With fall registration approaching fast, it is likely that most of us have started at least looking at classes. You may have even started picking classes; or if you’re me you’ve got your entire schedule ready so that you can register right when it opens. If you’re not quite as crazy as me, that’s okay, you still have time. However, you may not want to wait too long before getting a serious idea of how your next semester will be laid out. For some scheduling classes may seem like a trivial matter, it’s just scheduling classes, right?
I can tell you from experience that the way you set up your schedule can mean the difference between a sweet smooth semester, and months mired in misery (sweet alliterations, huh). Over the years I’ve learned a few things, some the hard way, about scheduling classes. So, lest you make the same mistakes I’ve made, I’ve created a list of some tips that may well save your sanity.
Plan Ahead. This first tip is two-fold, the first thing you need to do is get a plan for your next semester in place before registration begins. I consider myself lucky that as an Honors Student I get priority registration, so I can usually beat people to punch before classes fill up. But, I’ve heard from far too many of my friends how they’ve gotten blocked out of the class they wanted because it was already full. So keeping this in mind, try to register as soon as it opens for you. If registration opens at 7 am, then get up at 6:30 and have the registration page open and ready for 7. This may seem like overkill, but the quicker you can lock yourself into a class the less chance there is that you won’t be able to get in. Likewise, if by chance there is an issue, you can fix it and get into the class before it is too late.
The second part is more far-reaching. You need to get a rough idea of which major-related classes you need to take each year. Often, there is some leeway in when major-related courses need to be taken, however you need to be mindful of prerequisites and classes that are only offered once a year. Prerequisites can sneak up on even the best of us. You may know that you need to take a 300 or 400 level class in your junior or senior year, but it may have slipped your mind that you need those pesky prerequisites to even get into the class. To avoid having to play catch-up, look ahead at classes you need to take in the future so that you know what needs to be taken first. On the same token, not every class is offered year round. Often, that class you need to graduate is only offered once a year in the fall, or worse once every few years. In order to avoid needing an extra semester, look ahead in your course requirements. Often, it will be listed how frequently that class is offered; this way you know that you absolutely need to take that 300 level class in the fall or else you will fall behind.
Don’t avoid core classes. Despite what you may believe, your program isn’t forcing you to take core classes as torture. The classes you need to take as part of your core requirements will set you up with tools critical to success in your future classes. I can say with confidence that those writing skills you learn in your 100 level English classes will aid you when you need to write a 10 page research paper with internal-citations; and I can assure you your 300 and 400 level professors will expect that you know how to cite before you get into their class. That being said, don’t wait until your junior or senior year to take the bulk of your core requirements. I can imagine nothing more embarrassing than having something go wrong, and having your graduation delayed because you still need to take a freshman history class.
Know your habits and your schedule outside of school. If you tend to sleep late, it may not be wise to take an 8:30 class. Likewise, if your not a night owl, you may try to avoid night classes. Knowing the your habits will aid in selecting the right times and days for classes. Obviously, there are set times when classes are offered. However, if you face the decision between taking a class MWF from 8:30am-9:20am or Monday night from 6:30pm-9:20pm, knowing how you function is key. Moreover, it is important to know your work schedule or sports schedule, so that you can plan accordingly. Especially in the case of on-campus work study jobs, not all jobs have flexible hours. It may be the case that you need to arrange classes so that you leave yourself with time to work.
Don’t overdo it. I can tell you from personal experience that is all too easy to overwhelm yourself with classes, work, and extra-curricular activities. It may be tempting to take 18 credit hours, but make sure that you know what you’re getting into. Those extra 3 credit hours can be the straw that breaks the camels back, if you also need to juggle work and 2 or 3 clubs on the side. That being said, those extra hours can be rewarding in the long run if you know how to handle them. The bottom line is that you need to make sure you can dedicate the time required for the class without sacrificing your performance in the rest of your classes. Moreover, consider how difficult the classes you are taking will be. It may be best to balance out more difficult, higher level classes with easier classes that you are taking for fun. Don’t try to overdo it with a load of hard classes just because you think it will make things easier in the long-run. Putting in the extra effort can help, but only if you are able to pass your classes.
Talk to your advisor. This should go without saying, but your advisor is there to help you and they can only do that if you ask for it. Luckily, most advisors will require you to come in for a meeting in order to get your registration pin. However, this doesn’t do much good if you don’t come in with questions. Generally, they have a working knowledge of which classes should be taken during which year and moreover they can warn you if a class you need will not be offered again before you graduate. It is best to come in with an idea of which classes you want to take and then you can discuss that with your advisor. Believe it or not, your advisor wants you to succeed, but they can only give you help if you are willing to accept it.