider the things you wish you would have learned in college classes and take electives to fill in those gaps. You are going to college to educate yourself, to make yourself a well-rounded person that will be successful in the future, and your elective choices will help you achieve this.

Jessica Albright

Jessica Albright

Jessica is a junior at Missouri State University majoring in Marketing with a minor in International Management. She will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in December 2016, and is accepted to an accelerated Masters of Business Administration program to complete her MBA the following year. Jessica is member of Beta Gamma Sigma International Business Honor Society,  Ad Club, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Phi Eta Sigma Honor Fraternity.