Picking college classes for a new semester is a big decision. It’s key to completing the right credits for your major — plus, proper planning helps you graduate on time and connects you with the professors that’ll make the biggest impact on your college career. Your perfect college schedule not only checks the credit boxes, but engages your interest and works with your workflow and extracurricular activities.
Especially at the beginning of the semester, adjusting to your new schedule can be stressful. That’s why thinking ahead is so important. Here’s how to prep, plan and prioritize your college schedule — from registration to the adjustment phase.
- Map Everything Out & SIGN UP EARLY
Mapping is a great way to create the perfect college schedule. First of all, you should make a map of the overall credits and yearly courses you need to complete your degree, which you can use to select and fine-tune your schedule when registration opens.
If you already know which courses you should take because you met with your academic adviser, use a campus map to trace where you’ll need to walk. Based on the size of your campus, the distance between class locations, and the times certain courses will run this semester, you may need to shift your schedule around to accommodate for walking times or breaks between back-to-back classes.
Her Campus contributor Bridget says class location is one of the biggest factors she considers when planning her college schedule. “No one wants to sprint across campus in 15 minutes,” she says, “but if you keep them in the same building or in surrounding buildings, it’s so much easier to make yourself go to class. Don’t skip because of location. Make it work for you.”
Once you’ve mapped out your schedule choices, it’s time to register.
Registering for classes early is one of the best tips for scheduling your next semester. Your registrar’s office will likely send a mass email to the student body when the registration process is about to begin. It’ll outline the exact date and time you can sign up based on factors like your major, year, or honors status, so mark it on your calendar.
If you pinpoint the classes you want beforehand and log in early on registration day, you’ll beat everyone else to your most important classes and schedule everything without a hassle.
- Look Into Online Classes
In-person classes aren’t the only kind available anymore. Recent years have made online courses much more popular, so you can always look into taking virtual credits if you need more flexibility. You’ll get to learn on your own schedule, which may allow you to prioritize your part-time job, internship or extracurricular activities.
It’s also a great resource if you’re not ready to go back to in-person learning since COVID-19 changed your comfort zone. Signing up for virtual courses where possible can give you more control over your semester.
- Schedule Daily Breaks
You might think the road to college success includes non-stop studying and cramming courses, but the perfect college schedule should actually include multiple breaks every day. Instead of running to back-to-back classes before spending all night in the library, give yourself time to take a breath, tend to your mental health and recharge. A recent study found that people who took short daily breaks boosted their work engagement because they could focus more easily afterward, and the same is true for college students. This is an important life skill to learn early.
You’ll remember more information from your study sessions if your brain can rest more than once a day. Ensure you get some free time in the mornings and afternoons so you can prioritize your mental health, find a balance and have a better college experience.
- Take Something Fun
While you’re working on fulfilling all of your requirements, don’t forget to take a fun class if the opportunity arises. College is about learning and exploring — and that applies as much inside the classroom as outside on campus. Most colleges and universities offer a variety of unique, engaging courses on any subject you can imagine — from religion, magic and witchcraft to tree climbing or surviving a zombie apocalypse. The subject should make you excited to listen to lectures or show up on time. Whether you’re signing up for a surf class or learning about the history of gender equality, having a fun class can help balance your stress levels and make your semester more enjoyable.
Her Campus Associate Editor Tianna Soto took a beekeeping class when she was in college. “I needed a fun science class that would fill my requirements, and I had heard great things about a particular teacher,” she says. “I knew absolutely nothing about bees and it ended up being so much fun! Now I have (very) random knowledge about bees, and most importantly realized how incredibly important they are for the functioning of our planet as a whole. While this class seemed totally random at first, I’m so glad I took it.” So definitely branch out and try something new – you never know when you might fall in love with something new!
Meet with your academic adviser to see which extracurricular courses might even satisfy your degree requirements – most paths encourage students to study something outside of their major so they try new things while they’re still enrolled, and you could end up with something fun that still helps you graduate!
Once you find a course that piques your interest, you may have to convince a professor to let you in if the class is full. Research the syllabus and find out everything you can about the class. List everything you would gain from taking the course and email the professor to explain why you deserve a spot. The university may restrict them from expanding their seat limit, but a few personal touches could let you in if they think you’re a good fit.
- Make A Backup Plan
Backup plans are a crucial part of crafting your perfect schedule. Credits are important, but sometimes classes fill up, workloads stack up too much or certain classes aren’t a good fit. You shouldn’t feel trapped with your initial choices. Learning when a professor isn’t a good fit or when a subject isn’t your strongest suit makes it easier to know when to drop a class, which can transform your academic experience.
Before dropping a class, think about whether you can realistically keep up with the workload, if the credit is worth the additional stress, whether you think you’ll be able to pass the course, and whether another class could satisfy the same credit instead.
You shouldn’t carry the weight of a failed class if you need a high GPA for your later academic or career plans — if you plan on going to grad school, for example. It can also be a mismanagement of your time to spend your energy on something that only frustrates you. Make a list of courses you could fall back on if your first schedule doesn’t work out.
Crafting your perfect college schedule isn’t really about perfection — it’s about planning ahead, considering your interests, making room for your mental health and making a backup plan. By balancing out these key factors as you schedule your courses and being open to readjustment as you tackle next semester, you can boost your confidence and set yourself up for a successful, enjoyable year.
Kühnel, J. et al. (2016) Take a break! Benefits of sleep and short breaks for daily work engagement