You race across campus to make it to your first class of the semester. With a pounding heart, you secretly stash the map you printed (in case you got lost!) and sneak into the lecture hall. You smile as you scan the room and everything looks just as you had hoped. But quickly that smile fades as you open the syllabus and suddenly realize this class will be anything but a dream come true.
According to federal government statistics, you may be one of more than two million freshmen who will enter college this fall. Many feel overwhelmed with picking classes for that first year. However, every school has classes that will be a perfect fit for you as a first-year student. It just takes some digging to find them. Here are 10 tips that will help you create the perfect stress-free schedule.
1. Know your body. This might seem like a strange suggestion when creating an academic schedule, but before you think about what classes to take, you need to think about when to take them. If you are a noon naptime narcoleptic, don’t schedule a class that is at the twelve o’clock hour. Pick classes that are during hours of the day when you are most alert.
2. Beware of the blank-box trap. Even if you see empty space in your schedule, it does not mean you’ll have free time. The University of Washington (www.washington.edu) shares on their website that most courses require two hours of homework for every hour of class. Consider keeping blocks of time open if you need to work or do homework.
3. Explore majors. If you are still undecided about what to major in, take a career exploration class. These classes allow you to learn about real career options that relate to different majors. “Most people in my career exploration class didn’t figure out they should take it until their junior or senior year,” Joseph Farrell, a senior at Brigham Young University (www.byu.edu) in Provo, Utah said. “So, start early and beat the procrastinators!”
4. Indulge your creative side. Just because you’re starting college, doesn’t mean you have to abandon hobbies that brought you joy in high school. If you’re an artsy person who wants to major in business, take a photography class or a beginner guitar class. Let those creative juices flow.
5. Be picky about professors. A professor can make or break a class. Go to ratemyprofessors.com and see what students thought of the professor that teaches the class you want to take. “I think it can be a good way to find out the professor’s style of teaching and grading. It gives you a heads up on whether or not the professor only grades on papers or tests,” Ali-Marie Murphy, a senior from George Mason University (www.gmu.edu) in Fairfax, Va., said.
6. Lose the freshman fifteen before you gain it. Continue an active lifestyle at college. If you love tennis, then sign up for a tennis class. You’ll be surprised at the fun exercising classes schools offer like bowling, weight training, ballroom dance, basketball, swimming and racquetball. Get credit for staying fit!
7. Learn how to learn. Studying for college will be very different from high school. Look into student development classes that teach you about time management, note taking, reading, and test preparation. If these classes aren’t offered at your school, be on the lookout for workshops. Many student centers will give workshops on these topics for free.
8. Search online syllabi. “Every semester professors will post public syllabi on the university website, and that would be a great place students could go to find out more about what is in the class,” said Kin Hau, scheduling coordinator at the University of Texas (www.utexas.edu). In the syllabus you will find the class schedule, grading criteria, and how heavy the homework load will be. Don’t take more than three classes that have a heavy load, unless you want to forfeit sleep and your social life.
9. Rule your pre-requisites. Every major comes with pre-requisite classes. If you are lucky enough to have chosen a major, get ahead by finding a class online. You will probably be expected to get above a B on the pre-requisite classes, so don’t let these classes slide off your list of things to do.
10. Leave room for fun. Your freshman year should be about finding balance in school and play. Take classes that will challenge you, but don’t overload. “You deal with a lot when you leave home for the first time, so it’s much better to take a smaller load and be successful,” said Temple University (www.temple.edu) senior Lauren Christenson. You never know — with that open hour, you could join the campus comedy group, be in a choir or participate in student government.
Contact an advisor to see what category the classes you want to take fall under. Sometimes a class will be hidden under a subject that can make it difficult to find when registering. Relax. Most colleges have a first-year student office that will set you up with a mentor so you won’t be completely on your own to create that first semester schedule.
With these helpful hints, you should be ready to pick classes for your freshmen year that will help you skip the stress and set you up for success.