University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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For Parents



Myths About Gen Ed

The idea of Gen Ed is outdated, since the purpose of college is to a get a job with a high salary.

Although student career success is a primary goal, we at the University of Massachusetts Amherst believe that the value of higher education cannot be measured strictly in terms of job placement. We believe that it is also important for students to learn how to think critically, express their views, and understand the richness of diversity in this world, in order to become ready to face the many opportunities and challenges that life in the 21st century will present them. Some of these opportunities and challenges will concern careers in a global economy, but others include questions of personal happiness, living an ethical life amongst others, and becoming responsible citizens. The Gen Ed experience promotes both professional and personal development. Please visit the section on the Learning Objectives for more information.

Gen Ed courses have no relation to a student’s major.

A sizeable number of undergraduates who come to the University as undeclared students microscopediscover their major by taking Gen Ed courses, which expose them to the range of experiences and career paths available at the University. In addition, the skills that students learn in Gen Ed courses complement the specific knowledge and training that they learn within their departmental majors. Taken together, Gen Ed and major courses provide students with opportunities to develop into mature and flexible professionals.

Gen Ed courses are not practical or helpful in seeking a career.

Gen Ed courses provide important skills such as writing, oral communication, information literacy, reasoning, and critical thinking that employers value in any economy. These skills and forms of knowledge will remain important for all jobs of the future. Gen Ed courses also help students develop into well-rounded adults who will be prepared for an ever-changing professional world and global economy.

Gen Ed courses are always large lectures where students are treated as numbers.

Gen Ed courses are offered at every level (100 to 400) and every class size, from small seminars to large lectures. Students should consult the Course Offerings for each semester to see the wide range of opportunities. In addition, many faculty who teach Gen Ed courses are award-winning professionals, and all of them are committed to providing top-rate experiences for their students.