How to select courses and register: A strategic guide
You will need to select courses and register for each term you attend college. Although your advisor can “give” you a schedule, this is not the best situation. We know that you must take on the responsibility for your choices; your advisor’s role is to help you decide if your choices are the best possible ones for this point in your college journey. What follows is a possible strategy for developing this important skill.
Step 1: Identify potential courses. Reasons to take a class include:
- Personal interest or challenge.
- To investigate a potential area of concentration (major).
- Background preparation or basic skill preparation.
- For major or minor requirements.
- For distribution requirements.
- Specific pre-requisites/co-requisites or cognates.
- Pre-professional or graduate program requirements.
- Usefulness for career or future plans.
- Classes required for scholarships (e.g. performance scholarships).
- Recommendations by peers, instructors, advisors or those in your future profession.
During this process, read through the catalog (all possible courses) and the course schedule guide (all classes offered during the upcoming term) for any class identified above.
Step 2: Consider the pros and cons for each potential selection.
Answer the following:
- What knowledge and skills will I gain?
- Will it help me clarify my direction or goals?
- Am I ready for the class (with pre-/co-requisites)?
- How does the course fit into my academic plan? Is it optional or required?
- Is this the best term to take the class? How often is it offered?
- What other classes depend on completing this one?
- What are the consequences of delaying the class? Will subsequent classes still fit?
- Does the class fit multiple criteria?
- An exploratory class which fits a potential major choice.
- A DR class which fits a potential minor I am considering.
- An exploratory class in a potential major that is also a DR (Triple play!!)
- What academic demands/level of commitment will be necessary to do well?
- What amount of reading/number of papers/projects will be required?
- What is the time commitment inside and outside of class?
- Should I speak to an instructor, advisor or others to gain more information?
- What book will be used? Can I check it out in the bookstore?
What have others recommended about the course? (Accept no summary from your peers (or rumors) without investigation.)
- What is the teaching style/presentation mode/style of the instructor?
- A mismatch, or an inability to cope, may explain other student opinions.
- Adapting to instructor style may help you have a better experience.
- Will you have company in the course? A friend is a powerful, but not the only, criteria.
- What if the class I want is in the catalog, but not in this term’s schedule? Help!
- Most classes are offered once a year, in a specific term, at a specific time.
- Determine which term the class is usually taught (via previous schedule, Registrar).
- Ask the department, or the instructor, about future offerings.
Maintain a list of potential courses as you complete this process. They form a head start for the process next term, for drop-add possibilities, and for your four-year plan.
Step 3: Consider how classes interact.
- Watch for overlapping times. Draw out your schedule if you need to “see” it that way.
- Remember to schedule laboratory/discussion/language lab sections as needed.
- Plan to balance your load across the week.
- All MWF or TTh classes are exhausting/bad for optimal performance.
- The “off” days between are seldom used effectively.
- Select appropriate start times to avoid wasting the morning hours. Get a strong start.
- How many DRs are in your plan? Please do not try to “get them over with” too soon!
- DRs offer great places to personalize your education.
- If you to rush through them, you will miss many optimal selections!
- Leave some for your JR/SR year for variety in your load!
- Plan a varied diet. Avoid a term where every single class is the same:
- has a lab
- has a heavy writing component
- has a heavy reading component
- is in your major and upper-level
- is a class you are not enthusiastic about
Step 4: Construct Class Schedules.
- Pull together all information you have.
- Create several potential schedules. Indicate alternate choices.
- Determine course priority order by considering:
- the size of the course (seat number available)
- any alternate sections available (will other times fit?)
- the demand for the course (seats already filled)
- how often the course is offered (every term, every other year?)
- if only this course can be used in your major/minor/etc.
- if you have already talked to the instructor
- Adjust course priority (the computer tries to grant your first choices first)
- Meet with your advisor to discuss your plans.
- Troubleshoot any remaining issues.
Step 5: Complete the Course Selection/Registration process.
- Populate your course registration bin with your selections.
- Modify priority order. Get everything perfect.
- Email/visit your advisor for final consult/approval to submit.
- Submit your classes by the deadline after your advisor authorizes your choices.
- You alone can complete this REQUIRED step. Otherwise you get no classes.
- View official schedule after the registration period ends.
- Double check all selections for changes (instructor, section, time).
- Utilize drop-add to make any necessary modifications. Obtain signatures as needed.
Wow! It’s certainly a complex process and it’s definitely a lot harder than letting someone tell you what to do, and what classes to take. Don’t worry; this task will soon get easier as you master the strategy. After all, it’s part of taking charge of your life!