College Class Selection Tips
Consider Long and Short Term, Be Flexible
Course selection is an important factor in college. But many students get hung up on the process, worried they won’t get the courses they require. Registration is just one procedure in an ongoing process that encompasses self-awareness, long and short-term planning, and the ability to adapt to changes—pretty much a larger metaphor for adulthood.
What Do You Take First?
Strategies for negotiating your college courses abound. No one method is hard and fast. However, there must be a modicum of self-examination at some point. Half your battle is won if you already have a major chosen. But that does not mean that without one all is lost; in fact a large percentage of freshmen are undecided. Without a major you are free to explore options.
Courses must almost be considered three dimensionally:
- General required courses outside your major consist of low level courses selected from the various disciplines such as art, history, foreign language, science, math, English composition, sociology or psychology. This array cuts a swath across the range of liberal arts curricula. Emphasis on a well-rounded education is one of the distinguishing factors between a four-year college and others. Some college advisors suggest you hit your general requirements immediately.
- Required courses in your major are those that the department has determined are the cornerstones in the foundation of your field of expertise. If you have a major in mind you might choose one of these along with general requirements.
- Departmental electives are those upper level courses that essentially allow you to customize your major. The upper level courses are usually only available to juniors and seniors that have satisfied prerequisites in the major. You should look enthusiastically forward to this selection.
The state of balance figures prominently into so many aspects of your life, and your choice of college courses is no exception to this rule. A well-balanced course load includes courses you expect to challenge you and those less challenging. Additionally the more variety you can impose in your class schedule the better for your state of mind.
Know the Course Catalog
In my article “Getting Around Campus” I emphasize preparation for your arrival on college campus during the few months between enrollment and new student orientation. Explore the course catalog, online or off in conjunction with the college’s academic rules and regulations. Processes vary from college to college, but you should try to have your first choice of courses laid out, along with second and third choices. Think carefully about your personal strategy.
You’ll notice that there will be courses that are restricted and require the written permission of the professor. Freshmen rarely have to worry about these.
Beware of Logistics
I know it may be easy to size up your courses on paper, but the actual logistics may prove the Devil is in the details. While you’re assembling your course plan, consider the size of your campus, situation of academic buildings in relation to your dorm and time constraints such as an athletic commitment or a part-time job.
Meet with Your Advisor
Either before you get to campus or as soon as you do, call the academic advisor to which you’ve been assigned, introduce yourself and ask for an appointment to review your academic goals and the course choices you’ve made. Eventually you will probably choose an advisor within your department, but freshmen are assigned at the outset. When you meet take the opportunity to discuss your academic interests or your intentions. Ask for feedback on your rationale for the courses you’ve chosen. Discuss options prior to registration day.
It is likely your advisor will suggest you include an English Composition course as one of your first. This will be a tough course, but it is meant to prepare you for the level of written communication you’ll need now and in the future.
This is the official step and exactly how it’s conducted varies. Some colleges offer an online registration exclusively while others offer a combination of in person and online registration. The earlier you register, one way or the other, the better, especially as a freshman. Required courses will fill quickly. This is why I suggest you have choices two and three prepared and discussed in advance with your advisor. He or she will be familiar with the system and able to offer you suggestions for navigating the actual registration.
Waiting lists offer you an opportunity to be one of the first in line if someone drops a course. Rules governing use of waiting lists varies from college to college.
Chances are come registration day you’ll have to compromise in some regard, but just remember: you have many more registrations to go and you’ll not be a freshman forever.