College Series Part #2: 5 Tips on Choosing Classes & Professors

One of the most exciting, important, and stressful parts of college is choosing your classes. While it can be overwhelming the very first time you enroll during your freshman year, there are a few methods to the madness. Since I’ve only really attended one school, I will speak on my personal experiences based on how my school did things. Some schools may differ in certain areas, but overall these tips can help everyone.

Tip #1: Get the required classes and gen-ed classes out of the way

Gen-ed classes are the classes that are general and not specific to any major. They are classes like math, writing, science, etc. Most schools recommend you take those classes during your freshman and sophomore years so that during your junior and senior years you can just focus on your major and minor.

In addition to gen-ed classes, my school required us to take classes within other areas like social sciences, religion, and art. So in my case, those fell under “gen-ed” since they were required for all students, regardless of our major. You will often find that in order to move onto your higher level classes or classes within your major, you will need to have previously taken gen-ed classes or pre requisite classes, so it’s just so much easier to get those out of the way in the beginning.

Sometimes it’s hard to get the basic classes out of the way ahead of time because of scheduling, which is understandable. I took a writing class my senior year that was recommended for freshmen, and it was very boring, especially since it was an 8:00 class. Classes that are recommended for certain years are for a reason; they provide different challenges. Freshmen in college won’t be as prepared to be as challenged as seniors, so lower level classes will be tailored based on the level that most freshmen are on.

Some people may enjoy taking easier classes during their final years, but I personally liked focusing on my major and minor classes during my final years instead of wasting time on basic classes. My reason for taking this writing class so late into college was because I really wanted that specific professor. Since it was an 8:00 class, most of the athletes would take that specific class, causing it to fill quickly.

Tip #2: Sign up for classes as soon they open

Classes fill QUICKLY. With thousands people trying to enroll in a limited amount of classes, you can’t wait until the last minute to sign up and expect to get exactly what you want.

As I mentioned in my previous article, my school runs on the quarter system, meaning I had five classes for 10 weeks, three times a year. My school has something called course carts, and with that you could basically plan out your year by selecting certain classes to be taken in certain quarters. For example, it’s fall quarter now. So at this point, I would already know the classes I’d be taking during the fall, and from this point I can go ahead and start selecting classes for winter and spring quarters.

Placing classes into the course cart is basically like a shopping cart. You aren’t enrolling in them, but once the enrollment date does comes along, you can just press enroll, and you’re enrolled in all of the classes that were in your cart. It makes it way easier than trying to go and find classes once the enrollment time opens, because that wastes time, and doesn’t guarantee you a spot in the class since everyone on campus is doing the same.

I would find out the enrollment times, set my alarm for five minutes before, and log in and be waiting for the exact time. There have been times where I was in class during enrollment times, but I would still always be logged in on time to secure my spots.

Tip #3: Ratemyprofessor…but use it with discretion

Ratemyprofessor is a lifesaver when it comes to picking a certain professor for classes. I’m sure you’re familiar with it, but if you aren’t, it’s a website that allows previous students to give their opinion on the professor. All you have to do is search your school, search the professor, and you will see reviews from people who have had the professor in the past. It tells you if the professor requires textbooks, if they assign a lot of reading, if participation is required, etc. It even tells you if the professor is hot or not (lol).

Before I enrolled in classes, I would ALWAYS do my research on the professors, and I pretty much always ended up with good ones. As good and informative as ratemyprofessor is, you absolutely have to use it with discretion. With pretty much anything, people will talk about it if they absolutely love it, or if they absolutely hate it, and this website is no different. With anything in life, everyone has different experiences, so if you see a professor getting negative reviews, you have to ask yourself “well are these students just lazy and not wanting to work?” If you see a professor getting all positive reviews you have to ask yourself “am I going to learn anything or is this going to be a boring easy A class?”

For the most part, the reviewers are honest, but again, you have to use your own judgement. I’ve had professors that got really bad reviews and I ended up loving them. I’ve also had professors that got great reviews and I ended up not liking them. It’s all based on personal preference, what environment you personally learn best in, and what personalities you mesh well with. Ultimately, it’s helpful and it’s nice to have some sort of idea of the professor in your mind instead of going in without any clue of what to expect.

Tip #4: Drop and add

Once you have a class and have chosen which professor you want for the class, try to find the syllabus for the class, or a basic outline of the class. This will really help you decide if you even want to take the class to begin with. It is rare to find the exact syllabus; I’ve only been lucky enough to find it for two or three classes, but I’ve been able to find similar ones just by Googling the name of the class. The class usually comes with a description, and based on the description you can get an idea of what you’re going into, even if you don’t have a physical outline.

If you get into a class and it turns out to not be what you expected, definitely try to drop it and go into another class. My school gave us the first week to drop and add whatever classes we wanted. On one hand, it’s hard to know after the first class if you will like it or not but at the same time…you will pretty much know after the first class if you will like it or not. After reading the syllabus and experiencing the professor for the first time, you’ll know if you want to stay or not. I’d highly suggest trying to change classes after the very first class instead of waiting too long, because usually you are given assignments on the first day, and you don’t want to get behind.

Tip #5: 8:00 classes are totally fine!

I know the common thing when going to college is to avoid 8:00 classes, and I tried that for the first few quarters, but eventually I realized I had to get over that and do what I needed to do. I only had two 8:00 classes, one during the spring quarter, and one during the winter quarter. I didn’t necessarily like having to wake up when it was still dark outside, in the dreaded Chicago winter to trek across campus to sit in a lecture, but I got over it. The people in the class were fun so it made it easier.

My point is, once you get to college, you’ll see that your only focus is to make sure you’re taking your necessary classes to graduate. You’re not worried about not wanting to wake up early.

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Ultimately, you’re going to have classes and professors that you don’t like. That’s just bound to happen. I was lucky enough to be on the quarter system, so if I had a class or professor that I didn’t like, I knew I’d only have to deal with it for three hours a week for 10 weeks. The main goal is to get your degree, so if you keep that in mind, it’ll motivate you to just deal with whatever you are given.

I’d say the good outweighs the bad in terms of classes and professors. College offers SO many classes that are literally so much fun you won’t pay as much attention to the classes you don’t like.

 

2 thoughts on “College Series Part #2: 5 Tips on Choosing Classes & Professors

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