General Education


General Education requirements are courses all students must complete in order to graduate, whatever your major may be. They not only offer you knowledge in a range of areas, but give your mind practice in different kinds of analysis and problem-solving. Learning how to think critically and apply what you know to new situations is a huge part of what college is about. These courses give you a broad foundation that prepares you for higher level courses and can even spark interest in a certain major or minor. Along with your major and elective classes, they help you develop the critical thinking skills that you’ll need for success in graduate school and your career.

Though some students will be taking General Education requirements well into their senior year, others will finish as early as their sophomore year. It might help to think of your educational experience as a sort of triangle, broad at the base (taking general education requirements during your first year or two to create a solid foundation and explore different areas) and then narrowing towards the top (as you focus more and more on a specific area of interest--your major—during your junior and senior years).

With the exception of your English and Math courses (which should be done in your first semester at John Jay), and your First Year Seminar (which should be done in your first year), you can decide when you want to meet these requirements. Check out the New General Education Requirements.


Still, there are some resources and tips that will help you plan your General Education courses wisely:

  • Consult the General Education requirements listed on your Degree Works Audit.
  • It’s a good idea to look ahead at your major and General Education requirements, and pay attention to any required prerequisites, so you don’t try to register for a class and then suddenly realize you needed to take another course first.
  • Meet with an Academic Advisor, who can help you decide which requirements would be best for you to take together, and which ones you might want to spread out, depending on your interest level and abilities. These conversations will also help you avoid any surprises that could delay your graduation!
  • See our Finish-in-Four Major Templates to get an idea of how you can pace yourself as you take General Education courses and then start to add courses towards a major. The Finish-in-Four Templates show you how you can complete not only your general education requirements, but all your degree requirements in four years. You can arrange your courses differently, but these examples will give you some helpful ideas!