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The Nerd’s Word: Scheduling for Success

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Let’s be real, if you weren’t a morning person in high school, it’s not likely that will change when you are on your own at college without the assistance of a crazy parent begging you to wake up. In fact, an 8 AM class could mean disaster for your first semester in college. And while the time of day you schedule a class is important, it’s not the only consideration. Number of classes, days of the week, class location – these are just a few of the things you’ll want to think about before you click the send button on your first-semester class schedule. Below are some of the Nerd’s essential tips for creating a class schedule that’s right for you.

1. Review the Course Catalog

Your course catalog will be sent to you over the summer. Look through it thoroughly and you’ll find a variety of lists, including core requirements (courses all students must take), requirements for different majors, and the courses offered within each department. Within each category or department, lists generally begin with introductory-level courses and end with more challenging seminars. Mark the classes that interest you. If you have an idea of what you want to major in, consider taking some of the general requirements in your major. If you’re like most freshmen and have no idea what you want to major in yet, think about taking classes in areas that spark your interest. Have you always wanted to learn about space? Try an astronomy class. Do fossils intrigue you? Sign up for anthropology.

2. Get Requirements Out of the Way

Almost all colleges have core requirements to ensure that students explore subjects outside their major. These requirements range from foreign language and physical education to philosophy and lab sciences. The number of required courses, and subjects, varies from one college to the next. You should fulfill the more challenging requirements as soon as possible so that you can spend your final semesters concentrating on courses in your major as well as leisure classes.

3. Find a Balance of Hard and Easy Courses

You may be eager to jump into difficult classes your freshman year, but beware of taking too many. You may not realize how challenging college courses can be, and how much reading and other work they require. Don’t forget that this will be your first semester on campus – you’re in for lots of changes. Too many hard courses can put a real strain on you and it will show in your grades.

4. Find a Balance of Subject Areas

You should also take subjects that require different kinds of work. For example, some classes, like literature and history, require a lot of reading, while others, like journalism, demand a great deal of writing.  Courses like math and science will have you solving problem sets. Choose a variety of subjects, so you’re not stuck having to read five books or writing five research papers in one week.

5. Take Advantage of Your Advisor

Most colleges assign you an academic advisor for your first year. When you arrive on campus, make it a priority to set up an appointment with your advisor and come prepared with questions. If your advisor can’t answer all your questions, seek the advice of department chairpersons and teachers of classes you’re considering.

6. Use AP Credits, Placement Exams, and More

Before you register, find out if you’ve already fulfilled any of your core requirements. If you score high on AP Exams, for example, you may not have to take certain classes, such as a lab science. Acing a placement exam could also free you from taking the required language course.

7. Take a Writing Course

It’s in your best interest to take a writing class during your first semester, even if you’re not required to do so. You can apply the writing skills you develop in this course to all your other courses throughout college, and in whatever career you choose.

8. Make a Plan for Registration Day

Registering for classes can be a nail-biting experience. Some of you will be forced to stand in long lines, others will have to enter a lottery to get into popular classes, and still others will have to select courses on a computer system. You can be sure that some of the classes you want will be full, or that you’ll have to choose between two classes that are held at the same time. So, after you come up with your dream schedule, make a list of alternative classes. Your preparations will make registration day easier, and help you start your first year off right.

Your schedule is your life in college.  Finding the proper balance between subject requirements, course difficulty, and free time will go a long way toward making your adjustment to campus life a smooth one.  Once you have completed class scheduling, reward yourself for a job well done with a cold Nerd Energy drink – it will be the first of many for the semester if you plan on earning a solid GPA.  Come back in a week for Nerd helps you break down how to choose the right major.

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