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Anatomy of a College Curriculum: Free Electives

In this blog series we have already examined both the Core Curriculum and Major requirements a student must complete in order to graduate. This time, we will look at “Free Electives,” which are the number of remaining credit hours required for a degree (degree = 120 credit hours) that have not been used up in satisfying Core and Major requirements.

Generally speaking, the more Free Elective credit hours available, the better. They are like currency that can be spent on achieving a “Minor,” or focused area of study in an area different from the student’s Major. A Minor typically requires 15-21 credit hours. They may also be used to help a student earn a second or “ Double Major,” or Certificate. Finally, Free Electives can be spent on individual courses that the student chooses to take for fun, interest, or professional development purposes.

Students can maximize their number of Free Electives by selecting Core courses that simultaneously satisfy Major requirements (e.g. a Major course in Economics may also satisfy a Core Social Science requirement, etc.). A student’s advisor can help them maximize these “Double Dip” opportunities as well as plan for how to calculate and spend their remaining Elective credit hours.

Some Majors require only 36-48 credit hours leaving plenty of room for Free Electives while others require 50-75 leaving little room. The student’s goal beyond their Core and Major requirements is to “spend” their Electives to their greatest advantage. Some may wish to add a credential or explore an interesting new area of study by adding a Minor or Certificate. Others may pick and choose individual courses for any of a variety of reasons. Since students cannot control their Core or Major requirements (except for maximizing “Double Dip” opportunities), we recommend that they be more planful and strategic in the use of their precious Free Electives.

Over the next few weeks I will offer a few more blog entries related to student success and then we will hike into our annual “Haunted Colleges in Ohio” series. These are my most popular entries – go figure. This year I have some great tales of fright from Ohio’s colleges to offer, so prepare to strap in for the ride.

About the Author: After touring 60 of the best colleges in Ohio, Dr. Jay, a prior faculty member and dean, founded College Bound Advantage (CBA) – a Columbus, Ohio college consulting firm. CBA specializes in helping families optimize college selection around 18 “fit factors” and helping students clarify co-curricular and major options while exploring colleges that specialize in them.  College Bound Advantage serves all of Ohio including Cleveland, Akron, and Cincinnati metro areas. Check us out at .