Starting a new semester can be a stressful time. Not only do you have to worry about clubs, friends, and getting a job, you have to plan and perfect your classes.
This can be different depending on what university you attend. I’ve found that for the most part, choosing classes ends up being in your hands.
And that can be pretty stressful, especially with all the intricacies of scheduling.
Not only do you have to worry about finding classes that fit your general education requirements (if your school has them) and major, you’ve also got to make sure the times work, that it’s not closed, and that you’re not overloading yourself. Plus, it’s important you actually enjoy your classes.
I’ve been through this process a couple times now, and although I don’t have all the experience in the world, I’ve found tips to help you create your dream schedule.
For me, my main focus when it comes to scheduling is making sure I’m happy. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to sign up for a bunch of classes you aren’t very interested in. It’s not good to overload yourself with work-heavy classes in the hopes that you’ll just “suffer” through it.
That leads me to my first tip: do your research.
It’s tempting to just throw a couple classes into a schedule and call it a day. It takes less time, is super easy, and doesn’t bother with the terrible stress of going through the hundreds of offered courses. I’ve even been tempted.
Each time, I’d ask myself, “What if I find out about an awesome class I missed out on?”
That’s why I always do every bit of research possible. I like to go through every single class and see if anything catches my eye. The worst feeling is regretting not signing up for a class that would fit a lot better in your schedule and fulfill more general education requirements (GER’s).
In this process, since it does end up taking a while, I make sure to keep track of classes that interest me. I usually go through an initial check to get a feel for what I might be taking the next semester. Of course, it’s important to also record what times these classes are offered and begin to think about how classes might fit together.
But beyond just knowing your options, you’ve also have to know what you need.
Before you even get into adding classes you like, you’ve got to have a base. Usually, I create this base first, and then look for classes that aren’t as needed to add second. What you need usually has to do with your major and other requirements. If there’s an introductory course that’s absolutely necessary for the major you’re going towards, you should take that first.
If you’re utterly undecided and want to try out a few different things, I’d suggest thinking about where your interests most lie and taking a course that fills the requirement for a wide variety of majors. For example, if you’re interested in the sciences, but aren’t sure what, it may be good to take a math course required for most science majors. That way, you know you’re getting a start on your degree.
Or, if you’re totally lost, it’s always good to take care of non-major requirements during your first year.
On the opposite hand, if you aren’t totally sure what your major is and you’re at the beginning of your college experience, I would recommend avoiding classes very specific to a major you think you might follow. Go for broader classes. More importantly, fill out other requirements first with classes you know you’ll eventually need. Nothing sucks more than taking a course that ends up being pointless for your degree.
Once you’ve found the classes you need, make sure to write down the time options they offer. If you’re given an advanced registration period or a time when you can pick your top classes before they close, put those classes at the top. They matter the most. Work the rest of your schedule around this base.
So, you’ve figured out your base classes and have gone through your options to find some other possible interests.
The next step is actually creating the schedule. This is where things get tricky.
A lot of the time, classes will conflict or already be closed. For the former, there’s not much you can do except decide which class matters most to you. For the latter, you can still add yourself to the class’s waitlist. In my experience, you can generally get into a closed class, as long as it’s not that one that everyone wants.
If a class is closed, my first step is to e-mail the professor and see if there’s any way to overload the class. Tell the professor how interested you are in their course and see if there’s any wiggle room. There sometimes is, especially for larger classes. I’ve found that a lot of professors will just tell me to show up the first day and ask then. A lot of students just do that anyway without e-mailing the professor. By showing up, you prove how much you genuinely care about getting into the course.
Still, it’s not always possible to get in, and that’s okay. You’ll just have to find something else.
For the actual timing of classes, it totally depends on preference. Personally, I’ve found creating a schedule where two or three days are packed, whilst the other days of the week are lighter works best for me. For example, classes at my school were held Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Therefore, I liked having around three classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, preferably back to back and earlier in the morning. Then, I’d have only one ten A.M. class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, meaning I practically had those days off.
I got really lucky with that schedule, but it’s possible you can, too. There are plenty of other things that come in hand when timing your schedule, including whether you’re a morning person. I am a morning person, so I’d prefer having a nine A.M. class and getting out at noon each day to getting into class later and out later.
When it comes down to it, it’s your choice. The best advice I’ve got is to not rush through the process. Take your time, find what fits, and make a schedule you won’t regret. College is stressful enough as is, there’s no reason to make things harder.