There have been many students who have sat in a classroom at 8 a.m. on a Monday, eyes half open, wondering why on earth they decided that taking such an early class was a good idea, and silently wishing they could go back in time and tell their past selves to avoid this at all costs.
Unfortunately, students do not have the opportunity to go back in time and fix their scheduling mistakes, but, lessons can be learned from their errors, and by following these few, simple tips, you can make sure that your course schedule is perfect for you throughout all of your remaining semesters.
1. Stick with What You Know
First off, seek out classes with professors whom you already know you like and click with, even if the subject isn’t something that you would normally take, it’s better to be adventurous and take a class where you already know you like the professor. In college, a teacher can really make or break a class, so if you find one who you really get along with, try to stick with them, otherwise you could end up with a terribly boring and un-engaging teacher, and there’s nothing worse to a student than a jaded authority figure who hates their job.
Unfortunately, sometimes, especially in smaller colleges, there may only be one professor who teaches the specific course you need to take, so you’re stuck with them, but just try to make the best of it. If you can, however, avoid their courses, there’s no reason to make life any harder for yourself than you have to. Also, at the end of each semester, try to figure out why you liked and disliked certain professors, because this can help you to determine which styles of teaching suit you best. Some classes are taught very traditionally with lectures and reading assignments, while others are more visual with PowerPoints, pictures and videos. Certain teachers love and encourage group work, while others value independence; you just have to find what works best for your style of learning.
2. Take Others’ Advice
Unfortunately, your favorite professor can’t teach all of your college courses, so the next best thing you can do to ensure that you will have a decent teacher is to check Rate My Professors. I know it may sound silly, but there are definitely some classes in which I wish I had looked at the professor’s rating prior to enrolling in the course. It can be particularly helpful when researching your core classes, which typically have various professor options for the same course, so the site allows you to narrow down your options and choose the teacher with the highest rating.
Always, always scroll through the comments to see specifically why the teacher was given a good or bad rating. Does the teacher have a high rating because they were really easy? Or, maybe because they were attractive? Perhaps they teach a really interesting class and they make it fun? Just read the comments and see for yourself, some of them can actually be pretty funny. Plus, if you’re feeling like going the extra mile, leave a comment of your own on your favorite professor’s page to encourage other students to take their class, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
3. Know Your Habits
If you are absolutely, positively not a morning person like me, then this next tip is probably the most important: make sure to check all of the available class times. Some people love to get up early (ew) and have all of their classes in the morning so they have the rest of the day free to do whatever they please.
Meanwhile, other students like to sleep in and stay up late doing homework, in which case it wouldn’t be in your best interest to take all 8 a.m. classes. If you know you have a rather short attention span, then avoid taking all of your classes back to back because it can feel like serious information overload.
Plus, if you go to a college with a large campus, you may not even have enough time to make it from one building to the next if they’re on opposite ends. Also, speaking from experience, even though a once a week class sounds great in theory, three hours is a long time to sit still and pay attention, so, unless you think you’re really going to love the class, try to avoid those, as they can get quite dull. And, if you’re lucky, you might be able to get your schedule to line up just right so that you have no Friday classes, giving you a three-day weekend every single week, which is truly amazing.
4. Check the Prerequisites
Another very important step to take when creating your course schedule is to check for any prerequisites the classes you plan on enrolling in may have. Let’s say a class sounds really interesting to you and you decide you want to take it, only to put the code in on registration day and find out you don’t meet all the course requirements because you’re missing the prerequisite.
This step applies especially to freshman and sophomores because you don’t already have all the entry level and core classes out of the way, and those classes are often required in order to take a higher-level version of certain courses. In addition, always look to see which classes are only offered once a year, because then you must revolve the rest of your schedule around those, or at least incorporate them into your future course plan.
5. Make a Four-Year Plan
One of the most beneficial, yet also the most tedious, thing you can do in terms of scheduling is to make a basic four-year plan because, trust me, you don’t want to be a second-semester senior taking that one dreadful class you’ve been putting off since freshman year. Plan to take the cores and the 101s early on so that you can take the fun classes later, but always try to give yourself at least one course you’re really interested in so that you don’t dread all of your classes.
Freshman year can be kind of boring because most your classes will be quite general, but use that time to establish good study habits and see what works well for you. Many majors require an internship or thesis at some point during your last two years, so schedule your dull, tedious classes and writing intensive courses early on so that you’re not doing those on top of your internship.
6. Ask for Help
Last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most universities have some sort of student success center where you can go for assistance about which classes you should be taking and when. This is a very useful tool for students, and the counselors’ advice can be very beneficial in making your four years of college go as smoothly as possible.
Also, seek out the opinions of your friends and classmates, ask them which professor is their favorite and which ones they have horror stories about. So, take your time, ask around, do your research and go make a kick-ass schedule this fall.