Course selection season always gives me mixed emotions. On one hand, I am so excited for another year of learning cool shit you could never learn in high school (Witchcraft, Greek Mythology or maybe even an entire course on Bob Dylan). These are electives you probably will never need to know in real life, but it makes you an awesome conversationalist. The down side? All the anxiety that comes with clashing schedules, syllabuses, and topic overlaps. We are all over the place in college and we require balance in our course schedules. Here are 7 steps every student should take to ensure their ideal course schedule:
1. See what’s available
SO exciting! I always start by browsing through my department’s course offerings and then similar department’s classes to see what appeals to me. I always write down: Topic, Course Code, Lecturer, Time (Day and Hour). The last thing you want is to have a pile of courses you want and then have no idea if they conflict or not. This way you can keep track of every slot you fill and how it applies to your degree.
2. Look at the time of the classes
Often times, if I see a class I like starts at 8 AM, I don’t even bother to write it down. It doesn’t make my list. I like sleep more than I like Ancient Myths, sorry not sorry. You also want to make sure you don’t have class at 8 AM and then not again until 7 PM. This sucks for commuters. Lastly, make sure you have enough time to get to your classes so you aren’t late.
3. Balance your core classes
Core or ‘required’ classes are those you need that are specific to your program. These classes can sometimes be dense or boring, and I will be damned if I take both in the same term. Account for this when filling in the blanks of your schedule. Balance is key. Even the smartest individuals can’t handle an impossibly difficult term so save yourself the doubt and depression and space it out. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
4. The Tie Breaker
Who’s teaching the class? This is an underrated variable to many students and it should be given more credit. Go to the beloved ratemyprofessors.com and lurk the shit out of them. What did other students have to say? Not only can it make a difference in how well you do in the class, but can affect your overall experience in that course. Make sure to pay it forward from time to time and review your professors; other students (and the nice professors, too) will thank you for it.
5. The Breakdown
If you’re lucky, the course outlines will be released by the time your course selection period begins. This always helps me narrow down my options. If each class I take requires a 12 page essay, then I’ll re-adjust my courses and choose one that doesn’t require a paper, maybe it’s a midterm and a final instead. If you can’t handle a term of constant writing, then reconsider your schedule. Know yourself, and select accordingly. Again, don’t set yourself up for failure.
6. Have your back-ups at the ready
Often times you won’t get into the class you want and end up on a waiting list. Instead of panicking, have a backup ready. Your back ups should be similar in profile in regards to the time, breakdown and topic. Don’t worry if you can’t get a seat, wait for the ‘drop/add’ period. This is always the best time to pick up classes and try to get into the ones you want. People are adding and dropping classes every second. A seat is bound to open up and you’ll be there to swipe it up.
7. For those thinking of Graduate Studies…
You better start thinking about what professors you want a reference letter from and take their classes. Even they aren’t as exciting as the others, you need them to know who you are. Don’t wait to take classes with professors you need a reference from until your very last year of undergrad; huge mistake. I know sometimes it can be daunting but It is absolutely essential to network with professors. Trust me, once you get that letter of admission you’ll thank me.
I always end up going through three or four ‘draft picks’ when selecting my courses. Once course selection season comes around, I’m ready to go, and let me tell you; it’s a battlefield out there. Clicking refresh a million times to not get ‘booted’ out of the system as thousands of students try to grab their courses before their taken is a skill you master by your third or fourth year.
Be fierce in your preparation and I guarantee you’ll get the perfect college courses.