General Electives are credits/courses that aren't part of your major or general education requirements, but that count towards the 120 credits required for your degree. So what are these courses? Can you take them in any department? Pretty much. Maybe they are courses that simply look interesting to you. Maybe you think they'll give you a helpful perspective on your major. If you find that you have strong curiosity about a particular subject (Criminology, History, Psychology, Journalism, Human Rights, and Math are just a few examples), you should consider declaring a minor, which is simply a way of focusing six of your elective courses on one area of interest. Remember that a minor is part of the 120 total credits, and NOT in addition to those 120 credits!
How many total elective courses can you take?
That will vary from student to student, for these reasons:
1. Some majors require more credits than others (e.g. the Forensic Science major requires 79 credits and a Criminal Justice Bachelor of Science major requires 36 credits), so if you need a lot of major requirements, there will be less room for electives.
2. Exemption from the Foreign Language requirement and/or Natural Science 107 based on Regents scores gives you more room for electives.
Still, even with these variables it may be possible for you to take at least 6-8 electives before you graduate. See it as an opportunity to pursue something that really matters to you and allows you to exercise your freedom of choice!
So when can you start taking electives, and how can you increase the chances that you'll be satisfied with how you work electives into your academic plan?
In general, during the first year of college, you're focusing on general education requirements and beginning to explore possible majors. By the end of your sophomore year (when you've earned 45-60 credits), you will need to officially confirm or change your current major. Perhaps you've taken an elective course or two by that time, which is great.
Your junior and senior years will likely focus mostly on your major and finishing up any remaining general education requirements, but with smart planning you should have room for either a range of different electives (you might be tempted to call them "random," but your choice of electives should involve some careful thought) or a number of related courses that will add up to a minor. There's not one "right" way of doing this. Meeting with an Academic Advisor can really help a lot with your creation of an individual plan that works for you.
Don’t forget to make good use of the Degree Works Audit, which can help you keep track of how many credits you’ve earned, what requirements you’ve completed, and what courses you still need to finish. Remember that this is a very useful but not 100% accurate tool, so check in with an Academic Advisor. An Advisor can confirm the accuracy of your Degree Works Audit and give you some elective ideas based on your interests.
If you’re excited about studying abroad or arranging an internship or independent study, these can be great ways to earn elective credits towards your degree. Talk to the Office of International Studies about doing coursework in another country. Stop by the Center for Career and Professional Development to learn about setting up an internship. If you’re interested in doing a particular kind of research, talk to the Office of Undergraduate Research, since their staff can help you find a professor with expertise in that area and who will work with you.
Remember it can be both fun and productive to think outside the box!
Important note to transfer students:
Depending on how your credits transferred to John Jay and even depending on whether you arrived here with a CUNY Associate degree or a previous Bachelor degree, you may have room for quite a few elective credits or very few elective credits. Talk with an Academic Advisor to determine whether you need only focus on your major or have many general education requirements you still must satisfy, and where you stand in terms of elective credit. That conversation will help you put together a plan that makes sense for you.