You know you’ve been putting it off–and who wouldn’t? Registering for classes can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know the ropes. The best thing to do before you ever begin is to see your advisor. There are better strategies than just choosing a class blindly and hoping it works. Having been a student (and now a professor), I have seen both sides of the registering process and I’m here to help! Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a course.
1. Do you need this course? Is it in your degree plan? Every degree plan should be listed on your school’s website. Check it out first. Don’t see the class? If not, don’t sign up. Unless, of course you are a gazillionare and have money to burn. Sure, the pottery class seems fun but it’s an expensive hobby. Who wouldn’t be impressed with a “History of Beyonce” class? Sign me up! Ok not really. Make sure the class is needed!
2. After deciding the course is necessary, look at the time it’s offered. For core classes like English and Math, they are usually offered multiple times.Decide what day works best. It might be your first instinct to sign up for a Tues/Thurs class or one that only meets on Monday nights. For working students, this time frame works well. It’s a long class, though, usually lasting at least 2 hours. That’s tough after you’ve been working all day.
Once a week classes might be great for some students, but before you choose this option, think about it. If it only meets once a week, there’s going to be a lot of material covered and if you miss, you could be behind the rest of the semester. When I taught composition that only met Monday nights, we had an essay or major assignment due almost every single class time. There’s not much choice here.
3. Now it’s time to decide what time you want to go to class. If you stay up all night playing Call of Duty (no judgement!) then it’s probably not the best idea to sign up for an 8:00 class. Early classes work best for morning people with no obligations at that time. For example, some students sign up for this class time without keeping in mind morning traffic, parking issues and errands they might have already committed to (taking their own kids to school). This becomes stressful.
If you are not a morning person, don’t do it. You’ll have trouble being on time at the very least. At worst, you won’t be able to focus at all and you’ll sit in the back, the only meaningful contribution you’ll give is a glassy-eyed zombie stare and morning breath. It’s not enough to just warm a chair. To learn you must participate, and night owls don’t do well in the early morning.
The same goes for morning people in night classes. While it might seem tempting to take that 2:00 class, students mentally check out after lunch. I can’t tell you how gross it is to see down your throat as you repeatedly yawn, attempting to keep your eyes open unsuccessfully.
4. Ok so we’ve got the day and time narrowed down. What about finding a good fit in a professor? Professors are just people, after all, and we come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. You can check Rate My Professor if you want, but take it with a grain of salt. Many bad reviews are written by students who never showed for class and then were surprised when they failed. Of course, if everyone gives the professor a good review, that should mean something. It’s the same if they all give a bad review. Try to read between the lines. If someone writes “She makes us do too much writing” and the class is a writing class, well…that seems like a crazy complaint. If all students say about a professor is “He’s so HOT!” and don’t remark about the teacher’s actual ability to teach, there could be a problem. Think about what you want from your college experience. By skating by on basic classes, you may feel that you are getting away with something, but when you get to the upper level classes that build on your previous experience and you don’t have any…this can catch up with you.
5. More and more, online options are available. While it’s tempting to sign up for all online classes, but be sure you are ready. Some students think that online classes are easier and take less time. This is not always the case. Many students sign up for these classes without the necessary computer knowledge. You have to be pretty computer savvy to take online classes. If you want to take online classes, it’s best to take a computer class first. If you are naturally good with computers, then go for it!
6. Read the syllabi. Teachers post them early, and you can usually read past ones as well. You’ll get a good feel for how they grade, how many assignments are due, and what’s important to the instructor. If she writes “Attendance is a must” and you tend to miss a lot, this instructor is not for you. In fact, college might not be right for you at all.
Remember that college instructors have our jobs because we were once students. We love our subject and are not here for the pay. We do want you to succeed in our class, and we love giving As. But it’s got to come from you!
See you on the first day of class!