University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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For Parents



For Parents

As a parent, you may be wondering why your student is required to complete the General Education experience, especially if she or he enters the University with a specific major or career path in mind. Parents with students planning careers in (for example) engineering, nursing, business, or journalism often ask why they are required to take courses in litchapelerature, basic math, cultural diversity, or the physical sciences.

As a parent you might be thinking:

What is the purpose of General Education?
How do General Education courses benefit my child?
How do students select General Education courses?

These are valid questions.

The purpose of the Gen Ed curriculum is to prepare students to learn now and in the future— in the world of work, in pursuit of personal fulfillment, and in responsible civic engagement. An educated citizen requires wide-ranging forms of knowledge. A well-educated student preparing for any career in the 21st century should be skilled in:

inquiry and analysis
problem-solving and discovery
critical and creative thinking
written and oral communication
quantitative reasoning
information & technological literacy
teamwork and collaboration
ethical deliberation

The Gen Ed experience provides a way to develop these interlocking bodies of knowledge and abilities by exposing students to a wide range of skills and knowledge. The General Education experience encompasses creative expression; effective communication (both written and oral); and respect for the opinions of others and for intellectual communities, balanced with healthy skepticism about unchallenged theories.

seminarParticipation in Gen Ed courses benefits students by helping them acquire the skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond graduation in their personal and professional lives. These skills are very valuable for careers in a rapidly-changing and diverse world, and are important to help students mature into informed citizens and lifelong learners.

Students select courses from the offerings available each semester. They may see a list of available Gen Ed courses on SPIRE, and they are recommended to always choose courses in consultation with an academic advisor. Please be aware that there are no specifically-designated goodelladvisors for Gen Ed. Students may choose classes on their own or consult with their major department’s advisor for suggestions. Undeclared students should visit their advisors at the Office of Undergraduate Advising. All students are welcome to seek information and advice about Gen Ed courses through the Academic Advising Link staff in the Learning Commons.

Transfer, domestic exchange, and international exchange students should direct their questions to the Registrar, Domestic Exchange Program, and International Programs Office, respectively.