Creating the perfect college schedule can be incredibly difficult when you’re a freshman/sophomore. I go to UConn and the way they organize the pick times is based off number of credits. Furthermore, the more credits you have, the sooner your pick time. If you’re a freshman who has about 16-30 credits, then you’ll have a tough time getting your first picks (depending on the popularity of the class). However, I have a few tips and tricks that may help you when planning and organizing your schedule. I also have some helpful advice from all the mistakes I have made over the semesters.
Requirements + Prerequisites
One of the most important things to do first is to look at the requirements for your major. You will most likely need prerequisites for higher-level courses and some of those courses may be required for your major. It’s better to get the prereqs out of the way in the beginning, so you can move onto the more advanced courses that will be more specific to your major.
For example, I’m a psychology major and before could take classes like abnormal psych or social psych, I had to go through the general psych courses. I also had a required psych WQ (meaning writing and math focused) class which I could only take after completing the general psych classes and the introductory statistics course.
You may also need to take a few writing (intensive) courses, math-based courses and labs. If you’re not a fan of these, then look for classes that are math-based, but not heavily so or look for writing courses that are in the 1000-level area. Labs can be annoying depending on the subject; I took an astronomy lab which also was a Q (meaning math-based), so I hit two birds with one stone.
Quick Tip: Make sure to figure out which intro courses you’ll need for the more advanced courses you will be taking later on. Also, try to double dip with a lab and a Q if you want to get that over with quickly.
Gen-Eds (General Education Classes)
For most colleges, you’ll have to take a certain number of gen-eds in order to graduate. Make sure you check this out and plan accordingly.
For me, I need 120 credits to graduate and 60 of those credits need to be gen-eds. Moreover, they’re not course you want to put off till junior or senior year.
Quick Tip: Get the gen-eds out of the way in your first two or three years if you can.
GPA Booster Courses
If you have a difficult course load one semester, then it doesn’t hurt to add a GPA booster kind of class into your schedule. This is the type of class that won’t be too time intensive or hard to complete. For instance, a cinema course can create a nice break in a heavy schedule plus easily boost your GPA. This isn’t to say that you don’t have to study at all though. You’ll still have to put effort into it, but the concepts should be simple to grasp.
Some GPA boosters I have taken include french cinema, language and mind (a 1000-level LING course) and intro to anthropology.
Quick Tip: If you have a heavy schedule and need a light class, look for a course that is considered to be a GPA booster.
How long can you sit still? If you’re answer is 50 minutes max, don’t take a course that’s once a week and 3 hours long. So far, I have taken two classes like that (they’re usually the film courses) and if the class/professor isn’t interesting then you’ll die of boredom in there. I took a witches and wizards course thinking it would be fun…how wrong I was. It was a struggle to remain awake during that.
If you would rather take classes twice a week, those are usually 75 minutes. Again, not bad at all unless the class is boring. Then it can drag and make you feel like you’re stuck in a 3-hour class.
Quick Tip: Think long and hard about how long you can sit still. If not long, don’t pick a 3-hour class.
For some reason, most of the 3-hour classes also end up being late at night (say 6-9) which has positives and negatives. It can be nice if you want to pack all your classes into two days of the week, but it can suck when you’re walking back at 9:30pm and it’s a literal ghosttown. Also, if you’re in an area that gets much colder in the winter, then the last thing you want to do is leave your warm dorm room or stay out late to go to a class.
I personally don’t mind late classes when I’m not taking them. Honestly, I tell myself not to take them, but I know I’ll do it again at one point, so…
There are also the 8am’s. When you think about it, they should be a piece of cake. For four years (high school), you got up at 6-6:30 for your first class at 7:30 and always managed to do it, so why not continue with that schedule? Well, that’s what I thought until one day I woke up at 7:45 and did not make the lecture. That lead to more skips than I’d like to admit and I have now sworn them off.
Quick Tip: Think about the weather and your willingness to stay out late (if you’re someone who prefers to be ready to go to bed by 9). Also, if you’re not an early person, don’t pick an 8am. You will live to regret it.
Breaks Between Classes
Another thing to think about when creating your schedule is breaks between classes. Can you go to 5 classes nonstop with only 15 minutes between each or would you rather have a few hours in between classes to eat or sit and relax somewhere? It’s all based off how you work best. If you can survive with no breaks, go for it. If you prefer breaks, don’t pack your schedule so that all your classes are on Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
Quick Tip: If you start to burnout after a few hours of classes, make sure to incorporate some breaks in your schedule and spread out the classes throughout the week.
