Your Guide to General Education & Elective Courses

Posted by Deea Deb on July 8, 2021

Academic Success

There are 3 categories of general education courses!

The Fall/Winter 2021-2022 enrolment has officially begun, and you may be busy selecting your major and minor courses. However, don’t forget about the general education and elective courses that you should also be taking. We know that selecting these courses can be overwhelming and so we’re here with a guide to help you select your general education and elective courses!

If you are new to York and are unfamiliar with these terms, here’s a lowdown for you:

General education (gen. ed.) courses: These are first-year foundational courses, in Humanities (HUMA), Social Science (SOSC), and Natural Science (NATS), which all students must take to complete their degrees at York. Ideally, students will complete gen. ed. courses in the first year, since these are foundational courses that will help you develop strong writing, research, and presentation skills. However, you can also take gen. eds. after your first year of study too.

Elective courses: While general education courses introduce you to the foundations of Social Sciences, Humanities and Natural Sciences, electives are general interest courses that help expand your knowledge base and give you a fun opportunity to learn about subjects outside of your major/minor. Keep in mind that these courses are outside of your program of study, so take this chance to explore new subjects that interest you!

Now that that’s clear, let’s get started.

General Education Courses

Before enrolling into gen. ed. courses, remember that certain programs may have Faculty-specific or even program-specific gen. ed. requirements. Usually, the guidelines to enrolling into these courses will be mentioned in your program checklist. If you don’t have a program checklist, be sure to get in touch with your academic advisor and ask for it.

Screenshot of the York University Courses website. The "General Education Courses" option is highlighted with a red square and the webpage is open. An important note at the top of the page is highlighted;"3. If your Faculty/degree does not currently have data available, please consult the Undergraduate Calendar for the approved General Education course list." Arrows point at the 3 filters for finding general education courses: the term, faculty and degree. The button at the bottom, "Search Courses" is also highlighted.

For the easiest way of finding out which courses you are eligible to take:

You can also login with your Passport York on the same page to see General Education courses that are specific to your program. So easy!

Success tip: There are two ways to approach gen. ed. courses:

  • Take courses that are totally different from your majors and minors in a field that you are passionate about.
Illustration of a student stargazing on the grass. The sky is blue with multiple constellations.
Exploring the stars while also exploring your degree! A win-win!

For example, I love learning about astronomy. So, for my NATS requirement, I took NATS 1745 6.00 History of Astronomy.

  • Take courses that supplement your majors and minors.

For example, I am double majoring in English and Professional Writing. I took HUMA 1170 9.00 The Modern Age: Shapers and Definers which beautifully supplemented EN 1001 3.00 An Introduction to Literary Study and EN 1002 3.00 Intertextualities (both of which are my major courses).

For my SOSC requirement, I took WRIT 1703 Writing Process: Invention, Originality and Ethics. This course really complemented WRIT 2004 Writing in Digital Cultures which is one of my Professional Writing major courses.

Whichever approach you choose, make sure that you select courses that you will enjoy because the grades that you receive in these courses go towards your overall degree scores. I will be completing my general education requirements this summer and I can honestly say that I’ve had a great time in all the courses that I’ve taken.

If you’ve taken a course that you are not enjoying, remember that you can drop them and take something else. It would be a good idea to check the course add/drop deadlines and refund tables before adding or dropping courses.


Photo of York students discussing the script on set.
Electives are a great way to explore outside of your program. Try out Acting for Non-Majors!

The number of necessary electives is program-specific, so, again, check your program on the Academic Calendar and/or speak with an Academic Advisor in your faculty to outline your degree requirements. Keep in mind that these courses are outside of your program of study, so take this chance to explore new subjects that interest you!

You can use York’s course website to find electives. It’s also a great idea to speak with fellow students, a faculty member or academic advising to discuss possible elective courses. If you need help narrowing down your options, try picking courses that will provide the skills you need to succeed (for example, writing, research, business skills, presentation skills, etc.).

You can also take your electives at one of York’s partner universities outside of Canada! This is called an academic exchange. To know more about this, check out York International’s Go Global website. Do keep a tab on York’s Better Together website to know more about COVID-19 related travel restrictions.

Success tip: If you are still unsure of what general education and elective courses to take this term, check out our 10 Courses You Didn’t Know Were Offered in Fall/Winter 2021-2022. These will definitely help you narrow down some courses!

Once you’ve found your required courses, it is time to check out these Five VSB Tips From The #YUBlog and Enrol in classes!

Let us know in the comments below which general education and elective courses you’ve enjoyed so far!

To stay up to date on campus life and events, connect with York on social media. You can follow us on Facebook @YorkUStudents, Twitter @YorkUStudents, Instagram @studentlifeyu and with our weekly This Week @ York emails.

Illustrations by Michelle Tieu. Photos courtesy of York University.

Deea Deb
Deea Deb

Deea Deb is a third-year English and Professional Writing major at York University. She loves reading, travelling, being organized, and writing. She hopes to help York students succeed at university.

See other posts by Deea Deb