Why electives matter in your post-secondary education

Zahra Mustansir


The oldest trick in the book to boost your GPA is to take easy electives or ‘bird’ courses as some call them.

These courses are the ones deemed by students as easy ‘A’ courses. I’ve been guilty of doing these in order to revive my plummeting GPA.

During first and second year I mindlessly took easy first year courses in an effort to get all my electives out of the way.

I spent all my energy making a list of all the electives that could guarantee my A. It wasn’t until I took a supposed easy elective and got a hard smack of surprise at the amount of readings that needed to be done.

Person hidden behind a stack of booksThe next bird course I took got me a worse mark on my midterm than the mandatory courses I took.

This is because everyone is different. Everyone excels and lacks in different ways. I can create essays and reports but ask me to read 30 pages every night and I’ll shut down.

So when you pick electives based on ‘easiness,’ keep in mind that it might not be as easy as you think. 


Make your elective worth it

I wish someone told me this in first year: You’re spending $700 on a course. You better believe that course is giving you something worth it (say it louder for the people in the back).

Sure, you can take a course because it only has 10 reports due in the whole semester and no final exam but think hard about what you’re learning from it.

University is supposed to be for learning and not just to get a piece of paper with your name on it by the end of it. That piece of paper shows the challenges you faced, the obstacles you overcame, the things you learned not only about your major but yourself.

Not only that, take electives you’re interested in. Even if they’re not bird courses. You’ll get something more from them than you can possibly imagine.

Girl writing in notebook

I recently took a third-year level economics and politics course. That course was probably the first elective I took that wasn’t a bird course. And if I could, I would take that course two more times.

It was the best learning experience I got and it's where I found a true passion for politics in part. I was ready to get at most a B in that course. It wasn’t an easy course. It was hard work but I actually liked doing it and in the end, I got a A.

What’s better than knowing you’re gonna get a A in the course? Getting an unexpected A.

And I get it. Sometimes you really need that GPA boost but plan ahead. Talk to academic advising. Your marks don’t define who you are and you can easily forget that when your GPA is in a bad place.


Set yourself up for a minor

If you’ve made it this far and are still unconvinced, I have one word for you: minor.

You can minor in something using your electives. This way your electives have a purpose and you’ll be getting something more out of them. Check out what the university offers so you can plan your electives accordingly.

Man holding Diploma

At the end of the day, this is only my advice. You’ll want to talk to academic advising for more information on any of the topics I covered above. So don't wait, and be strategic with your electives! 

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