The transition from high school to college entails major changes in a student’s life. Many important decisions need to be made. One of the most critical tasks is to decide which courses to include in your class schedule. A number of factors should be considered when making your selections.
Beyond the general-education requirements, there is a wide array of options that may seem overwhelming at first. The list can be reduced quickly if you know what you need. Here are five tips for picking college classes.
1. Get Some Help
Filling out a class schedule, especially in your freshman year, can be daunting. You are making decisions that will affect your academic future. Advisers are available at colleges and universities to provide assistance.
These counselors help students pick courses, determine the semester-hour load they can handle, and craft their class schedules. You may want to take the bulk of your courses on certain days of the week, or spread them out. You could be a morning person, or one who is more alert in the afternoon or evening. You might have a part-time job that determines when you are available for classes.
Advisers can help you deal with other aspects of college life, as well. Take advantage of this resource.
2. Check Out Classes and Professors
You cannot find out everything about a course simply by reading about it. Visiting classrooms during the early days of your first semester can help you make decisions. If you sit in on a class that you wish you had selected, it may not be too late to add it to your schedule. You also can consider taking it the following semester. Some universities encourage this so-called “course shopping.”
Learn about the people teaching the classes. Reviews and ratings of professors at major universities are available from several online sources. You also can talk with fellow students on campus who have taken classes with professors you are considering. Beware of a small sample size, as negative comments by one or two students do not necessarily provide an accurate picture.
3. Determine the Core Requirements
General-education classes that are mandated for all students are called core requirements. Colleges and universities differ in the policies, but most require successful completion of courses in the categories of science, math, language arts and social studies. Make sure you know all the classes from which to choose, in each category. Select “introduction to” courses, and those that best relate to the major you anticipate pursuing.
Many students want to get these requirements out of the way, to clear their schedule in later semesters for upper-level classes and other academic offerings more suited to their majors. However, if you are not sure which major to pursue, you may want to defer some of the general-education classes. When your major becomes clear, you will know which of the class alternatives within the core requirements are appropriate.
Do not take many electives during your freshman and sophomore years. These courses may not be relevant for the major you wind up pursuing. On the other hand, college is an opportunity to study topics that interest you. Find a balance in these concerns.
4. Choose Varied Courses
Students change their majors often during their college years. Freshmen are the least likely to know for sure the type of degree they will end up earning. By putting together a varied class schedule, you have a better chance of covering your academic bases. This method will expose you to more subjects, expanding your ideas for future classes.
Make sure to take some classes that involve writing, as this is a required skill in most degree programs. You need to be able to compose essays, and present yourself in a professional manner to prospective employers.
5. Focus on Your Degree
Learn early on which courses are required to qualify for the degree you are seeking. While you won’t have to worry about most of these classes during your first couple of years, you must have a plan.
If you feel certain about the major you want, begin taking some upper-level courses even as you are completing the core requirements. Some of the classes you need for your degree may fill quickly, or not be offered each semester. You don’t want to find out during your senior year that you have failed to take a required course.
By following these steps, you can help ensure that the classes you select meet your needs. Picking the right courses, at the appropriate time, is just part of the challenge. You also must create a workload you can sustain, and have a class schedule that fits with the rest of your life. Making your selections wisely can help you reach your goals.