Major, minor, and core classes
While there are hundreds of different types of classes one can take in college, to an American, there are only three classifications that really matter: major, minor, and core. The rest of the ways of classifying classes is a secondary thing, something that exists only to make choosing easier.
I'm going to use myself to explain major, minor, and core classes, starting with the core.
The first two years of college are composed of classes meant to broaden the student. A student will have to take a few English courses, like English Composition 1, English Composition 2, and World Literature. Those three are requirements at almost all colleges. The student will also have to take something to encourage an appreciation of Fine Arts; out of Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation, and Theater Appreciation, I chose Art. I also took Drawing 1. Because History and Social Sciences are considered very important, I took World History, Political Science, and Intro to Philosophy. Unfortunately for me, Science and Math are also required, even if you're really, really bad at them, like me. Biology, Weather, College Algebra, and Precalculus all saw me at 8 AM three days a week. Basically, core classes eat your life for two years, but you learn enough to have long discussions with your friends about anything (you've recently studied).
If I haven't said this enough, I'm an English major. My college doesn't require a minor for English majors, so I don't have one, but let's just pretend I'm a Japanese minor. So, when I say "major" and "minor," I'm referring to what are known officially as "major concentration" and "minor concentration." Theoretically, if a student were to take fifteen hours (five classes, one semester) of any subject, like Astronomy, he or she could have a minor in that subject. For the most part that's true. A few subjects will always rebel against generalizations and have a few requirements, like if you want to have a minor in a Foreign Language, like Japanese or Czech, you have to take four grammar/conversation/writing courses, but you'll also have to take a lit class taught in that language, so if I were trying to get a minor in Czech (which my school doesn't offer), I might study Jaroslav Seifert in Czech. So, if I were to try to get a minor in Japanese, I would have to take Japanese Lit in Japanese, which is kinda scary.
Majors follow the same pattern, kinda. A major consists of 45 hours (15 classes, three semesters), usually, although some, like Music Therapy, require far more. With majors, though, there are a lot more rules. I had to take a class that focused on writing before the 20th century (American Literature until 1865), a class that studied the English language as a language (History of the English Language or Structure of Present Day English; I took both), and a course that focuses on a single author (Like Milton or Shakespeare, but I took Jamaica Kincaid because I had never heard of her), among other things. At the end of the senior year, students also have to do something BIG. It could be an internship or a fifty page paper or research. It's called a capstone, because it's supposed to take everything you learned in college and "cap" it off. Since that's really impossible, it really just focuses on what you learn in your major. The capstone is considered a culmination of everything you've done to date.
For my capstone, I'm studying abroad and, upon my return to the States, writing a three thousand word reflection essay on how my trip helped me grow as a student, a theorist, a writer, and, perhaps most importantly, as a human being.