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College Survival Guide: Schedule-Making

Trying to figure out schedules can be a stressful time in a college student’s life. Here are some of the tips I’ve learned over the years to help my schedule-making become less stressful.


Artwork: Alexis Greaves

1. Look at recommended course schedule and your Degree Audit

Thankfully, our colleges provide us with a recommended plan of how our four years should look. This can definitely help you figure out the skeleton for all four years of your college career. They also provide us with a degree audit. A degree audit shows a student what classes and requirements they need to fulfill to be able to get their degree. You should definitely be pulling classes from these resources, especially since they are tailored towards you specifically.

2. Figure out Critical Tracking courses

Critical Tracking courses are the classes that are taken by all students that are in your major. These courses change with each major, of course. They are classes that are there to make sure you stay on track, and they are a requirement for your degree. If you know what these classes are ahead of time, it will be easier to knock them out.

3. Go to an advisor Advisors can be a big help in your schedule planning. They are there to help you, so don’t be scared to set regular check-ups with them. An advisor should know all the details of what is needed for your degree, so come ready with your questions as well. Also, do your research before your appointment with them. It doesn’t help you or them if you’re just sitting there unaware of any of your requirements or recommended courses. Advisors also have the ability to get you a class request form or even get your registration to open up earlier. I highly suggest using these underrated resources.

4. Plan out your 4 years

While you’re at the advisor’s office, it wouldn’t hurt to plan out your semesters for the full four years. Even if you do not, follow it exactly it will help with future registrations. It will also be useful to make sure that you are staying on track with your classes, especially if you add or take away a major or minor. Trust me, this will come in handy when your registration opens seemingly unexpectedly.

5. Search for the classes you want to take in the coming semester

The times for classes open up a few days before anybody’s registration opens up. This gives you time to look at your options. You should write down a mock week of the classes that you want to take with their most convenient times. It can be a hassle to find classes that fit together like puzzle pieces. WARNING: This will take time! Be patient. Write down the times and professors of all possible classes and remember to have a couple back-up classes in case you don’t get into your first picks. This is where your four year plan comes into play. Take classes off of there till you find the right schedule for you.

6. Look up the available professors on Rate My Professor, a website dedicated to helping you find the right professor for you. Part of making a good schedule is finding the right professors. I highly suggest not just signing up for any class without doing a bit of research. This has been my saving grace. You just type in the names of the professors that your previously wrote down and check to see if they’re the one at your school. This resource is incredible because it tells you how hard the class is, how the workload was, and how people reacted to the professor overall. This is vital for your college career. Trust me; your GPA will thank you.

7. Read through the ratings for the specific class you’re going to take whether online on in-person

Once you confirm that you are looking at the right professor, look through their reviews. First, read the reviews from people who are going to be taking the exact class you are. This includes is they took it online or in-person. After reading through those, read through their other reviews just to get the overall vibe of the class. If the ratings, are all poor then you might want to search for a different professor who is also teaching that class. If there is no other professor teaching that class you might want to consider waiting to take that class another semester when somebody else could possibly be teaching it. That is entirely up to your discretion. If the professor has no ratings I suggest you find a different professor or wait to take the class, as well. A good rule of thumb I go by is: If the professor has an overall rating of 4.0 or below, I search for a different professor. The sweet spot is usually a 4.5-5.0 rating. The individual ratings should definitely be your deciding factor if the overall rating is between 4.0-4.5. The individual ratings usually have great tips on how to ace the class or just helpful information, as well.

8. Search for wiggle room by writing down possible times, professors, and other classes.

This is the part where you put all the information you’ve collected together. Make sure to write down all the course codes of possible classes so you can type that straight in to the search bar when you register. This will make registering faster. A course code is specific to each class. So if you want a professor at a certain time it is important to correctly write down that course code. A bonus thing to look up is the distance and time you might have in between each class. I would recommend not having more than three classes in a day, and they definitely should have an hour or more in between them. If you have no choice but to sign up for classes back-to-back, check how far the rooms are from each other. Usually there are fifteen minutes between class times, so make sure it is possible for you to make it on time to your next class. There could also be other factors that dictate when you take your classes. Try to keep jobs, extracurriculars and any other possible commitments in mind when piecing together your schedule. Also, search for old syllabi online with the teacher’s name to get an idea of what you might be doing during the semester.

9. Sign up for it!

Know when your registration opens up. This is important because there are usually big blocks of people signing up for classes at the same time. The sooner you sign up the more likely you are to get into the classes you want to get in to. This helps to make sure that you don’t get stuck in a crummy back-up class with a boring professor. Normally, seniors get first pick on classes while freshman choose from the scraps unless you can finesse an advanced registration. Therefore, be ready to sign up right as it opens up.

10. Clear up any problems with your schedule or degree audit with the responsible party

If you can’t get into the classes that you absolutely need contact your advisor, dean, or the teacher of the actual class. Sometimes they can get you into the class or waiting list. If they can’t help you, they will direct you to someone who can help you, too.

Final Note: Don’t count out upperclassmen, either. They are good resources, as well. They will let you know who to take along with tips and tricks on how to make the most out of the class. Overall, you are surrounded by the best resources. Don’t be scared to ask or search online for answers. After all, this is your education. Make the most of it.

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