- major requirements
The first major things to consider are the requirements set by your major. There will be a list that you can get from either the Checksheets page or by meeting with your academic advisor to discuss what requirements you have left. There are core major requirements as well as Pathways classes to consider — as well as any minors or double majors — but I like to spread things out. I’m taking some major classes and some Pathways classes each semester, which definitely adds a refreshing variety to my schedule.
- Time of day
Unfortunately, some class times are unavoidable if there are only one or two sections of a class available. If you get stuck with an 8 a.m., I’m truly sorry, but it really is a right of passage. That being said, if you do have some flexibility, consider what time of day you’d actually want to be in class. Would you rather load everything up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or would you rather have them spaced out? Do you need to eat breakfast before your first class, or are you trying to make room for a lunch break? Is there a certain time that you need to be done with classes? These are all important things to consider.
- building location and travel time
The Timetable of Classes is your friend for many reasons, especially to check which building a class is supposed to be held in. Do you have time to get where you need to go? Can you really see yourself rushing from Goodwin Hall to Litton-Reaves Hall with only 15 minutes in between classes? But more than that, is it even possible? I recommend Google Maps to estimate the walking distance between buildings, but you may want to add five minutes for packing up before leaving from one class and navigating to your next classroom.
- extracurricular commitments
Are you involved in any organizations, clubs, sports, research or anything outside of class that is going to occupy a significant portion of your time? The best way to remember these activities when creating your schedule is to set aside a block of time within your week almost as if the activity was a class itself. Be sure to check that there are no conflicting times between classes and meetings or practices. While these usually take place after most classes are over, there are still plenty of exceptions that can mess up your schedule if you aren’t aware of them.
- professor reviews
Rate My Professors is a great resource to get an idea about what each professor is like. While not every professor is rated, there are tons of reviews from students on multiple professors and each specific class they took. But more than that, don’t be afraid to ask your friends or people you know for recommendations on professors. Ask other students in your major who are a year or two ahead of you because they have most likely already taken the class. Don’t be afraid to reach out and use all resources when determining which professor you would prefer as this will be a crucial factor in determining how you will enjoy the class.
- grade averages
The last but probably most important factor that I use when setting up my classes is the Grade Distribution webpage from the Office of Strategic Analysis at Virginia Tech. This webpage displays all grade data from previous classes; that is, how many students were in each class and what percentage of them got an A, B, C, etc. It lists every single class in every single department, going back multiple years, including not just Fall and Spring but also Summer and Winter sessions as well. This allows you to look at how professors have been scoring students in recent years in a certain class. This is an overlooked way to distinguish the easy classes from the hard ones and the more lenient professors from the stricter ones. It’s the best kept secret for planning your schedule for the subsequent semester.