Choosing College Classes: Important Tips For Incoming Freshmen

How To Choose The Right College Classes

By Kelsey Mulvey

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 college 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-college panic attack, check out our tips and tricks for choosing classes.

So many options, so little timeWhether 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 advisorSome 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 RequirementsMost 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 senior at UNC-Chapel Hill and HC’s Life Editor. “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 chancesSince 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 senior at Ohio University 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 majorOkay, 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 junior 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!

Just say when and whereWhile 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 p.m. 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 a.m. and I’m most definitely not a morning person, so pick your classes with your sleep habits in mind,” says Jamie Blynn, a senior at George Washington University and HC Contributing Writer. But before you morning birds schedule all the 8 a.m. 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.

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