Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The Course Of True Love: How To Pick Courses You’ll Love

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Western chapter.

When my mother was in university back in the 1980s, she never signed up for the recommended amount of courses. Her school had a very liberal overload policy, as well as a very forgiving incomplete policy. So every term, instead of signing up for five classes, she would sign up for eight.

She never finished all eight, of course—she’s not a robot. But taking a few extra courses offered her the opportunity to dip her toes in a few extra ponds. She got to challenge herself, but still have a safety buffer knowing she didn’t have to do everything if the challenge became too challenging. And best of all, if a course was dull or poorly taught or had a lousy professor—she could drop it and still have plenty left over.

Western doesn’t have quite the same system, of course. You can only sign up for a maximum of six courses with overload, and the drop date is earlier and more strictly enforced. But I’ve found some success in taking parts of her approach and doing what I call “auditioning” courses.

Here’s my system: I find all the courses I’m interested in taking, and try to go to the first class of as many as I can. This semester, that’s seven. There are time conflicts, but it’s the first week, so hopefully some will end early or there won’t be too much essential material covered. I’ll look at the syllabus to get a sense of the topics, readings and coursework. I’ll get a sense of the other students or the challenge level of the content. I’ll see how the professor’s personality and teaching style works for me. And then I’ll whittle down my list to the final contenders.

Last year, I employed this strategy with great success looking for a challenging and enjoyable science course to take for my breadth requirement. First, I tried out Physics 2101A (Intermediate Physics) taught by Professor Hutter. He was engaging, told jokes, had relevant stories from his studies, showed examples, asked questions. I liked him. During the tutorial that followed, he was going to demonstrate a few problems to give everyone a sense of the level, but I was on my way to try out Chemistry 2374A (Thermodynamics), so I asked him if he could send me a scan of the notes. 

I slipped into the Thermodynamics classroom a couple minutes late and found a seat by the door. It was a much larger room, and a much quieter group of students. The professor at the front was going through a powerpoint, reading off the slides. And I mean reading word-for-word what was on the slides, in a dull, flat tone. I know the basic introductory info—marks, textbooks, due dates—can be hard to make sizzle and pop, but it was a stark contrast to what I had just come from.

After a few slides, the professor came to one titled “Why do we study Thermodynamics?” He offered the question to the room. No one answered. “Apart from because it’s a required course,” he joked. No one laughed. 

He flipped to the next slide, and started reading the reasons. But I wasn’t listening. I was thinking about what he’d said. We study Thermodynamics because it’s a required course. But for me, it wasn’t. I didn’t have to take it. I could leave. 

So I did. And I went straight back to that Physics class to go over the introductory problems.

Four months later, I finished the course with a solid A-. It was by no means an easy course, but I knew that going in. I wasn’t looking for easy. I was looking for fun. I was looking for engaging. A syllabus or a one-paragraph only gives you so much information. 

So if you have the flexibility in your degree, try branching out a little. Sit in on a class or two you might not ordinarily take, but that sounds interesting. Try out different courses, different departments, different professors. After all, you’re paying handsomely for your time here. You might as well get the best fit for your money.

Related Articles

Want more HCW? Check us out on social media!  


Jill O'Craven

Western '20

In between. Still think I'm seventeen. Don't know where I'm going. And okay with it.
Shauna Ruby Valchuk is HCW's 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief. She's in her fifth year studying Creative Writing, English, Language and Literature. Currently, she is working on her creative non-fiction thesis. She writes in her off days and publishes it on her on days and hopes to one day make money doing the stuff she loves surrounded by as many cats as legally allowed.