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A Pre-Collegiette’s Guide to Choosing Classes for Freshman Year of College

Let’s face it – picking classes in high school was pretty anti-climactic. Maybe you could decide to take AP Bio instead of AP Chem, but the rest was quite predictable. Can we say boring? You’ll be happy to know that choosing classes in college is anything but boring. Sure you have some core classes to take, but your schedule is up to you (for the most part)! So much freedom is exciting, liberating, and (be honest) a little nerve-wracking. Not to stress you out, but creating your first collegiette schedule is just around the corner. Usually, incoming freshmen will choose their courses during orientation or a few days before school starts. Before you have a pre-collegiette panic attack, check out our tips and tricks for choosing classes.

So many options, so little time
Whether your future alma mater mailed you a course guide over the summer or you’re perusing your school’s website, you love how many different types of classes are available. Well, love and sort of hate it at the same time—how are you supposed to narrow it down?

Talk to a college advisor
Some call them guardian angels, we call them college advisors. If you’re completely lost when it comes to creating your schedule, talk to an academic counselor. “A quick 15-minute appointment with an advisor can set you on the right track for the semester and beyond,” says Micha Sabovik, the Assistant Dean at Boston University’s College of Communciation. Whether you find their email online or make an appointment as soon as you step on campus (okay, maybe after you unpack), meeting with an advisor is a great way to narrow down your choices.

Check your Gen Ed Requirements
Most schools – not to mention colleges within a university – have general education (AKA gen ed) requirements every student must finish. Translation? Before you graduate, you have to take a certain number of math, science, writing, history (you get the picture, right?) classes. Don’t let this put a damper on your scheduling spree; usually, you can pick what type of gen ed classes you can take. For example, you don’t have to suffer through algebra when statistics is a viable option! “If you have an idea of what your major is going to be, try to find the academic worksheets for it online,” says Michelle Lewis, a UNC-Chapel Hill graduate. “A lot of gen eds can also count toward your major, so it’s good to know what you’ll need to take in the future.”

With an overwhelming number of gen eds to choose from, where you should start? “We recommend taking the intro classes in your freshman and sophomore years so you can expand beyond that level in your chosen areas of interest in your junior and senior years,” says Dean Sabovik. Sometimes, your AP, IB, and pre-college course credits (you know, that program your mom made you take last summer) may count as some of your gen ed requirements. While most colleges only accept certain test scores (e.g., a 4 or 5 on an AP exam), you can ask your college advisor just to double check. Aren’t you glad you slaved over AP Calc now?

Take chances
Since you can finally pick your own classes, why not take a chance and try something new? You may end up discovering your new passion. “I didn’t take psychology until a while into my college career and I wish I would’ve taken it earlier, simply because I found it so fascinating and now I wish I minored in it,” says Jessica Salerno, a Ohio University graduate and HC Contributing Writer. The key to taking an academic risk is to enroll in a class that truly interests you. You may be taking a risk by choosing a middle age history class, but you’re not going to love it if medieval times aren’t your thing. Some colleges have super crazy classes, so make sure to do your research!

Stay focused on your major
Okay, you have one more class to pick after you’ve chosen your major pre-requisite course and two fun gen eds. If you’re at a complete loss, try taking a class that complements your desired major. “I’m a political science major, but I also look for classes in the humanities department because I find they really help improve my writing,” says Annie Pei, a student at the University of Chicago and HC Contributing Writer. But what if you have no idea what you want to do when you grow up? Take this time to take a class in an area that you may want to major in to see if it fits your interests. Killing two birds with one stone? We like it!

To overload or to not overload?
Between all the amazing courses and the thought of graduating early, you may be tempted to overload your first semester of college by taking more than the recommended number of classes. But is that a smart idea? “For the first semester in particular, take on a challenging but reasonable workload,” says Dean Sabovik. “You’ll be making a lot of adjustments all at once, not just academically.” For first semester, at least, stick to the recommended number of classes. Not only will this give you time to make a smooth transition into college, but you can also decide if overloading is right for you!
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Just say when and where

While you may have had the opportunity to choose whether you had Spanish first or second period, high school didn’t give you much freedom to choose when you could take classes. However, all this freedom can make your head explode! Morning or night classes? Should you schedule all your classes on a few days of the week or spread them out? Never fret—we’re here to help!

Day or night?
Unless your high school had crazy hours, college is the first time you can start classes at 3 pm. Though this may sound blissful to some, it’s cringe-worthy for others. Though some mandatory classes may only have one time slot (which means you can’t pick your desired time slot), listen to your body clock when creating your schedule. Otherwise, you may regret it. “My freshman year I signed up for an 8 am and I’m most definitely not a morning person, so pick your classes with your sleep habits in mind,” says Jamie Blynn, a George Washington University graduate and HC Contributing Writer. But before you morning birds schedule all the 8am classes you can find, don’t forget that your pre-collegiette weeknights can be different from your collegiette weeknights. “Remember that in college, you may be going out at night even if it’s not a weekend,” says Jamie.

Spacing out your schedule
Unlike high school, you don’t have the same classes every single day. Some classes are two or three times a week, while others are only once a week. Technically, you can organize your schedule so you only have a few school days a week. Translation? You can start your weekend early by going out on Thursday nights or even taking a trip home or to your BFF’s school. While it’s nice to have a couple extra days off, what happens when all your exams are on the same day? While the decision to take days off is ultimately yours, Dean Sabovik says, “We recommend at least one other activity: a part-time job, extracurriculars, or even a recreation class. This is where you can truly get the most out of college and keep yourself productive.” Class-free days that are productive? It’s like having your cake and eating it too.

