Why Are College Courses Called 101

Joining college is every high school student’s dream even though many struggles to decide on the courses they want to pursue. College courses are units of teaching carried out throughout a semester led by lecturers by covering a certain topic. The classes are fixed for specific times during the week and exams are done after completion of the unit. They can be either elective or compulsory depending on the units. Let’s start with Why Are College Courses Called 101.

Why Are College Courses Called 101

Everyone who went through college recalls the 101 courses, be it mat 101, lit 101, or Csc 101. The number 101 is the Us college system’s way of indicating the introductory courses in every topic of study.101 designates freshman-level courses The Oxford English Dictionary found the number as an introductory course number in the University of Buffalo catalog in 1929. Other universities started to use it citing it was logical and efficient. 

Some schools made their course numbering system even though many mimicked the system and argued that it was easier to compare introductory courses in all colleges if they contained the same name and numbers. When standardization of courses started in the 19th century the then president of Harvard, Charles W. Eliot, introduced the elective system and redesigned the catalog. It was after that 101 was found suitable for intro courses. Since then, 100-199 represent freshman-level courses in colleges across the world. Relative courses are given consecutive numbers example; 102 for communication skills 1 and 202 for communication skills 2.

Other level courses numbering

  1. 200-299    Used to indicate Sophomore year courses. Show advancement in knowledge.
  2. 300-399     Used to represent Junior year courses, in some countries it is at this level that they join attachment.
  3. 400-499     Indicate Senior year courses also called undergraduates.
  4. 500-           For Graduate and above postgraduate courses also called masters.

Difference between elective and compulsory courses

Elective courses

Are students’ units of choice. They offer specialization and have fewer learners. Students choose depending on their interests, career paths, or requirements of the school. Some schools require science students to at least study one humanity course and vice versa. This helps them get a wide variety of knowledge. It is unfair to only be knowledgeable in one discipline and completely off other aspects of life like communication skills, computer applications, or simple math. They are provided to Junior and Senior year students and restricted to Freshman and sophomore year students.

Compulsory courses

Are the core units, also known as majors. They are the required units for a particular course. They provide the required knowledge for a particular course and are vital for one to be awarded a degree. They are prepared by the lecturers following the required curriculum guidelines.

 Colleges ensure students are equipped with the required skills by employing different teaching techniques. They include:

  • Lectures- Here students attend classes directed by the professors. They provide guidelines and lay the course outline. They show students what is expected of them in the particular unit. Lectures are for about 2-3hrs.
  • Practical sessions- these are carried out in the different areas depending on the course of study, science students use the lab, and media students use the studio. 
  • Seminar- here students do their research on a particular topic and present it to critics.
  • The group works- students are assigned topics to research and work on them in groups. This is to encourage teamwork and good relationship between students.
  • Attachments- These are for junior students; they get a chance to practice in real life as they are attached to companies and organizations in their field of study for some months. The student is assigned a supervisor who assesses the progress in the field.
  • Tutorials for students who would love individual attention. They meet with the lectures weekly to discuss certain topics.

Students’ coursework requirement

All courses of study require different work approaches depending on the year of study, instructor, and school. To be awarded a degree requirement cuts across work done for all the years. Some of the common requirements include;

  1.  Passing CATs and exams. The pass mark is 40% in many colleges, fail leads to retakes.
  2. Attending about 60% of both physical and online classes.
  3. Taking part in group discussions.
  4. Submitting assignments on time. 
  5. Attending an internship or attachment.
  6. Writing reports. 


Freshman year ‘101’ courses are introductory courses that lay a foundation for the courses the student will learn in later years. They play a huge part in setting the pace of the course content and academic skills required. It is in this year that students form attitudes towards school and make choices towards their career paths. This year allows exploration, testing, and gauging of the route one wants to follow while broadening their perspective and mindset. 

101 courses prepare the student for sophomore year, they interrelate and depending on how the first year was handled students who handle freshman year well fits in sophomore year. In some colleges, one cannot proceed to the next year if one failed the previous year. To advance students are forced to retake exams.

Frequently asked questions.

  1. What are the common courses in freshman year?

While common courses may differ from school to school some of the shared ones are; psychology, communication skills, statistics, and Computer applications.

  1. How to choose an elective course?

Elective courses are rarely for first years. They are chosen depending on the specialization and course requirement. It is advisable to choose units that align with the course you want to pursue. For example, while studying Broadcast Journalism go for radio and TV-related units.

  1. Does the course number matter?

Yes, colleges use the course numbers to establish their catalog. The numbers also differentiate the level of the students. 

  1. Are all course numbers the same in all colleges?

Different universities use different numbers. There are standard formats while the rest are customized depending on the institution, the course offered and the level of study.