This has been my first week of my Sophomore year and I spent most of it Adding/Dropping classes to make sure that I had the schedule that I was mostly O.K. with and having the subjects that I wanted to have. Some people who are studying in Europe do not have the luxury of choosing individual classes and schedule. They simply get assigned the classes that they have to take. However, if you do have this opportunity, it will be a shame to not take advantage of it.
How Many Hours/Courses Should You Take?
This question is extremely personal and depends from person to person as well as from different situations. An easy answer will be “as many as you can handle while having a normal social life, extra curricular involvement, and (maybe) a part time job.” I have some friends who took 12 hours and always complained about having too much work. And I had other friends who took 18 hours and were fine.
This question gets more complicated if you want to graduate faster, declare a major faster, raise your GPA, transfer, or get into a certain program. In this case, you might have to take more hours than you otherwise would have been comfortable with. The transfer reason or the GPA reason are not the best ones to take on more classes and you should be cautious about doing this. It’s better to get a 4.0 taking 12 hours than a 3.0 taking 18.
Also, if you have more “hard” classes, you should take less hours. If you have more “easy” classes, you can afford to take more hours.
Maintain a Balance of Hard/Easy Classes
I know. A lot of college counselors will say that all classes are hard classes. However, this is simply not true. Some classes (such as certain electives) are simply easier. With some subjects, you might find them easier than other people because you are either naturally better at the subject or you had a background in the subject that other people might not have. Which ever the case might be, not all classes are created equal and you will find some classes easier than others.
To determine which classes are easier, you should ask other people for recommendations of easier classes and electives. You should also utilize tools such as Ratemyproffessor.com to decide on which specific class to join based on the professor. You should also assess your own strength and weaknesses and decide on what you find easy and what you find hard. If other people are saying that something is easy and you understand that this type of subject is playing to your strength, than it probably will be an easy class for you.
Once you have determined which classes are easy and which ones will be hard, you should try your best to maintain a balance of easy/hard classes. This way, you will not end up being overwhelmed during a certain semester while having nothing to do and being bored out of your mind during another semester.
Make sure to take the pre requisite classes for your degree to progress
Look at your degree planner and determine, which classes you need to take in order to declare your major, to be able to take upper level courses for your degree, to get into a class that you really want to get into, etc…. This classes should be your #1 priority. Without them, you will end up being stuck with a bunch of electives during one of your semesters and your degree will not be able to progress smoothly. This means that even if you will be stuck with an 8 AM class and your professor will be the worst person in the world, you should still take the class this semester rather than waiting for the next one.
I have this situation with my Business Administration course this semester. Without it, I would have been stuck with a bunch of electives next semester because the class is considered a requirement before you can take most other business courses in my University.
Core Classes and Electives
By core classes, I mean stuff like History, Art, and other subjects that everyone has to take regardless of their major. This type of classes are usually useless and a waist of time. Therefore, you should choose the easiest professors for this classes (the ones who give out the most A’s) and spread them out through out the 4 years (if possible). Make them into easy classes (again, if possible).
For electives that are not specific to your major, the similar rule applies. They should be easy and interesting for you. If an elective takes too much work, you are doing something wrong and should choose an easier elective. Watch for easy electives every time you register for classes. If all easy electives are taken, wait for the next semester to take the easy ones. Likewise, if you absolutely hate doing something, don’t pick that as an elective.
For core classes (or electives) specific to your major, don’t necessarily take the easiest way out. You will need to have a couple of professors that will be able to provide you with a letter of recommendation, guidance, advice, etc… at some point during your College career. Therefore, choose the classes with the professors that will be most likely to do this for you. If a professor had worked in the industry that you are interested in (and was successful at it), his class should definitely be one of your priorities. Also, keep in mind that you might not be able to build a good relationship with every single professor. Therefore, plan on taking more than 2 classes that have those types of professors teaching them.
Read the Syllabus
For the elective classes, read the syllabus as soon as you get it. You need to know what you are getting yourself into from the beginning. If something on the syllabus sounds too hard for an elective (or you don’t feel comfortable doing something), drop that class right away and choose something else to do instead. No point in waisting too much of your time.
Take Morning Classes
I know. You are probably thinking that I’m crazy for recommending this idea and will probably stop reading this blog after reading this point.
However, taking morning classes (preferably 8AM Monday-Friday) is one of the best things that you can do. They will help discipline you and will free up your day. What I mean by this is that if you have all of your classes in the evening, you will probably not have enough discipline to wake up in the morning and will end up sleeping in. With morning classes, you have no choice but to wake up early, which means that you will have more of your day to work on assignments, ask for help, and you will be able to get more work done. They will also prevent you from partying during the work week and on Sundays because it’s harder to wake up for an 8AM class after partying through the night than it is for an evening class. This, again, will most likely have a positive impact on your grades as well as on your health. The only exception to this rule is if you are doing a part time internship or job that requires certain fixed hours. In this case, you should plan your hours around the job/internship.
The first week will be difficult and painful. You will feel tired and hate this idea. However, after that point, your body will adjust and it will get better. Over all, the benefits of early classes (having more time to be productive) will outweigh the discomfort.
When Should You Register?
As soon as possible. The best classes will go away to people who register the earliest. Therefore, as soon as registration opens, you should already have everything planned out (which courses you plan on taking and with which professors) and go for it ASAP. Than you should use the first week of your new semester (Add/Drop period) to make any adjustments in terms of electives that you didn’t guess correctly as being easy and/or adding a class that you were unable to add earlier.
To summarize, this are the main points of choosing classes. The priority should be as follows:
- Take care of prerequisites (you will be screwed if you don’t)
- Core classes and electives related to your degree with good professors (if this opportunity comes up, you will be stupid not to take it.)
- Balance of easy/hard classes
- electives/core classes that you can take during any time through out the 4 years. (You can afford to wait to get what you want)
- Timing of your classes (you can suffer the discomfort if it means getting all of the other points right.)
Again, if you have an opportunity to pick your classes, you should choose them wisely.