By Lexie Brada
Long gone are the days when you had to run between offices at a college campus to sign up for classes, only to be told that the time and professor you wanted were all filled up. These days, colleges utilize the internet as a mostly stress-free way to be able to get your class schedule lined up.
It still doesn’t mean that choosing the best class schedule is ever easy.
As someone who has gone through college (and took an extra year to get a second degree), I had to figure out all the things to consider through trial and error. So, if you’re just starting your college experience and you aren’t sure how to pick the college courses best for you, here’s a little check-list to get the best schedule every single semester!
- Look at the Requirements
The number one thing is to make sure you are actually fulfilling what you need to do to get your degree. This will be the anchor of a lot of your schedule. Sometimes there will be classes you need to take that are no arguing, and that will give you something to work around. If you have other options, or have a few choices between times or teachers, look at some of the rest of the tips below.
Don’t know what your major is yet? Totally fine! You have plenty of time to figure it out. If that’s the case, you should look at…
- Classes that Interest You
If you’re just beginning and you have no idea what you want to do, start out with classes that seem like something you’d enjoy. You can always ask the professor or your college advisor what sort of degrees or jobs can be made from certain classes.
Lots of colleges have Freshman-specific groupings of classes. My college had something called ‘FIGs’ or ‘First-Year-Interest-Groups’ where it gives you a class schedule based around a common shared interest and gives you a feel for different types of classes. Plenty of colleges have suggested courses to help the overwhelming feeling of picking.
Even if you know what you’re doing, you still will likely have credits left over to fullfil where it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you hit the credit requirement. College is a great time to step outside of your own comfort zone and gives you the opportunity to do that! Look through all your college has to offer and consider taking a class that sounds cool but you wouldn’t take otherwise.
Comic-book making? Dairy Sciences? Squirrel Watching? Yoga? Ballroom dancing? Vampires in Literature and Cinema? (These are all actual classes that were offered when I was in college, by the way.)
You never know what weird hobby or cool facts you’ll come out on the other side knowing. These classes are often 1 or 2 credits and are open to any grade, meaning that they’re not super difficult, so if you can’t commit a ton of time to them, that’s okay. You’ll fill those holes in your credit requirements and maybe have a fun break during a hectic day.
- What are Your Friends Taking
I know that you were probably told to not do something just because your friends were also doing it, but in college it’s a bit different. I wholeheartedly agree that if you need to fill a random credit and a friend says ‘hey, I’m taking ballroom dancing! Do it with me!’ you should.
Having a friend in a class (especially if you go to a big college) will take away the stress of worrying about what happens if you miss a lecture and need notes, trying to find study buddies, or wondering where you’ll sit.
- Ask Around
Even if you can’t get into a class with a friend, ask people you know what classes they’ve taken and what their opinions of them are. I took a handful of classes by recommendation of trusted friends that ended being up worth your time!
If you’re stuck with two credits to fill, see what others you know have taken and see if any of those fit. If you’re lucky, they might still have some flash-cards for you to use!
- Look at Your Future Career
If you’re nearing the end of your time, you should be considering your future in some capacity. Look at what sort of requirements are expected in the field you want to go into. Look to see if there’s any knowledge or skills you can pick up in a class or two that would give you an edge against your competition.
Usually, careers aren’t just siloed into one category. You might be learning how to make awesome digital art, but if you want to sell your art, taking a class on business could be a smart move.
Do some digging; what will make your application stand out or what random skill or knowledge could help in your professional life after college?
- Look Up Reviews
One of the best inventions of the internet age was ‘RateMyProfessor’. It’s gone through some changes since I was a student (such as taking away the ability to demarcate if a professor was attractive) but the bones of what it is still is a game-changer. If you don’t already know this site, bookmark it right now!
For most colleges, it gives you the ability to look up the professor and specific classes. It will tell you how difficult it is, how hard the tests are, if the class is worth your time, if you absolutely need the textbook, if you can skip a class or two without your grade taking and gives students a place to write reviews.
I shudder to think how many classes I would have taken that would have been ridiculously hard, had really weird or mean professors, or would have been not what I was looking for if I hadn’t discovered this site.
- Look At Professors
On the flip-side of seeing if a professor is bad at their job and definitely didn’t deserve their tenure, think about classes you’ve really enjoyed in the past! Was it just because you liked the material or was it because the professor did an awesome job teaching? Chances are it’s a mix of both!
I have two degrees and a minor. I went in planning on getting two degrees. I didn’t know I would get a minor.
Do you want to know what it is? Medieval Studies.
Do you want to know how I got it?
I loved one of my professors and the content was interesting so I took two other classes with him. Apparently that was enough to nearly get a minor in a subject I didn’t even know existed. More than the fact that you might end up with a minor that can be a talking-point for interviews, if you did well in one class by a professor, chances are you’ll do well in another class of theirs.
- Look At Class Times
Sometimes we can’t be choosy. Sometimes you gotta go to that 8am lecture on a Monday.
But sometimes we CAN choose and this shouldn’t be a step we’re not considering!
Everyone’s ‘golden hour’ times will be different. I knew I was not going to be able to face the world before 10am, but I also found that walking home in the dark (classes past 5pm) also wasn't very fun. You might also have a job or a sport to juggle, so making sure that a class is at the right time could make it super easy to decide between a couple options.
You might also want to consider how long it is or how long the breaks are. I personally knew that I could do a full 8-hour day if it was art classes or a 4-hour day if it was lectures, but if I had a break longer than time to grab and get a snack, I would likely go back to my dorm and not find the energy to go back out. But if I had lectures all day, I also knew I’d be drained.
It might be different for you. You might want to plan specifically to have enough time to nap or watch a Netflix episode between classes!
- Look at A Map
Something I don’t think students think about enough is where their classes are in location to one another or to other things on the campus. If that’s the only way two classes you need to take fit, you might be out of luck, but if you can choose, I fell into this trap too many times.
You take two classes. You give yourself half an hour to get there. Seems like enough time, right? Until you realize that these two classes are on two different sides of the campus. Or they’re in places where the bus doesn’t go. Or they’re technically close but one is on the other side of a huge and really annoying hill that will make you curse your lungs every time you run up it. If you can’t tell, these are all separate true stories of my college-schedule woes.
Or, another unfortunate mishap; I had two classes in the same building (so it didn’t make sense to leave) but I felt like I was on a desert island. No plugs to sit anywhere with my laptop. No food anywhere close by. No libraries to sit at. If I had known this, I probably wouldn’t have stacked these classes on the same day. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it was a sad, hungry semester of praying my laptop didn’t die on me before the day was done.
- Look At the Format
One of the great things to come from COVID is that if you’re a person who works well self-pacing or doesn’t like being in huge lecture halls, hybrid or virtual classes still exist in some colleges.
This might be a great option if you don’t think you’d make it from one class to another. If there’s an option for virtual, you could just sit down in a library and get it done!
On the other hand, if you don't like hybrid or virtual classes, making sure all your classes are in-person may narrow down the mountain of choices.
With these tips, you'll make yourself the perfect college course load every single semester!
Wondering what you'll do after college? Download the Pathmatch app to discover companies that match your interests, strengths, and goals! Pathmatch can help find the perfect career fit for you!