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The Daily Tar Heel

Gen Eds: Why you still have to take P.E. after you graduate high school

The General Education curriculum, better known as Gen Eds, is a system used by UNC to teach students a wide range of skills, knowledge, values and habits that will allow them to grow into well-rounded individuals. Essentially, it's just a laundry list of courses you need to check off before you graduate at Carolina.

The curriculum is broken into three sections: Foundations, Approaches and Connections. 

The Gen Ed requirements are entirely separate from your major requirements, though classes necessary for your major may satisfy a more than a few Gen Eds. For the more decisive incoming first-years with a major already in mind, sitting down and planning your college schedule can help guarantee that you don’t waste time repeating Gen Ed requirements that will eventually be fulfilled through your major coursework.

Almost every student entering UNC has completed AP or IB exams. Scoring high on many of these exams can exempt students from corresponding Gen Eds. For more specifics on how exam scores can exempt students from Gen Eds, go here.


The Foundations segment helps provide, as the name suggests, the foundational skills and knowledge needed for success at Carolina and in future careers. 

Under the Foundations category is English Composition and Rhetoric (CR) and Foreign Language (FL). The CR credit, which is satisfied solely by the English 105 course, is a requirement for almost every incoming student since no AP or IB exam can exempt a student from it. Moreover, UNC requires that students take at least three semesters of a foreign language or the high school equivalent. 

Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Lifetime Fitness (LFIT) are also under the Foundations category. Both the QR and LFIT requirements can be satisfied through one course. QR classes include computer sciences, math and statistics courses. Most incoming students knock out the LFIT requirement with a physical education course in their first year. Carolina offers adaptive LFIT classes for those who need it. 


The Approaches category introduces students with six different "approaches to knowledge" by its requirement of two Physical and Life Sciences (PL, PX) courses, three Social and Behavioral Sciences (SS, HS) courses and three Humanities and Fine Arts (PH, LA, VP) courses.

The PL and PX requisites are covered by two science courses, one of which must utilize a lab component. SS and HS courses focus on the study of both individual and collective behaviors. Students may choose either Gen Ed, SS or HS, to fulfill twice to satisfy the requirement. PH, LA, and VP courses all tackle topics of communicating, conveying and portraying the human experience.


The Connections Curriculum, the largest of the three categories, works around building on students’ foundational knowledge while also linking between different disciplines. Communication Intensive (CI), Experiential Education (EE), U.S. Diversity (US), North Atlantic World (NA), Beyond the North Atlantic World (BN) and World before 1750 (WB) all require one course each.

Most of these Gen Eds are pretty self-explanatory in their names except for the Experiential Education course. EE courses are aimed at taking students out of the traditional classroom experience. These ~unorthodox programs~ can take the form of undergraduate research, service-learning courses, study abroad, fieldwork courses or an approved internship.

Lastly, take note of which classes satisfy multiple Gen Eds, *cough cough first-year seminars*. While these can be both tricky to get into due to their high demand, they are definitely worth the wait. There’s absolutely no shame in nearly failing Drama 475: African and Asian Costume to knock out three pesky Gen Eds.

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