Planning College Classes, Step 5: Matching Major Classes with General Education Requirements

Okay, so thanks to Step 4: Finding Your General Education Requirements you now have a confusing list of courses. The first trick to sorting this out is to match your major requirements (Step 3) with your general education requirements.

NOTE: This step is going to take a little time, so maybe give yourself 2 days to get this one done. 993257_73686166 (800x591)

The good thing about requirements is: the school generally provides you a range of courses that can fulfill the requirements. You can typically find something in your major that qualifies, or use an elective to fulfill this.

 I’ll continue to use My University (MU) as an example.

 Let’s say that for MU, students have to take 24 credits (or 8 courses) that involves analysis or critical thinking.(Most classes are 3 credits, some schools may have 4 credit courses, be sure you know what your school does.)

MU outlines the specific areas in which you have to take classes:

  • 3 credits/1 course in math
  • 6 credits/2 courses in natural/physical sciences
  • 6 credits/2 courses in social sciences
  • 6 credits/2 courses in humanities
  • 3 credits/1 class in art/art history

Now, the example I have been using throughout these Planning College Courses posts is a history major, so I’ll stick with that here. History is in the humanities, so start with your major courses and look for the classes in your designated discipline that fulfill the first area of your general education requirements.(If your area is math, start there. If your area is social sciences, start there.)

So here is how the above breakdown of credits/courses might look:

  • 3 credits/1 course in math: ELECTIVE
  • 6 credits/2 courses in natural/physical sciences: ELECTIVES
  • 6 credits/2 courses in social sciences: ELECTIVES
  • 6 credits/2 courses in humanities : MOSTLY MAJOR
  • 3 credits/1 class in art/art history: ELECTIVE

Starting with the area in which my major is found (i.e., humanities), as an MU student, I need 2 of my major courses to fulfill the analytical/critical thinking area.

Typically, your school will list the courses that fall into the requirement category. So go ahead and take a look at those courses now. MU lists courses by semester, so I can only figure this out for the Fall, not the Spring semester.

When looking at MU’s humanities courses in analysis/critical thinking, I am going to go straight to the courses listed directly in the history department. Some of these might be the courses I am planning on taking anyway.

Cut and paste these courses into a word processing document (i.e., in Word, etc.), and print them out so that you can view them alongside the list of major courses you made in Step 3. (These would be the courses you’ve listed in Major section of the Course Planning Worksheet.)

Here is the list of ranked courses I decided on in Step 3:



3 Intro courses
  • HIST1310: Intro to American History (US history to 1876)
  • HIST 1311: Intro to American History (continuation of 1310, US History 1876-present)
  • HIST 1120: Women in Western Civilization
  • HIST 1121: War of Ideals in Eur/Internat’l Histoy
  • HIST 1011: World History, 1500-Present
  • HIST1110: European Civ in World Context
1 course pre-1750
  • HIST 2803: Ancient Near East&Egypt-332BC
  • HIST 3302: America before 1764
  • HIST 3180: Russian to 1801
  • HIST 3111: Topics in Ancient History (depends on what they are…)
2 Europe Courses
  • HIST 3180: Russia to 1801
  • HIST 3181: Russia Since 1801
  • HIST 3125: Europe in the 20th C.
  • HIST 3145: The French Revolution
  • HIST 3126: European Integration, A History
2 US Courses
  • HIST 3313: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HIST 3370: US Constitutional History
  • HIST 3352: Women in the United States
  • HIST 3356: Epidemics in American History
  • HIST 3362: Black Women in US History
2 Asia/Africa/Latin America/Mid East Courses
  • HIST 3520: Africans/Making of the Atlantic World
  • HIST 3530: Women in Africa
  • HIST 3621: History of Modern Japan
  • HIST 3811: Middle East in the 20th Cen.
  • HIST 3615: History of Chinese Communism
1 MUST take course
  • HIST 2005W: general
  • HIST 2305W: U.S.
  • HIST 2105W: Europe
  • HIST 2505W: Africa



Here is the list of courses for MU: (I made a table, but you don’t have to.)

HIST 1011 HIST 1110 HIST 1120/HIST 1120W HIST 1121
HIST 1310 HIST 1311 HIST 2010 HIST 2011
HIST 2020/HIST 2020W HIST 2050 HIST 2124 HIST 2125
HIST 2131 HIST 2141 HIST 2160 HIST 2312
HIST 2320 HIST 2321 HIST 2322 HIST 2350
HIST 2380 HIST 2410 HIST 2440 HIST 2710
HIST 2730/HIST 2730W HIST 3044W HIST 3313 HIST 3352/HIST 3352W
HIST 3360 HIST 3361 HIST 3611 HIST 3630
HIST 3811/HIST 3811W

Now, literally go through your list of courses that match the ranked list of courses you’ve selected in your major. Highlight the matches is your list of ranked courses. Try using one highlighting color per area of requirement (i.e., color coding the requirements) so you know what satisfies what. (The pink/bold course numbers above are matching courses.)

