Registering for college classes and creating your schedule can be an intimidating process. Below are a few tips and tricks you can use to make this process a little easier on yourself.
Think of your extra-circular commitments
Before you even begin looking at classes and credit numbers, you should be aware of prior commitments you have. For example, are you a parent? Are you a student-athlete? Do you have a job? Create a schedule of your life commitments on a calendar app by first filling in the blocks of times with things that you know are nonnegotiable, such as a sport’s practice. Then fill in the blocks of time that you have commitments which are more flexible, such as your shift schedule for work. You can even use two different colors on a calendar to distinguish between nonnegotiable commitments and more flexible ones. All the time blocks not colored in are when you can have classes (keeping in mind you might be able to move your flexible commitments around if there is a MUST TAKE class only offered during those times). Tip: remember to consider travel and other transition time when creating this schedule.
Meet with your advisor
If you feel overwhelmed by the whole process of registering and creating a schedule for your classes, or just don’t understand what is even going on, talk with your advisor. Don’t know who your advisor is? Go to the advising department. Be honest with them. Tell them you feel really overwhelmed with the process, and ask if they can walk you through it. Advisors are experts in this stuff. Tip: keep in mind that most advisors require that you schedule appointments with them, and since it will be “registration season” they will probably be pretty booked up. So the more proactive you are about trying to meet with them, then better.
Check your school email
The most likely place that your school will give you information about registering is in your school email account. This information could include the time that registration is open for you, as well as general instructions. Tip: you should be consistently checking your school email account as a good practice
Do a degree audit
Most schools have an online function that creates a degree audit. A degree audit is a tool that takes into account the classes you have taken and your number of credits, and shows what classes you still need to take to complete your major. If you can’t find a degree audit tool on your school’s online interface, you should at least be able to find a degree worksheet. This would be a document that shows all the classes required for your major as well as the total number of credits you need to graduate. Use this degree worksheet or degree audit to help guide your decision of what classes you need to take. Tip: be aware of classes that you need for your major which are only offered in the spring or fall or even every other year.
Learn a little bit about the instructor
It can be helpful to know a little bit about the instructors of the classes that you are considering. If there is a class you need to take, and only one professor teaches that class, then it really doesn’t matter. However, if you’re trying to decided between classes, knowing something about the instructor can help guide your choice. Have an idea of your type of learning style, and the format of instruction that you learn best from. Email your potential professors with questions you have about their class. Also, talk to your peers who may have taken a class from a professor you are interested in taking a class from. They may have some good insight. Also, try checking out ratemyprofessor.com. Tip: just because you may hear bad things about a professor, doesn’t mean those things are fact. There are a lot of reasons why someone might give an instructor a bad review, and those reasons might not be factors for you.
Have second and third choices
When looking at potential classes and times for those classes, pick out your top choices. You should also pick out alternate options. There’s a strong likelihood that your top choice for a class is also many other student’s top choice, so the class might fill up quickly. Tip: have an alternate for each class you need to register for, but also be aware of time conflicts with your alternate choices as they won’t all work.
Be honest with yourself
It’s easy to get excited about new classes, especially if they are ones you are interested in. But don’t bite off more than you can chew. A good rule of thumb to remember is most classes require 1-2 hours of work outside of class per class (this is ON AVERAGE, some may require much more, and some much less). So, if you have a math class 3 days a week for an hour, that means at least 3 hours of homework outside of class, which means you are devoted to math 6 hours (at minimum) out of the week. Then, say you add in 2 more 3-credit classes. In total, with the math class that would be a minimum of 18 hours of work when you include time in class. That might not seem like much to you, but what if you also work a part time job? You will find that your time will begin to fill up quickly. Be realistic with yourself about how much time you have, and how much work classes require. Tip: use the calendar app that you used in the first bullet of this article to plan out study times outside of class.
If you don’t get into the class you need because it filled up too fast, or for some reason you are blocked from registering, don’t panic. Most schools have a system for waiting lists to get into classes. You might also try talking to the registrar or advising office to see if there is a system in which you can get signed into a closed class with the professor’s permission. Hopefully, you created a lot of alternate class options, so even if a couple of classes you wanted are closed, you still have back-ups. Tip: Remember that you are one of thousands trying to register. So, when you are talking to professors, the registrar, or advising office, try to be polite and humble.
Pay attention to the details
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
~ some classes are closed to students who are not majoring in the subject
~ pay attention to the campus the class is located at
~ pay attention to any special notes that are listed under the class description
~ find out what prerequisites are required for a class you want to take
~ try to register as soon as registration is open to you so you have to most chance at your preferred sections.