Helping students make the most of Gen Ed

General Education provides a powerful opportunity for students to explore new pathways and possibilities.  We encourage students to approach exploration with both intentionality and curiosity.  In helping students make the most of their General Education experience, it can be helpful to frame their approach to choosing Gen Ed classes in relation to their own interests and goals.  This might manifest in a number of ways, but there are three main approaches that tend to show up often:

1.  A student is undecided about their major or interested in changing majors but unsure of what they would like to do.

  • General Education courses are an excellent, built-in opportunity to explore other possibilities while still making progress toward your degree.  Consider taking courses that you've never heard about before in order to try something new.  One of them might end up being your passion.
  • Disciplines that you encountered in K-12 classes often look very different in college.  Suspend your assumptions about different fields and go in with an open mind.  It might be far more interesting than you imagine!
  • There are many different paths to a meaningful career.  Consider experiential learning opportunities like service learning, internships, or study abroad (which often also carry Gen Ed credit) in order to see what it means to work in this field or apply this knowledge in the world.

With the help of Gen Ed classes, a great foundation was laid for the rest of my undergraduate studies. When I started my first year at Wayne State, I felt an overwhelming sense of confusion and dread whenever I tried to decide what to study. With this in mind, I signed up for a variety of random classes in the hopes that something would stick. That moment came in ANT 2110, Dr. Lesnik's Physical/Biological Anthropology lecture, combined my love of history and culture with all of my favorite parts of science. This class opened my eyes to the rest of the academic opportunities in the world of anthropology and propelled me in an exciting academic direction. I am now a Public Health major, and the knowledge I gained in ANT 2110 continues to influence my learning. Gen Ed classes are such a great way to broaden your horizons and explore topics that you normally would not. As someone who had no idea what I wanted to do with my time at WSU, Gen Ed courses were such a valuable resource that helped me develop my interests. Taima Ezzedine, Class of 2024

2.  A student has multiple interests that they want to pursue outside of their major.

  • It's a great thing to have interests outside of your work or field of employment.  That leads to a rich and fulfilling life.  Gen Ed courses can be a way to explore those interests and receive additional training that will allow you to develop and support lifelong hobbies that enrich your life.
  • Not everything that we do has to lead to income.  Embrace the opportunity to learn for learning's sake.  Explore freely!  You don't have to have a plan.  These courses provide you with a unique opportunity to explore. 
  • Encountering something new can transform the way that we see ourselves and the world around us.  Reach out and challenge yourself!

3.  A student is concerned about employability and/or securing a good job in a competitive market.

  • Employers need workers who have strong communication and critical thinking skills and are able to thrive in a diverse and increasingly global workplace.  Use your Gen Ed courses to develop your core competencies and practice them in a number of different contexts.
  • In a job market where everyone has the same degree, how will you distinguish yourself?  Think about how you might draw from your Gen Ed courses to create a narrative about yourself that sets you apart from the crowd.
  • Being able to think about your field from multiple perspectives and incorporate new ideas helps you be creative and innovative.  Use your Gen Ed courses to develop those abilities and become more nimble and adaptable.

People often categorize the skills gained through Gen Ed as "soft skills" vs. "hard skills".  We prefer to talk about them as critical life skills.  No one course or discipline is "easier" or less significant than another.  They all require unique abilities, perspectives, and skills that are essential in a 21st century world.  And they all help us develop what is often referred to as "information literacy" - the ability to assess information, evaluate sources, construct and evaluate arguments, and make informed decisions. 

We've developed resources that you can use and share with students (and parents).  We've also created several Powerpoint slides that you can incorporate into presentations.  Students receive these resources during orientation, but we embrace any chance we can to reinforce the message, including through advising meetings!

We know that learning something new is difficult.  WSU's Office of Student Success, including the Study Skills Academy, has great resources to help support students on that journey.  If you have ideas or suggestions that have helped students or if you have a student success story that you would like to share, please contact us at