As summer enters its last month, I find myself realizing that, for the first time since I was a toddler, I do not have school to look forward to this fall. It is a bittersweet realization. On the one hand I miss college and my classes, but, on the other hand, I am starting a new phase in my life. For those of you just starting college, I have compiled some advice that should get you started no matter what school you are planning to attend. Specifically, scheduling your classes.
In high school, you likely were in classes from 8 A.M. to 3 P.M. and had the same classes every day. If you had a block schedule instead of periods, then you already have some idea of what college schedules will be like, but I am not sure how many high schools still offer block schedules. In college, things will be different. You get to pick when you want classes, what you want to take and you will not have the same class every day. This is a lot of freedom, and it might seem overwhelming, but do not worry. I have a few tips to make scheduling classes a breeze.
Unless you are a morning person, do NOT sign up for the 8 A.M. classes.
It sounds like a great idea, and believe me, I loved being done with classes by noon, but if you are not a morning person you are probably going to sleep through class. Save yourself the poor grade and look for a 9:30 class instead.
Figure out when you are most productive.
This is following the same idea as the tip above. If you get your best work done in the afternoon, schedule as many of your classes in the afternoon as you can. This way you are already in a productive mindset when you go to class.
Conversely, if you are like me, mornings are the best time for you to be in class and afternoon classes make you sleepy. Try to set up your classes so that you are done by lunchtime. I always opted for 9:30 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. classes when I could so that I was ready to go to work or start on my homework by noon.
There will always be at least one class that you have to take that is offered at a time that you do not like, but if the rest of your classes are set for your most productive time, you can make that one class work.
Overlap your General Education classes.
I went to a private college, so we had a different name for General Education (GEs or GenEds) classes, but the concept was the same: a series of requirements that ensured you would take a broad range of classes in your time at the institution. My suggestion is to find classes that cross-list to fulfill multiple GEs at once. This allows you to complete this part of your degree much quicker and leaves more openings for electives and fun classes (more on that below).
Make sure you take at least one fun class per term.
It is so tempting to cram all your required classes in to get them out of the way early, but make sure that you save at least one slot for a fun class. College is about experimenting with what you are learning and finding out what you like. Plus, having a class you are taking because it looks fun rather than because it is required for your major can make your workload feel lighter even if it actually is not!
Balance your days.
Another temptation you might notice is the temptation to cram all your classes into two or three days so that you can have five days off. As tempting as this is, DO NOT DO IT. Having that five-day weekend sounds so great, but you will not want to get work done, and EVERYTHING will be due the same day. Settle for a three-day weekend (Seriously, for all but my first and last semesters of college I had three-day weekends.) and spread your classes out so that you do not feel as overwhelmed and so due dates do not overlap.
Get your AP Credit.
I came into college with a semester’s worth of credits thanks to my AP classes in high school. This opened many doors for me: I had credit for some of my GEs, I was able to get into some upper division classes without taking the introductory courses and I had the freedom to study abroad anywhere I wanted because I did not have to worry about fulfilling specific requirements.
Make sure you send your scores to your university and then follow up with the registrar to see what all those credits get you. You can also meet with the chairs of different departments to get them to sign off that you do not need to take the introductory classes or meet with specific professors to see if your scores allow you to get into their classes earlier in your college career.