Subject-specific electives

Additional course criteria & guidance

In addition to the general “g” subject area criteria, each elective course must meet the subject-specific guidelines described below.


All history elective courses must meet the criteria listed under the “Skills Guidelines” section for the history / social science ("a") subject area. Courses will enable students to establish a breadth of understanding of history (e.g., world history, political history or economic history) and should provide an understanding of the human past, including its relation to the present. Courses will develop a student’s ability to think critically, to evaluate historical data and to analyze and synthesize evidence. All history courses should require extensive reading and writing, as described in the “Skills Guidelines” section for the history / social science ("a") subject area.

Examples of approved courses include: Gender in U.S. History, The World Since 1945, U.S. History through Film.

Social science

All social science elective courses must meet the criteria of the “Skills Guidelines” section for the history / social science ("a") subject area. Courses will be in one of the following social sciences: anthropology, economics, geography, political science (including legal studies), psychology or sociology (including criminology). Alternatively, courses could also be interdisciplinary in nature, drawing knowledge from two or more of these fields. Course objectives will include as many of the following as are applicable to the field:

  • An understanding of the development and basic features of major societies and cultures,
  • An examination of the historic and contemporary ideas that have shaped our world,
  • An understanding of the fundamentals of how two or more political and economic systems function,
  • An examination of the nature and principles of individual and group behavior,
  • A study of social science methodologies, and
  • A comparison of cultures and perspectives.

To develop students’ ability to think critically, to evaluate ideas and information, and to analyze and synthesize qualitative and quantitative evidence (in the laboratory or in the field), social science courses must include a body of basic knowledge, as well as extensive reading and written and oral exposition. Courses designed to meet state-mandated social studies graduation requirements are acceptable provided that they meet the above criteria. Courses with applied, service or career-related content are acceptable if those components are used to augment the academic content of the course.

Examples of approved courses include: Latin American Studies, African American Economics, Community Service: A Sociological Perspective, Comparative World Religions.


Courses in journalism, speech and debate are acceptable electives as long as they require substantial reading with frequent and extensive practice in writing that is carefully evaluated and criticized, as noted in the “b” subject area course criteria. Semester-long courses, such as creative writing, poetry, mythology and others also may be accepted, provided they also meet these criteria. Courses may be multidisciplinary, drawing knowledge from two or more disciplines.

Examples of approved courses include: Journalism, Creative Writing, Speech and Debate, Fiction and Film, Literature and World Religions.

Advanced math

Advanced math, applied math or computer science courses that include the equivalent of a year’s content from any, or a mixture of, advanced math topics – e.g., trigonometry, linear algebra, pre-calculus (analytic geometry and mathematical analysis), calculus, discrete math or probability and statistics – within the context of real-life or career-related skills, may qualify as acceptable mathematics electives.

Computer science

A computer science course is acceptable if it fulfills the following objectives:

  • Teaches students to express algorithms in a standard language,
  • Requires students to complete substantial programming projects, and
  • Involves the study and mastery of various aspects of computer architecture (e.g., how computers deal with data and instructions, the internal components of a computer and the underlying computer logic).

Examples of approved courses include: Computer Programming

Laboratory science

Laboratory science courses designed for ninth and 10th grade may be accepted as electives. These courses are intended to prepare students for laboratory courses fulfilling the “d” subject requirement and college admission. Such courses will cover topics from the biological, earth or physical sciences and must include laboratory and/or field activities. An introductory science course that qualifies as a elective should fulfill many, but not necessarily all, of the criteria listed for the laboratory science subject area.

Additionally, advanced 11th- and 12th-grade courses are accepted if they provide opportunities for students to integrate, and extend, their understanding of basic science through courses in a focused area; these are intended to provide in-depth opportunities to experience academic disciplines that might form the basis for future major or minor studies at the University. A terminal course designed only to meet high school graduation requirements is not an acceptable science elective. A clear rationale for why this course was designed as an elective must be included.

Examples of approved courses include: Agricultural Science, Astronomy, Biotechnology, Civil Engineering, Conservation Biology, Earth Science, Ecology, Electrical Engineering, Environmental Science, Physical Science, Introductory Integrated Science, Medical Arts, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Veterinary Science. Note that some of these courses may alternatively be appropriate for the "d" subject area if they meet all of the outlined goals and course requirements for the laboratory science subject area.

Language other than English (LOTE)

Elective courses must be in the same language used to satisfy the “e” requirement and have the equivalent of two years of the language as a prerequisite. For a student’s second language other than English to qualify as an elective, the equivalent of the second year of the language must be completed to fulfill the elective requirement.

Visual and performing arts (VPA)

Semester or yearlong advanced VPA courses designed for 11th- and 12th-grade students may be considered for the college-preparatory elective (“g”) subject area. Such courses devoted to artistic performance and developing creative artistic ability should build on students’ fundamental understanding and appreciation of artistic expression. In addition, courses should provide opportunities for students to talk and write with discrimination about the artistic material studied (i.e., apply critical analysis lenses to the social, historical, theoretical and/or political components of the course content). Advanced-level courses must have prerequisites (either one year of introductory coursework or experience approved by the instructor) and should assume proficiency beyond the introductory level. Courses must require, on average, the equivalent of a five-period class per week. Work outside of the class (e.g., portfolio/performance preparation, reading, writing, research projects, critical listening/viewing) is required.

Sample courses

Samples of courses approved in the “g” subject area are available for reference as you prepare your own course for UC approval.