Lesson III: Choosing Courses

If your at all like me (a procrastinator born and bred) then you wait until the very last minute before you end up doing anything, including picking classes. But fear not, this advice that I’ve put together can help both the prepared student and the lazy last-minute student in the task of choosing courses.

1. Review your course catalog.
First you should be looking at your college’s course catalog for courses you’re interested in and look for what courses you need for your major (this includes your prerequisites and gen. eds.)

2. Speak with your adviser.
The entire purpose of an academic adviser is for them to help you find out what classes you need to take so you can get the education your looking for. Your college pays them so they can be there to help you when you need it; part of your tuition pays for their service. So why not use it? Call or walk into the admissions department and make an appointment to speak with an adviser. Even if you already know exactly what courses you need to take and what your doing for the rest of the year, it never hurts to have a talk with an adviser about your plans (they might have some helpful tips or information about your major that you haven’t heard about yet.) Not to mention the fact that the advisers often have access to materials and contacts that you might not.

3. When your choosing classes figure out why your taking them.
It seems like a simple enough concept but some students don’t take the time to think about it. If you have to take a class for your major then there isn’t much to think about (it’s just something your going to have to do) but if your considering taking a class just because your interested in the subject, try to find out if you can have it be as an elective credit for your major. If the course can’t be counted as any sort of elective credit, try asking yourself if taking the class is worth the time, money and effort it will require (which is not to say that taking a class just for fun isn’t perfectly fine.)

4. Ask around about the course and professor.
Talk to your friends and ask around campus to find out what other students thought of a class and the professor who taught it. Was it so boring that the students were falling asleep during the lecture? Did they find the professor unapproachable for help? Its questions like that which are good to find out ahead of time. Keep in mind what you will be hearing are opinions and not necessarily facts so its just a small thing to take into consideration. Having trouble finding people who have taken a certain class or had a certain professor? Websites like Myspace and Rate My Professors feature ratings and reviews on professors so its easy for students to talk to each other about their experiences on a larger scale.

5. Do some searching.
Most college websites will provide links to or a directory of faculty websites. If you search through the directory of faculty and find the professors website who will be teaching the course you want to take, you may find that they have posted a syllabus or more detailed description of the class. You may find out that the class isn’t exactly what you bargained for (before it’s too late.)

6. Even if a class is full, don’t give up!
This is especially for the procrastinators out there who wait until the last minute to sign up for a class only to realize that every section is full. But remember there is still a glimmer of hope. At many colleges the policy of course overrides are allowed. An override is if a professor is willing to sign a form that allows an extra student into the class when the class is full then the college will allow you to take the class and get credit for it. Keep in mind though that not all professors are more willing to sign an override slip for one reason or another (and excessive begging is not a good idea.) However, some professors are more willing to sign an override if some of the other students don’t show up on the first day (there’s usually at least a few of those people.) The best plan is to speak to the professor (or the department head) ahead of time and they might sign the override before class starts or they may ask you to show up to class the first day and they will do the best they can to squeeze you in. But as I have said this may work but don’t expect miracles, some professors make a policy of not writing overrides and some courses simply don’t have enough room or materials for more students then originally planned.

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