cog·nate

cog·nate

By Iris Florez and Nicole Maarraoui

cog·nate

By Iris Florez and Nicole Maarraoui
Have you ever taken a class in high school and wondered why you were taking that particular class? Or wondered if you’ll ever use it later in life? You’re not alone–we did too!

We remember wishing we could choose more classes from subjects that interested us and wanting to be more in control of our education. After all, it can be hard to know what you want to do with your future when your options up to this point have been limited by specific graduation requirements.

At the University of Miami, we want to avoid that exact thing. Instead, with the Cognates Program of General Education, we encourage students to find and refine their academic interests by giving them the freedom to create their own curriculum by choosing classes they want to take or feel will enhance their education, rather than forcing them to take a set list of required classes. Research shows that when you study the things that you like and which matter to you, you will learn more!

UM’s Cognates Program of General Education allows you—the student—to design an education that reflects your curiosities, passions, and strengths. Unlike the majority of other institutions that require students to take certain classes during their first year, our cognates allow you to begin exploring our over 180 majors and programs right from your first semester. Thus, your general education requirements will not feel like typical gen ed requirements. Another bonus: they can be completed at any point in your academic career, giving you more flexibility when planning your schedule each semester.

What exactly is a cognate? It’s simple. A cognate is a set of classes that are grouped together by a theme, problem, and/or subject. Our Cognates Program requires that students take three classes within three areas of knowledge: Arts & Humanities, People & Society, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). And guess what? Your major automatically fulfills your first cognate. We only require you to take three classes within a cognate, and you obviously will be taking more than three for your major!

Let’s say you enter as a Mechanical Engineering major. You are automatically going to fulfill your STEM cognate and would just have to focus on fulfilling your Arts & Humanities and People & Society cognates throughout your four years here. Or you enter as an English major; you automatically fulfill your Arts & Humanities cognate with classes from your major and would just have to focus on your STEM and People & Society cognates. Not only does this cognate system allow students the flexibility and freedom to be the architect of their own curriculum and their own path, it also makes it much easier for students to take on a minor, double minor, double major…you name it! The reason it’s so easy is because a minor can be anywhere from 4-6 classes, which is just a few more classes than a cognate. If you do decide to turn one of your cognates into an extra major or a minor, no worries—that major or minor will cover the same area of knowledge as the cognate! This flexibility is probably why more than 60 percent of our students have more than one major. 

We hope you come to love the cognates system as much as we do!

Iris Florez is a Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission.  
Nicole Maarraoui is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admission.