It’s Day 2 of The Freshman’s Guide to College and today we’re talking about choosing your college courses!
Yesterday we talked about how to make sure you’re not spending unnecessary money on supplies you’ll never use. Back to school shopping is a ton of fun, but courses are a whole other story. Choosing your course load can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never had to do this before! What’s better? Having one or two courses every day, or two insane days but a 4-day weekend? How do you know which professors will make your life a living hell, and which will light a fire in your heart?
It can seem overwhelming, but I’m hoping that with these tips I make it a little less scary for you!
Review the required courses for your major
Before you start planning your course load at all, make sure you’re planning with the right courses! A mistake I’ve seen many of my friends make is putting off the boring courses so you can do the fun ones for too long. For instance, in psychology, you need to take a course in research methods which is less than exciting to say the least. Many of my friends decided to put it off until 3rd year but then realized when they tried to sign up for 3rd year courses that the boring class they had put off was required for the 3rd year courses! This put them a semester behind, so they had to do summer courses.
Plan out your course load not only for this year, but for the rest of your four years. That helps you know without a shadow of a doubt that everything will work out ideally, and gives you a better idea of what you have to get done when and how many electives you actually have.
Meet with an academic advisor
After you’ve reviewed everything you need to do, I highly recommend talking to an academic advisor. Meetings are free for students, so go early in the morning to avoid lines and bring along your first draft of your course schedule. Having a professional look over your course sequence can give you peace of mind, and they can give you some tips for future courses you may be interested in.
I’m always surprised by how many students don’t utilize this resource that the school provides. Academic advisors are just there to help, and they love meeting with kids who are serious about their education, since, honestly, many of the ones who go to see them only go when they’ve reached rock bottom. Use the resources available!
Analyze how you best work
Are you the kind of person who can sit down for 5 hours at a time and pound out paper after paper, or read 7 chapters in a row? Or do you do better when you have short bursts of 2 hours or so mixed up with breaks in between? Personally, I’m the second, but my roommate is the first.
That’s why I prefer to have more days at school with fewer classes. I love having a class, an hour and a half break, and then 3 hours of classes, but if I have a full day off I don’t get nearly as much done. So while Hillary’s ideal course load may involve 10 hours of class on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with two full days to study, I prefer to average 3 hours a day in class so that I’m always at school at least once a day. It helps that I go to the gym every day, too, so I’m more likely to go if I’m already on campus. My course load this year is amazing–I have 2 or 3 classes a day but I have Mondays completely off and Fridays off every other week! Because I have my honours thesis this year the extra time is good, since I don’t have a technical class those days, so I’m making my off days my thesis days.
So what do you need? Big blocks of class? Or will you fall asleep? After you figure that out, you only have one more step before your course load is complete!
Use Rate My Professors.
I’m serious. This is the best thing I’ve ever done for my college experience. Rate my professor is a website where students can go on and write comments about their profs, so you know how easy the course is, how helpful the prof is, how inspiring they are, etc.
I never sign up for a course before first reading the professor reviews if I can help it. If you have to choose between section A or B it helps to know that the prof for A has a class average of D and prof for B has a class average of As and is super inspiring.
Once you see which are the best professors for the courses, figure out which semester and section you like the looks of best. After you know this, it’s pretty easy to plan out your courses!
A great course load helps relieve so much stress from the day-to-day madness. If you know that you’re looking forward to class, or that it’s at least not unbearable, everything seems much brighter! My second year was so much better than my first after learning these tips, and I hope that I save you the awful semester that I had before I knew these.
What are some tips you have for choosing your course load?
Enjoy this post? Check out the rest of The Freshman’s Guide to College:
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 1: Back-to-School Shopping
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 2: Choosing your Course Schedule
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 3: Saving on Textbooks
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 4: Making Friends
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 5: Roommates
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 6: Exams
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 7: Packing for College
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 8: Staying Healthy in School
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 9: Time Management
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 10: Staying in Touch with Family and Friends