Most freshmen start college assuming they’ll finally get to study what interests them—or at least subjects they need to study to become the next Wolf of Wall Street. They might forget about those pesky General Education courses, AKA gen-eds. All Penn State students need to fulfill gen-eds regardless of their majors, from art and math to physical education and public speaking. Consider this list a cheat sheet to the gen-eds most recommended by your fellow Penn Staters.
1. Psychology 100: Introductory Psychology
People often dismiss psychology as a dead-end field that only benefits those who earn a doctorate, but psych actually applies to most majors and helps with any career goals. It can help aspiring managers create healthy work environments, help teachers tame their unruly students or even help you understand your latest breakup. Learning about how our brains react in a crisis or how they incorporate what we did that day into memories while we sleep will interest even the students only at college for the frat parties. Introductory psychology courses are typically easy because let’s face it—nobody wants to take a difficult gen-ed.
Category: General Science (GS)
2. Sociology 119: Race and Ethnic Relations
Two words, one hashtag: #fresheyes. Students who take Soc 119 tweet using this hashtag to get extra points in class. Supposedly, they emerge from the course with “fresh eyes,” better able to see the reality of the society that imposes upon us. Taught by Samuel Richards (a Penn State legend), this class focuses on relations and disparities between different races in the U.S. Senior sociology and psychology major Haydn Hornstein-Platt, a TA for the course, said, “A lot of people disagree with Sam Richards, but I think that’s what makes him such a good professor. If you’ll become a more critical and independent thinker through disagreeing with him, he’ll consider you a successful student.” She also said that if students speak up, they can influence and direct class discussions. Plus, tweeting for class credit is definitely a steal, especially since gen-eds can potentially bolster your GPA once you take classes that fall under your major.
Category: General Science (GS)
3. Biological Science 003
Do you want to get credit for a class in the same category as biology, chemistry, physics and geology by writing about nature and your feelings? Thought so. Affectionately known as Bi Sci 003, this class counts as an environmental science. “It helped me see the world and nature with new eyes. It was one of the best classes I have even taken. It helped change the way I see myself and helped me step into the unknown,” said Taylor Weinstein, senior Rehabilitation Human Services major. So many Penn Staters take this class each year that it’s basically become a PSU rite of passage, like taking a class in Forum Building or getting ice-cream at the Berkey Creamery. Senior Telecommunications major Tyler Kleinle said, “…We thought way outside of the box about things in our life. Things like money doesn’t buy happiness. School conditions us to be robotic workers in society.” The class only requires journal entries, which means no exams. Sign us up!
Category: Natural Science (GN)
4. Women’s Studies 106: Representing Women and Gender in Literature, Art and Popular Cultures
Have you ever wondered why women often appear as two-dimensional supporting characters? This class shows perspectives that conventional education before college largely ignores—the perspectives of women, and the biases against women in history, art and everyday life. “I took it my freshman year and that’s when I changed my major to women’s studies. It’s like using a feminist lens to analyze art,” said Marissa Beltz, junior economics and women’s studies major. “Part of the class focuses on depictions of women throughout history, and the other part examines how women are portrayed in today’s media.”
Category: Humanities (GH)
5. Theatre 100: The Art of the Theatre
What do Keegan Michael Key of Key and Peale and Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell have in common besides being hilarious? They’re both alumni of Penn State’s MFA Acting Program. Students in the same program act out scenes from plays for students enrolled in Theatre 100, right there in the lecture hall. Fortunately, doing well in this class requires little motivation. The requirements include reading plays, attending class and going to a few plays outside of class, either on campus or downtown. If you’d rather spend that cash on a football game, or spend that time on the couch watching Netflix, this may sound tedious. But the dynamic plays unfold live right in front of you, so it’s worth pushing back your nightly Narcos binge. Plus, you’ll avoid your guilty computer screen-reflection in the 10 seconds between episodes when Netflix judgmentally asks if you’re still watching.
Category: Arts (GA)
6. Kinesiology 017: Ballroom Dancing
At Penn State, students must sign up for a gym class. Don’t worry, though—these classes look nothing like the humiliating kickball games you were forced to play in high school. This popular course meets the requirement for Health and Physical Activity and will help you make your Anne Hathaway-esque Princess Diaries transformation. Senior Biomedical Engineering major Neil Khanna said, “It was a nice break from just sitting and looking at a blackboard. Plus [the instructor] played good music and you always had a partner so you were never awkwardly by yourself.” He also added that the class made him a better dancer at parties—major key alert! In Ballroom Dancing, you’ll have the chance to learn to waltz, tango, swing, polka, foxtrot and more. Is that not the classiest gym class you’ve ever heard?
Category: Health and Physical Acivity (GHA)
7. Classical Mythology 045: Introduction to Greek and Roman Divinities
You might laugh at this choice, but give it a chance. Classical myths will never stop being relevant to history or to pop culture. Once you become aware of their plots and characters, you’ll notice parallels in all types of art, from the works of Shakespeare to the Harry Potter series. Art fans will rejoice, since tons of famous pieces allude to classical mythology, like Spanish artist Francisco Goya’s famous and unsettling Saturn Devouring His Son. This class is within the realm of Humanities (GH), despite touching upon many themes that aren’t. Like mythical monsters (get it?).
Category: Humanities (GH)
8. Photo 100: Introduction to Photography
People always hate on those of us who post too much on Instagram, claiming that these days everybody thinks they’re a photographer. *Eye roll* If you’re one of these avid sharers, take matters into your own hands and justify your love of photography by actually taking a class. Photography is also a desirable skill in the workforce, now that social media benefits companies and not only teenagers. Take that, haters. Junior Management Information Systems and Information Systems Technology major Rachael McDonald said, “Photography was an amazing escape from the cookie cutter college class, you got to go outside your element and it wasn’t particularly challenging.” Earn an easy A and up your Insta game at the same time.
Category: General Arts (GA)
9. Math 034: The Mathematics of Money
If you’re anything like me, you despise math. However, math remains important, even though you can calculate your tip for drunk brunch with your smartphone. By taking Math 034, you can ensure that the blood, sweat and tears you exude doing math don’t go to waste, because the class teaches useful life skills involving taxes, credit cards, interest and more math things adults have to do. Thankfully, the people running this class understand that all the real math people take calculus or linear algebra, so rumor has it the class is pretty easy.
Category: Quantification (GQ)
10. Freshman Seminar
As a freshman, it may seem annoying or even patronizing that you need to take a class on…being a freshman. Still, this seminar helped me with practical tasks like creating a LinkedIn profile, a college resume and cleaning up my social media so it looked presentable to potential employers who may or may not peruse through it. Other freshman seminars require their students to attend a campus career fair, visit a museum, etc. The various seminars should be tailored to your major.
Category: First-Year Engagement Program