College Courses Decoded

Know What You're Getting Into

College courses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure you understand the details of each type and format as you make your course selections.

Class Formats

Lecture: Lectures are large classes led by a professor who gives oral presentations about a specific subject. These classes usually take place in big rooms with stadium seating.  

Discussion: Discussion sections are classes related to a lecture, where small groups of students gather to dive deeper into the content taught in a lecture. These are often led by a teaching assistant (TA).  

Seminar: Seminars are smaller classes centered on a specific topic led by a professor. 

Lab: Labs are science classes that allow students to use the knowledge learned in other classes in a laboratory setting. For example, biology students might take a lab to get experience dissecting an animal. 

Studio: Studio classes are hands-on courses for students in the arts. For example, students who are pursuing a degree in fine arts might take a studio class in painting or basic drawing where there is opportunity to apply the techniques learned in class. 

Independent Study: Independent study allows an individual student to pursue a project and topic for course credit under the supervision of a faculty member or professor. Independent study projects typically require approval and are granted primarily to major-seeking students.  

Types of Courses

General Education: General education classes, often referred to as “Gen Eds,” are mandatory courses that students are required to complete for a degree. The curriculum covered in these classes build a well-rounded education 

Prerequisite: Prerequisites are courses students are required to complete before enrolling in another course. For example, students who want or need to take an advance finance class might be required to take an introductory finance course first.  

Elective: Elective courses are credited courses that are not necessarily required for a major. Students may want to take elective courses to explore topics and interests outside of their area of study. For example, if a student is majoring in electrical engineering and passionate about personal health, they may consider taking an introductory nutrition class.