Planning Your Course Schedule

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Happy October! I hope your midterms are going well! It’s about that time in the semester to plan next semester’s classes. If it’s your first time planning your schedule yourself, you might be a bit overwhelmed by what to do and wondering if you have any flexibility in your schedule at all. Here are the questions I ask myself when I plan my schedule.

What are my primary goals?

Because my main goal in college is graduating with a degree, I initially make a base schedule by looking at my major’s balance sheet/course schedule. This shows all the classes I have to take in order to graduate, formatted across 4 years. If you don’t have one already, you should be able to get a balance sheet from your college advising office. Do you want to graduate in 3 years? Do you want to graduate in 5 years? Changes to the “typical” 4-year span will change how your courses are spread. (I say “typical” because less than half of college students complete their degree within 4 years.) Make your own multi-year course plan based off the basic plan, adjusting for your personal goals, including those below.

What are my secondary goals?

These could be things like wanting to study abroad or add a minor. You may need to take some classes earlier or later than “usual” to accommodate. For example, since I knew I wanted to study abroad in a place I couldn’t take classes for my major, I took Organic Chemistry I early so that I wouldn’t be behind and just “reserved” that semester abroad for my minor, general elective, and arts requirements.

Holly in front of a hilltop temple in Lampang, Thailandstudying abroad in Thailand - the one semester I didn’t take any science classes

Do I have any personal or professional needs?

Lucie and Chris have written great blog posts both highlighting the need for acknowledgement of personal limits and going at your own pace. Don’t neglect your health! Also think about your work or volunteering schedule- what kind of daily class schedule will give you the time for these activities? As another example, I knew I needed regular medical-related experience one semester, and the clinic I wanted to volunteer at required me to go for a half-day every week. Knowing this, I scheduled my two labs on Tuesdays so that I could have Thursday afternoons free for the clinic, instead of doing the labs on different days.

What are my personal preferences?

Can’t wake up before 11 am? Try to avoid classes before then. Do you prefer to do homework in the evenings? Avoid evening classes and labs. Would you rather space out your classes throughout the day or knock them all out before lunch? Do you want to have an easier senior year? Front-load your hard classes. More worried about your GPA? Space out those hard classes and balance them each semester with easier classes. Your personal preferences can help to arrange your schedule so that it best suits you.

Are there any particular classes I want to take?

This could be because of a certain professor (RateMyProfessors is fantastic if you don’t know which section of a class to choose) or because a random class looks interesting. If you have the flexibility and availability, take advantage of that to try something you’ve been wanting to learn more about.

You have more flexibility than you think

As long as you’ve got a plan and are paying attention, you’ll have a fair amount of flexibility in your schedule. Regularly talk with your advisors to make sure you’re on track and let them know your goals and plan. You can change your major, study abroad, and pick up a minor or two or three! You’ll be okay!

Got further questions? Leave a comment below! What class(es) are you looking forward to next semester?

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Written by Holly Lakin on Oct 19, 2020