Let’s face it. Many of us won’t get the “dream” class schedule. You know… the one with early classes (nothing before 11 a.m.), that all end early (nothing past 3 p.m.), and here’s the kicker: no class on Fridays. I’ve only heard rumors of those types of schedules, but that does not mean you cannot make the most out of every semester at your university.
If you’re anything like me, picking courses each semester is much like deleting old e-mails: you have to do it eventually, but letting the task marinate seems like a better idea most days.
There are many ways to go about picking classes, and honestly no way is the “right” way. There are some students who pick classes only if the professor has an easy rating on a rating site, and sometimes they end up with wildly long days. Some students refuse to look at any rating sites, and risk getting in high over their heads. It all comes down to you as an individual and your university. If you need more guidance, the go-to move is to speak to an advisor or mentor. But there are other tips you may benefit from, too!
First and foremost, pick classes with general requirements and potential majors in mind. Use your first few semesters to get some requirements out of the way and dabble into a few interesting disciplines. How will you know you weren’t born to solve the greatest physics mysteries if you never try?
Next, learn what times of the day work for you. This might take some time to unravel, but if you know you’re a morning person and don’t like taking classes past dinnertime, try to avoid it. You’ll thank yourself for switching into sections with times better geared toward your lifestyle.
Of course, use your resources. If you have a major in mind, take a peek at its sample schedule (which is usually found on the major’s website. If not, just ask an advisor in the major), and try those classes out. Sometimes the requirements in similar majors can have similar beginning classes. Try those out if the majors interest you!
Look into who is teaching the classes you’re looking at. For me, a professor’s rating isn’t a deal breaker, but it can come in handy when looking at courses you are not particularly passionate about. If you are passionate, check out what the professor is interested in! Some professor biographies give insights to their research. If it sounds interesting to you too, it could be a way to bond with your professor and get involved!
What if you can’t get in the classes you want/need? Don’t give up! Look into ways of getting notified if the course becomes open. Here at Penn, we have a website that will send automatic e-mails for courses we enter. It has helped me twice this year alone! Also, don’t be scared to send an e-mail to the professor to see if they can help. [A final strategy: Go to the first class and just ask the professor. Seriously! I’ve seen professors write down names to help them get into a class.]
These pieces of advice and tips have come in handy for me, so try them out next time! If you still need a little guidance or help, ask for an appointment with your advisor. In any case, don’t fret! Everything will work out in the end.
April Fisher, Penn ’18
April is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in Maple Shade, NJ with a love for field hockey and thirst for science. After taking a year off, she plans to graduate in 2018, hoping to pursue a career in neuroscience.