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How to Choose Your College Classes – Tips for Each Year

April 15, 2013
How to Choose Your College Classes - Tips for Each Year

Half-way through the semester when everyone is on the brink of midterms, class registration for the next semester begins. In addition to your usual daily obligations, you now have to plan ahead for your next batch of classes. The courses you choose depend on your year, your major and general requirements, and how much space is left when it’s your turn to register.

First-year: the fewest options and the most requirements

As a first-year, most if not all of the classes you sign up for will be required courses. At this point, you still have plenty of gen-eds to knock out and you might be able to write off a few major requirements, especially if you’ve already declared or have a solid idea of what you want to study. Although most of the fun classes will be off-limits to you, at least you won’t have trouble filling out your schedule. You also won’t have to worry about your classes filling up since multiple professors teach several sections of the same class; however, some required classes fill up anyway because so many people are trying to take them. If it’s a class that’s offered every semester, you might have to put it off until later.

If you think you can handle it, take one or two extra classes for a semester or two. Not only will you fulfill more requirements faster, but depending on how many requirements you have, you could take fewer classes in your junior and senior years, giving you more time to focus on more intense classes or activities outside of school.

Sophomore year: electives are a possibility, but don’t focus on them

During your sophomore year, you’re still mostly focusing on knocking out required courses, but you might have room for an elective or two. However, your main priority is still required classes. Although you’re higher up on the registration ladder, there’s still a good chance that you won’t get into every class you want to take, so make sure you have a few alternatives. You should also consider dipping into your major a little bit, especially if many of your later courses have prerequisites.

Junior year: gen-eds are finished and your major become your focus

Junior year should be the time when most of your classes cater to your major. If you have to take a gen-ed because you couldn’t take one earlier, that’s fine. It’s better to get it out of your way before senior year. The same principle applies to your major classes. Ask around to find out which classes have the heaviest workload and you can plan to take them this year to have less work on top of your senior thesis. By now, you won’t likely need back-ups for classes that fill up too quickly, but make a second plan just in case, especially if there are a lot of people in your major. Upper-level classes don’t always have the same widespread availability as lower-level ones.

Senior year: you have the first pick now, so tie up lose ends

By senior year, you’ve finished your gen-ed classes and most of your major requirements. Not only do you now go first come registration time, but you also ideally have the least to finish up. If possible, make your senior thesis class the most intensive course you take, but that might not be possible depending on how many requirements you have left to fulfill. You might have some extra space in your schedule, so you could retake a class you failed earlier or just fill up on electives. As long as you take the leftover classes you need in order to graduate, you’ll be in good shape. Of course, sometimes you might not be able to do that, so don’t discount summer options or part-time status the following year.

Class registration is an exciting part of every semester and although it takes a little planning, you can easily schedule your time each semester so that you finish everything you need to. Sometimes, a class you really need will fill up, but don’t forget that you can email the professor about letting you in anyway. You also have other faculty and staff members who can give you advice about what to take when. The reason why you’re in college is to take classes, so no matter how you plan, make sure you plan in whatever way works for you.

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