Scheduling Classes

For many freshmen, first semester of college can be a challenge, to say the least. Tougher academic requirements, a new living situation, and being away from home for the first time can make things difficult. However, having a good class schedule can make things go a little more smoothly. The following are some pieces of advice that can help you develop a great schedule that will allow you to complete all of your required courses in time for graduation.

Register early (if possible): The best way to ensure you will have a good selection of classes is to register early: you should make every effort to do so. One measure you can take is to arrive before your scheduled registration time. For instance, if you are told to arrive at 9:00am, get there at 8:00am instead. You might just get lucky and have the chance to register before your scheduled time. Another way you might get to register early is by joining the honor society. If you meet the requirements, it may be worth joining just for this privilege. You don't have to remain with the organization for the entire school year; simply register early and then drop out. Whatever you do, don't put off registering for classes until the last minute. You'll likely be stuck with inconvenient evening or early morning classes, which can make first semester tougher than it has to be.

Seek out expert advice: Before you sign up for any classes, it is vital that you meet with a faculty member who can assist you in the scheduling process. Many professors set aside time to discuss class selection with first-year students. Some professors or advisors may require you to schedule an appointment through a sign-up sheet. If this is the case, choose the earliest time possible. When you arrive at your meeting, be ready to ask specific questions that will help you develop the best schedule possible. If your school requires students to see an advisor before they are allowed to register, double-check that the advisor has cleared you for registration. Otherwise, you'll be stuck and unable to register for first semester classes.

Plan ahead: When you're developing your schedule, don't just plan for the upcoming semester. If possible, plan for each semester until graduation. This can allow you to avoid some potential problems. For example, some classes may be offered only once a year, so it's essential to complete them when they are available. Other classes may have prerequisite courses, which must be taken into account as well. There may be minor scheduling changes, but at least you will have a rough idea of what your schedule will look like during your time at college. If you plan to take summer courses, consider this when you are developing your schedule.

Work quickly: Once you are seated at the computer and able to register for classes, work as quickly as you can (without making mistakes, of course). On a campus where hundreds or even thousands of students are scheduling classes at the same time, just a few seconds can make the difference between getting into the class you want or not. If you do find that one of your preferred classes is full, register for the rest of your classes. Afterwards, return to the section that was full and begin your search for a suitable alternative.

Know your hours: When registering for classes, it's important to know how many hours you should schedule into each semester. For spring or fall semesters, at least twelve hours are required on most campuses. For summer courses, six hours are usually required. If you have a scholarship, keep in mind that most will require you to take a set number of hours each semester. Therefore, if you sign up for only twelve hours and end up dropping a class, you may lose your scholarship. For this reason, you may want to schedule some extra credit hours into your semester in case you must drop a class. Fifteen hours will give you room to drop a class and retain your full-time status. Many professors feel that eighteen credit hours is too much, and students who want to take twenty hours will usually require special permission from the dean. If you plan to develop your schedule so you have the flexibility of dropping a class, don't overlook the laboratory component. If you are able to drop the lecture but not the lab section, you may quickly get behind without the instruction provided in the lectures. This, obviously, can lead to poor grades and a lower GPA.

Choose appropriate class times: Consider your lifestyle and habits when you are choosing class times. If you have no trouble getting up in the morning, it's a great idea to opt for earlier class times. Keep in mind that, even if you like to sleep in, scheduling classes too late in the day may not be a good idea for several reasons. First, scheduling classes later in the day is not a good idea if you plan to find a part-time job. Most employers want workers who are available for at least a few full shifts a week. Being able to work only for an hour or two during the evenings will limit your job prospects and your ability to earn a substantial amount of money. Second, if you live off campus, getting through traffic and finding a parking spot can be more difficult later in the day. Parking spaces for freshmen are typically limited as it is; finding one later in the day can be next to impossible.

Avoid the "W": Although it's impossible to ensure you won't have to withdraw from any of your classes at the time you register, looking at who is teaching the class can be a good indication of just how challenging it will be. For example, courses taught by deans of a given program will usually be the most challenging, so you may want to avoid these. Other than that, it can be difficult for freshmen to be knowledgeable about which classes and professors are particularly tough. A withdrawal (W) on your transcript is not something you should take lightly. Too many may cause grad schools and potential employers to look at your transcript in an unfavorable light. Often, schools set a date before which students can withdraw from courses. Many professors give tests before this date to help students gauge how well they are doing in the course and make an informed decision, but not all follow this practice. Some will schedule the first set of exams just after the withdrawal date, and others make their first set of exams quite easy. All of these factors make it difficult to ensure your transcript won't have any withdrawals, but working hard and getting extra help when it is required are effective measures against this. And remember, most schools will allow you to change classes during the first week with no withdrawal penalty. Therefore, if you have a sneaking suspicion that you may be forced to withdraw from a course at a later date, you may want to take the opportunity to switch classes early on.

Last Updated: 04/24/2014

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