The professors!
The time slots and days aren’t the only things to consider when creating your schedule—you can’t forget about the professors. Every collegiette knows that a professor can make or break a class. How do you – a mere college rookie – figure out which professors’ classes you should take and which ones you should drop?

The wonderful world of the web
Everyone knows that the Internet is a treasured tool; however, it’s especially handy when you’re trying to learn about your new professors. There are so many helpful sites to choose from, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Rate My Professors: This website gives you an all-access pass into what professors are really like. Students can judge professors based on difficulty, helpfulness, and clarity. To give you a better idea of who’s writing the reviews, each judge is required to rate their interest for the topic.
  • College Confidential: While you may not find information about specific professors, College Confidential gives you an overview of what you should expect from your alma mater’s teachers in general. You can usually find message boards within your school’s section that recommend professors and classes to take or stay away from. Since this website isn’t strictly geared towards college professors, search the site! Your random pre-collegiette questions may be answered with a click of a button.

Look at their bio

Most college websites have short biographies about their professors. Though their bio won’t tell you if they’re hard graders or helpful at office hours, you can check out how much experience they’ve had. What if their bio isn’t very telling? Find them on LinkedIn! Let’s not forget that their former jobs may help you during the internship search.

Email them
Though this move may seem extremely bold, introducing yourself to your future professor will benefit you. “Don’t be scared to reach out to professors,” says Dean Sabovik. “They’re usually happy to provide students with a class syllabus in advance.” Once you find your potential professor’s email (your school’s website should have it listed), quickly email him or her and ask for more information about the class in question. Not only will you get a feel for the class’s curriculum and workload, you’ll also create a healthy professor-student relationship before classes even start!
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Problems!
Creating a schedule is a piece of cake, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes, you may run into a slew of dilemmas. Before you even encounter these problems, we’re giving you the solution! What would you do without us?

Switching classes
A couple weeks after creating your glorious academic agenda, you’re no longer feeling that linguistics class. Are you bound to this class ‘til finals do you part? Not necessarily. Most schools allow you to switch classes up to a certain point in the semester. Just remember that every college differs. “I know a bunch of people who are still unclear about switching and dropping in and out of classes at my school, and it makes the experience more confusing,” says Annie, a student at the University of Chicago and HC Contributing Writer. For more information about your school’s policy, ask a college advisor or look online.

Your number one choice is filled up
After days (or hours – some work faster than others) of dreaming up the ultimate schedule, the worst thing happens. One of your must-take classes is filled up. Seriously? Instead of throwing your laptop against a wall and cursing the schedule gods, take a deep breath because this problem can be fixed! “If the class that filled up is a class that you need for a major or some other requirement, see if you can find out when that class will be offered next so that you can make room in your schedule for it,” says Annie. “If the class is an elective, see if you can find other classes that may cover similar subject areas, if that’s what you’re set on.” But what if this dilemma affects the rest of your beautiful schedule? “If there’s a class you truly have your heart set on, reaching out directly to a professor is a good start,” says Dean Sabovik. Try emailing the professor and ask to be put on a waiting list. You never know—your future professor might appreciate your dedication and welcome you with open arms. Don’t forget to email your professor even after classes have started. A lot of kids usually switch around classes during the first few weeks of school (I mean, did we just go over switching classes for nothing?), so a seat may open up!

Need a second opinion?
Though it’s important to conference with a college advisor before you create you very first collegiette schedule, you may be itching for a collegiette (or collegent) take on the classes you’re signing up for. Maybe your college advisor thinks “Intro to Swahili” is a great way to knock out those language requirements, but that sounds kind of … intimidating. “Sit down with an upperclassman prior to registering and ask them what they think about certain classes,” says Erica Avesian, a University of Michigan graduate and HC Contributing Writer. Just one small problem: there’s a pretty big chance you’re not BFFs with any upperclassmen. Don’t freak out just yet, there are so many ways to find a second opinion:

  • Contact a high school alum who’s a student at your college.
  • Talk to your orientation leader! Most of them are upperclassmen.
  • Do some research! Since you’re already stalking potential classmates on Facebook (don’t lie), take a chance and contact an upperclassman who you have something in common with (e.g., mutual friends, similar major, in a club you want to join, etc.).

Upperclassmen are usually enthusiastic when it comes to helping out freshmen so don’t be afraid to reach out! You never know, you could make a new friend just by asking questions.

Though college is filled with amazing friends and memories, it’s also a time to broaden your academic horizons. Believe it or not, the premise of college is to learn. With an incredible classes and an out-of-this world schedule, how could you not want to embrace crazy courses and brilliant professors? Our thoughts exactly.
 

Kelsey is a senior at Boston University, studying Magazine Journalism  in the College of Communication. As a magazine junkie and fashion fanatic, she loves being a part of the Her Campus team! At BU, Kelsey is president of Ed2010 at Boston University.  She has interned for Time Out New York, Lucky, Anthropologie, and Marie Claire. Kelsey also has a fashion blog, The Trendologist, where she covers the latest trends, fashion shows, and red carpet reports. When she isn't busy, Kelsey loves hanging out with her friends and family, shopping, reading style blogs, going for a nice jog, listening to music, creating baked goods in the kitchen, watching movies, and eating tons of frozen yogurt and sushi! After graduation, Kelsey hopes to work as an editor for a fashion magazine. Follow Kelsey on Twitter and Instagram at @kmulvs and don't  forget to check out her "Catwalk to Campus" blog posts!
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