Before I pick out my schedule, I like to do some investigating by checking out ratemyprofessor. Now, there are times when you should rely on it and others when you shouldn’t. If there are over 50 reviews and they’re all saying the professor is bad, then you might want to consider that when picking the class. However, sometimes there can be a few bad reviews that were written by students who simply did not do well, so they blame the professor and take it out on their ratemyprofessor page.
Should you take a class if the professor has a 2.4/5 stars? Well, you probably won’t want to, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do it if the course is mandatory. If that happens, don’t worry, you can still do well. It just may take more work to do so.
For instance, I had two professors my freshman year who had low ratings and I had no clue until I started the classes. The reviews were true, but I did manage to still get an A in one of the courses. The other was a C+, but I partly blame that on the fact that it was an 8am…I had a rough time getting up for those.
Quick Tip: Take ratemyprofessor as a grain of salt. Don’t put too much emphasis on it, but also consider it if there are a lot of reviews saying the same thing.
Say you’re taking a course and, after a few classes, you have a feeling you won’t be able to get an A/B, you might want to have the class classified as pass/fail. If you do poorly (D range), then it won’t impact your GPA since it will just be labeled as pass.
So far, there have been two times when I thought about switching to pass/fail, but I didn’t do it and I ended up being fine. However, there was that C+, but it’s okay. It wasn’t the end of the world. It may have sucked. Especially since it was sociology, but it’s fine.
Quick Tip: If you taking a course that’s not up your alley and you have a feeling you’ll do poorly, change the class status to pass/fail.
Depending on the college you’re attending, you may be able to see the textbooks you’ll need for each class before adding them to your schedule. Furthermore, you can get an idea of how much the textbooks will cost altogether for each semester.
Quick Tip: Don’t buy the textbooks before your first day of class unless your professor emails you and specifically tells you to. Sometimes it may say you’ll need a certain textbook on the textbook website, but the professor may tell you otherwise. It may also not be required, but recommended and sometimes they have you buy a textbook and you never even use it. The struggle of textbooks.
Reddit can be a helpful place to go to when searching for classes/professors since there are usually students who will create threads about the best classes to take senior year or easy classes that will boost your GPA or even about the strangest classes that they have taken. I actually look there when searching for classes to take if I have no clue what I want to do. Especially now that I have completed a lot of my requirements/geneds.
Quick Tip: Check out Reddit for class inspiration and you may even get lucky and find some comments about which professors to take.
Something everyone should do, but doesn’t (me) is schedule an appointment with their advisor and discuss their schedule and whether they’re meeting all the requirements in a timely fashion. You don’t want to realize second semester senior year that you can’t graduate because you forgot about a required course.
Quick Tip: See your advisor and see what they think about your schedule. They’ll tell you what you should have in there if you’re not entirely sure yourself.
Have Backup Classes/Schedule
Always have backup classes in case one of the classes you want fills up. It will most likely happen at one point or another, so be prepared. You might also want to create two separate schedules in case worse comes to worst and everything fills up. Not incredibly likely, but possible.
Quick Tip: Create a backup schedule in case any of your first-choice classes fill up before your pick-time.
Check the Availability
Check the availability of the courses in your basket each day leading up to your pick time. That way if one closes up, you can make the proper adjustments if you need to rearrange your schedule.
Quick Tip: Check the availability of the courses and even if it shows as being open, try to see (if possible) whether there are actually open spots for anyone or if there are only open reserved seats for specific majors.
Put on a Reminder
I once forgot to pick my schedule at my pick time and only remembered an hour after when my roommate texted me and asked how it went. That was one of my low points considering how many times I reminded myself that day only to forget. From now on, I will always put on multiple reminders in the future.
Quick Tip: Just put on a reminder. Even if you think you don’t need it. Having it as a backup doesn’t hurt.
If all fails and you end up in a class you know you’ll hate, don’t worry. You will have the chance to swap it with another class during the first 2 weeks. I don’t recommend relying too heavily on swapping since it can be incredibly stressful and requires constant checking, but it does work. That’s how I’ve gotten into a lot of popular classes that were in high demand at the time
Quick Tip: If you didn’t get the class/professor that you were really hoping for, don’t sweat it (yet). You’ll still have a chance to swap into that course during the first few weeks of the semester.
Overall, don’t worry about this too much. It can be a stressful time if you’re not prepared, but you’re here, so I’m sure you’ll have everything covered. And if you end up with a subpar schedule, that’s fine too. You’ll get through it. Good luck!
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