What Is a College Course?

A college course is a class offered by a college or university. These courses are usually part of a program leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree or a certificate. Read on for more specifics about college courses.

College Course Formats

College courses are available from many sources and in many forms. College courses may be part of a general education program or a more specific degree track, and are often available as a series of increasingly advanced classes building on previous knowledge. Completion of these courses may lead to a certification, undergraduate or graduate degree.

Important Information About College Courses

Degrees/Certificates Certificates that require a short time period to complete to doctoral programs, which may take many years
Prerequisites Individual courses have specific requirements, but most colleges require a minimum of high school diploma or equivalent for enrollment. Other requirements may include SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendation or passing a test
Common Courses Courses may pertain to a specialized topic or provide more general education
Fields of Study All areas of study can be pursued in college courses

On-Campus Courses

On-campus, or face-to-face, courses are usually presented in a lecture format where students attend a talk on a specific subject given by a professor or instructor. Some courses, especially those dealing with science, include a laboratory component where students partake in hands-on experiences. Other courses might be taught in smaller groups allowing for discussion and interaction between students and the instructor.

Online Courses

More and more college courses are available online. Online courses might include video lectures or presentations, interactive presentations, animation and text or recommended readings. Students might have some interaction with instructors and fellow students through email, online chat sessions or discussion boards. These courses are sometimes more work-intensive than face-to-face courses, and they require self-discipline and time management skills.

Subjects of College Courses

Courses are available on almost any subject, from cosmetology to neuroscience to German medieval literature. However, some institutions may offer more narrow choices; for example, vocational-technical schools offer career-focused courses. Colleges and universities offer degree programs comprised of numerous related courses, along with elective courses to complement them. These schools also offer general education courses, which form the core coursework in math, English, science and the humanities that serves as the basis for all degree programs.

Where to Take College Courses

Courses are offered through community or junior colleges, state universities, online institutions and private colleges and universities. Students can find out about courses offered at a particular institution by searching the school's website or contacting the institution for a catalog of the courses available. Students can also use an online search tool, such as the National Center for Education Statistic's (NCES) College Navigator, to locate an institution offering a specific program of interest.

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