April 25th, 2010
The newfound independence that you experience in college can leave you clueless, especially when it comes to selecting your classes. Unlike in high school, you're completely responsible for deciding which ones you want to take, how many you want to take, and when to take them. Many students don't know where to start. But if you utilize the help provided by your college and use your own best judgment, you'll have a schedule that'll enable you to achieve academic success.
During orientation before your freshman year, you'll attend a scheduling session with advisors and counselors who will assist you in choosing your initial slate of classes. They'll help you become familiar with the selection process in which you'll be involved at least eight times during your college career. You'll make use of a course catalog and a degree plan – two items you can't make a schedule without. Your school's course catalog is a detailed listing of every course offered by the university. It includes brief descriptions on what each class entails and their section numbers, which you'll use when registering. Your degree plan is provided by your major's department and it indicates the path you should take toward graduation by detailing which classes you need and when to complete them. It's unlikely that you'll follow the plan exactly as it's laid out, but it'll give you a sense of the workload expectations for each semester.
Since no two students are alike, it's important that you use your own discretion when scheduling. Choose a mix of classes that you think will be easy and difficult. Even if you're ambitious and feel well-prepared for the academic challenge, resist loading up on classes that require too much work – you don't want to burn yourself out. On the other hand, if you take too many easy classes, you won't be prepared when the more difficult classes come along. When choosing electives, take ones that interest you and supplement your major. Also, be sure to balance the subjects. During your first couple of years, you'll have general education classes ranging from math and science to English and political science. Take a couple from each discipline, but not three or four from the same discipline. If you have any questions or concerns, visit an advisor from your major's department during their office hours. They'll keep you up-to-date on the requirements and prerequisites you need in order to stay on track. It's the best way to avoid scheduling mishaps, and you'll be more likely to graduate when planned.