Here is what this work tells me:

The 2 courses in analysis/critical thinking requirement will be satisfied if I take:

  • Any the intro courses I have listed (of which I have to take 2).
  • None of the pre-1750 courses I have listed (of which I only have to take 1).
  • 2 of the US History courses (of which I have to take 2).
  • 1 of the Asia/Africa/Latin American/Mid-East courses (of which I have to take 2).
  • None of the MUST TAKE courses.


What I have here, then is: 4 courses to fulfill the humanities area of the analysis/critical thinking requirements (2 more than I need). That is good to know.

I can fulfill the humanities requirement in the first semester of school.

6 credits/2 classes out of 24 credits/8 classes down.

As for the rest I can find these by either:

  1. Plan on using these for electives, or
  2. Think about a minor.

I will get back to these in another series of posts on electives and minors.


In either case, I won’t know about classes for the spring semester for a little while, so I will leave these options alone for the time being.


If you are following along using the worksheet, list the matching courses under the Requirements Area 1 heading on the Requirements page. Be sure to also note whether these courses fall within a specific semester.

In each of the remaining 2 lines, write “Elective” so that you know you will need to find 2 elective courses to fulfill these requirements.

Now, for MU students 2 of these analytic courses have to fulfill a category called “Perspectives” (i.e., 6 out of the 24 credits).

Find out if any of your required courses have to satisfy an additional requirement.

For MU, Perspectives courses must be: 1 in a global/cross-cultural area and 1 in civic engagement.

At MU, the university has pre-selected courses for this requirement (that is, these are not divided by art, math, humanities, etc.). So I will simply do another cross-check to see what of my major courses fulfills these 2 classes.

Global/Cross-Cultural Candidates:

HIST 1011 HIST 1110 HIST 1120/HIST 1120W HIST 1121
HIST 1310 HIST 1311 HIST 2010  HIST 2011
HIST 2050 HIST 2124 HIST 2125 HIST 2131
HIST 2141 HIST 2160 HIST 2312 HIST 2320
HIST 2321 HIST 2322 HIST 2350   HIST 2380
HIST 2410  HIST 2440  HIST 2710 HIST 2730/HIST 2730W
HIST 3044W HIST 3313 HIST 3352/HIST 3352W HIST 3360
HIST 3361  HIST 3811/HIST 3811W


Civic Engagement Candidates: HIST 2020/HIST 2020W


What this tells me:

  • Any of the intro courses I selected (of which I have to take 3) will satisfy the Global/Cross-Cultural requirement.
  • 1 of the US courses I like will satisfy the Global/Cross-Cultural requirement
  • 1 of the Asia/Africa/Latin America/Mid East Courses I like will satisfy the Global/Cross-Cultural Requirement
  • None of the history courses I like will satisfy the civic engagement courses for the fall.

What this means for me:

  • I may be able to satisfy both the analysis/critical thinking requirement AND the global/cross-cultural requirement with THE SAME CLASS (Double check with your advisor that one class can count twice. Not all of your classes are eligible for this.)

I need to find electives or a minor to satisfy the Civic Engagement area. (Either way, I have to wait.)

And for the final area of requirement at MU: Communication.

This communication area refers to written and oral communication (i.e., a writing intensive class, or a class in which there is a lot of discussion/presentation).

There may be specific courses your school lists for any of the general education requirements, which means the only thing you have to do is find take the class. For MU, the communications requirement has some of this “no brainer” aspect built in.

MU students need to take:

  • UW (undergraduate writing), and
  • 2 Writing in the Disciplines courses (WID)


  • UW 1020 has to be taken before the WID courses, and
  • Each WID course has to be taken in a different semester.


  • 1 WID course can count as part of the analysis requirement OR the perspective requirement

The class that satisfies the ORAL requirement (i.e., speaking, presenting, etc.) can be a class for your major, a class that meets the Analytic requirement, or a class that meets the Perspective requirement


Confusing, yes. But here’s what I learn:

  • Take UW 1020 in my first semester, get it out of the way
  • Take the first WID course in the Spring semester (or in the Fall of your second year)
  • Take the second WID course in the Fall or Spring of second year.

Okay, so now that I am thoroughly confused, I will go back and find the classes that fall under the Communications requirement for my major and cross-check it with my major course requirements:


HIST 1110 HIST 2010 HIST 2050 HIST 3044W


For the Fall semester, this one is a bust. None of my major courses are on the list, but that’s okay. At least I can get the undergrad writing class out of the way first.



So after all this hunting and pecking, what have I accomplished?

  • I know what classes I can take during the first semester to satisfy requirements.
  • I know what areas in which I will have to take electives.
  • I know that I can consider a minor that might satisfy the requirements that my major classes don’t cover.
  • I have begun to put together a general blue-print of my course structure for the next four years. This will be especially helpful when I meet with my advisor.


AND here is what my course list for the Fall semester looks like:

  • UW 1020
  • 2 of the 3 required intro courses to my major
  • 1 spot left for either an elective or another course to satisfy my major (I would personally go with an elective here, one that helps satisfy other requirements and I’ll explain why in a later post.)



Take your time with this step, it does take a while and it can give you a headache. Keep the lists you made in this step handy for future reference, since you will need to return to the step again when you’re planning on registering for the Spring courses.

Next time, we’ll talk about stuff adjacent to requirements: Electives, and a Minor.



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