The Craft of Choosing Classes


It was the day after the drop/pick up date; I was 300+ pages behind in the weekly readings, last class's sing-a-long to John Mayer's 'Waiting on the world to change' had failed to trigger any knowledge of Critical Theory, consequently I’d flunked out on the first of 5 readings quizzes for semester and to top it off, I suddenly found myself holding hands with my newly assigned 'Evac Buddy.' 

Sociology of Immigration held so much potential, yet after 3 weeks I had discovered the professor was a total fruit loop, the readings were horrendously long and after 4 hours of straight class before it, my energy levels had almost flat lined. However, a bit of research before selecting it a few months earlier would successfully avoid being stuck in this situation and unable to drop the class.

Here are some tips in choosing classes:

Degree/major requirements

The first step in selecting classes in familiarizing yourself with your degree and major requirements. Each degree will have different requirements, i.e. classes that are to be taken in a particular order or compulsory versus optional classes. Reading through them before meeting/emailing your advisor helps your understanding when they start mentioning terms such as prerequisites, writing intensives and credit points. Your advisor should have an idea of your degree plan, but college isn't school - you are in control of your degree. You shouldn't rely on them to make your decisions.

Your interests

Most degrees will have some degree of flexibility in choosing electives or a class out of a list of possibilities. Using these to pursue interests gives you the opportunity to enjoy yourself or relax. A photography class beside your calculus class might just make it bearable.

Time and practical considerations

Although the temptation to squeeze classes into the shortest possible amount of time may seem convenient, an 8am lecture and 4 hours of consecutive class after the 3 hour training session ending at 9pm last night and again tonight may not be all that wise. Choosing classes that are spread across the week will aid your sanity and energy levels. 

Others feedback

There is no guaranteed way to ensure you don't end up in classes you hate, however asking around and checking out a number of websites may help. Ask around to find students ahead of you in the same degree or major, such as teammates, classmates or advisors. Previous experience in particular classes and with particular professors will give you a good idea of the demands and styles of classes and teaching. 

Further, a number of websites are dedicated to evaluating professors. Although most are unregulated, some posts outdated and some students just venting, RateMyProfessors, ProfesssorProformance, MyEdu and StudentsReview can give you an idea of how professors teach, the workload, their marking style and even if they're easy on the eye. The possession of Rate My Professor's 'red hot' factor may just be what you need to get you through that compulsory chemistry class. 

In the end, it’s about making informed decisions and not just taking the classes on face value – that is, by what the catalog says. Finally, relish the fact that at most Colleges, athletes get the first choice of classes. Good luck. 


By Melanie Pennington