Long post incoming! It’s that time of the semester again: time to choose courses for next semester.
This is both my favorite and least favorite time of the year, so obviously I have a ton to say on the matter. It’s incredibly stressful to choose classes, but also kind of fun and exciting, in a way. This is my sixth (?) time choosing classes, and through all my mistakes in the past, I think I have a decent amount of advice to give about it.
Now, for those of you that know me, or read some of my college-centric blog posts, you’ll know that I’m absolutely awful when it comes to choosing courses. I take on more than what I can reasonably chew. In fact, I have too many posts all about managing a heavy course load. (Dealing With and Over Packed Schedule is just one of them!)
But I still give good advice, even though I don’t always take it. And, besides, I’m working on it! Like, legitimately working on it, I promise. My schedule next fall is set to be a lot more relaxed and easy to manage, which is a breath of fresh air.
Speak to your adviser.
I have a love/hate relationship with my adviser, mostly because I’m afraid (and too lazy) to go. But advisers are there to help you, especially now! They can direct you towards which classes you need to take to complete your major/minor/track and can sometimes recommend courses if you need electives.
I don’t know about your school, but since I go to a huge college, getting an appointment with an adviser is rare near course registration days. I recommend either going way early to make sure that they can see you or waiting until after all the chaos is over if your questions aren’t time sensitive.
Some Questions to Ask Your Adviser:
- Am I on track to finish my major/minor?
- What classes do you recommend I take?
- Which class looks better for medical school/law school/whatever graduate school you’re looking into?
- How do I look as a potential applicant?
- Is this course load doable?
If they’re not in the middle of the chaos that is course registration season, they can even help you plan out your schedule for the rest of your college career. My freshman year, I had my adviser do the same thing, and I’ve been more or less following the track they laid out for me.
- Come with your questions prepared! They’re very busy people, so don’t come for the fun of it. Make sure you have a purpose as to why you’re visiting them.
- Don’t come during lunch hours or at the very end of their shift. Unless it’s an extremely quick question (which, in my experience, it never is) try to come at more convenient times. They’re human too and deserve a lunch break or to go home! Besides, they’ll probably be more receptive to helping you out if they’re not stressed about leaving.
- Come early. Just to beat the rush of all the students so you don’t spend all day waiting in the hall.
- Come with your schedule (somewhat) planned out, if you can. My advisers have helped me structure my schedule so I don’t get overwhelmed. Obviously, they don’t know you or your study habits, but they’ve probably been working for long enough that they know what’s generally best for students. Bring them a tentative schedule and they can help you tweak it or approve it!
List all the courses you need to take.
Whether it be for your major, minor, or pre-professional track, we all have a list of courses that are required (or recommended to take). I find that it’s so helpful to have a running list of everything. I’m double majoring and taking on a minor (and under the pre-medical track), so my list is very long. But that also means that if I don’t keep track of courses I’ve taken and courses I need to take, I’m probably going to end up forgetting about some. You don’t want to be in the situation where you’re graduating soon and you just realized you still have to complete a general education requirement!
Do some research by either checking with your adviser or finding your course requirements online and write them all out. Cross off the courses you’ve taken as you take them so you’ll always have a reminder of what you need to take.
- Take notes of the requirements that some courses have. There are some courses I have to take in sequence because I needed to have taken a different course beforehand. And there are also others that need to be taken simultaneously with another course. Even further, some courses are the prerequisite of other courses, so you have to make sure to take those so you can move on to other courses. Take a note of all this so you can better plan your schedule and properly choose what to take and when to take them.
- Make the most of double-dipping! With expensive tuition rates, I’m all for double-dipping courses. If a course works for one of my majors and can act as an elective to another one, I’m all for it. Do some research and see if you can knock down two birds with one stone.
- Make sure the classes you’re taking line up with your post-undergraduate plans. Sometimes, what college requires from you isn’t the same as what some graduate schools require from you. For example, I don’t need to take any English courses for my college, but it’s recommended. However, for most of the medical schools I want to apply to, it’s a requirement. Do your research and make sure that you’re catering your course schedule to your future!
- Ask your friends for recommendations. This has been so invaluable for me. Friends who have taken the class before can tell you about teachers they recommend or teachers to avoid, and even good study methods. This way, you can see if certain courses are good for your schedule depending on whether or not good professors are teaching that semester or if you’re taking too much on your plate. Friends can also recommend good courses they’ve taken that you can consider if you need some electives!
When planning courses, it’s easy to take on as much as possible. I’ve been there, only to realize my mistake the first week of school. Sometimes, we overestimate what we can handle. I’m not saying you’re incapable, but we’re not all superman (or superwoman!).
Only take what you can handle: just because the maximum credits you can take is 18, doesn’t mean you have to take all 18.
What to take into consideration:
- Other time commitments. For example, I have some clubs that have mandatory meetings, regardless of whether or not you have a class at that time. This means I have to purposely avoid taking classes at those times, which limits me a little. I wrote a post a while back about managing commitments, if you need some help juggling everything college throws at you!
- Relaxation time. We all need it. Do yourself a favor and schedule out blocks where you can just breathe. It’s so important to make sure your mental well-being is, well, going well.
- Homework time. Homework is a necessity. Don’t structure your schedule in a way where you can never do homework or you’ll have to stay up all night to do it. It’s just not smart and will hurt you in the long run.
Know when your registration is.
My college is huge, so more often than not, getting certain classes is a battle. There are maybe about a hundred or so seats in a class. That might seem like a lot, but there’s probably a ton of people that want to get into the course. Make sure you know exactly when your registration time is and be ready when it comes. Have your classes already picked out and a super fast internet connection, because it’s pretty much the Hunger Games out there.
Are you ready to choose courses?
If I’m being completely honest, I’m so nervous up until I actually finish registering for courses. Are you excited to start a new semester? After this whirlwind of a school year, I’m pretty excited to start anew.