In order to receive a high school diploma or a degree from a community college or university, you must meet the core program requirements of the school you attend. This program usually includes a combination of required classes and elective classes. What may be an elective class for one student may be a required class for another, depending on your major. You may think the elective course requirement is simply a way for schools to allow you to take a fun class. However, elective classes should be chosen with your current and future goals in mind.

Required Classes

The majority of the classes you take to earn your high school diploma or college degree are required classes. Educational institutions have established a core group of classes that students must take to demonstrate knowledge in a broad range of topics and to become a productive member of society. Required classes cover a wide range of topics from literature, science, math, history and foreign languages. These core classes fulfill the school's program requirements and are considered to be essential to a well-rounded educational experience. University students must show and demonstrate knowledge in a particular field, so the number of required courses is greater.

Elective Classes

Elective classes are distinguished from required classes because they fall outside the core classes that must be taken to earn a diploma or degree. Most schools require that students take elective courses, but the specific choice of an elective class is optional. In high school, physical education and home economics are common elective classes. In both high school and college, any class that is considered as above and beyond the core course requirements in a given subject may be an elective class. For example, a high school student who takes calculus will receive an elective class credit, since the majority of high schools do not require students to show proficiency in calculus.

Take Full Advantage of Elective Classes

Schools and universities offer elective classes as an opportunity to broaden and deepen your educational knowledge. If you are a high school student who aspires to go to college, you may have a competitive advantage over other college applicants if you appear to be well-rounded. Taking a variety of electives makes for an impressive transcript. You can also prepare yourself for the rigors of university academic life by taking elective courses such as calculus or economics. If you are already a college or university student, elective classes can broaden your knowledge of skills, professions and languages and gain a competitive edge as you pursue your career.

Restrictions on Elective Classes

Your school may restrict the number of elective classes that can be applied to your degree or diploma program. Also, you may be restricted in the number of elective classes that can be taken in a particular subject. For example, as a high school student, you cannot choose physical education classes as the only electives you ever take. If you are a college or university student, make a priority of registering for required courses before choosing electives. Taking an excessive number of electives that do not apply to your degree program may increase your expenses and the time it takes to earn your degree.