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College on Tap: Easing In

By Claire Salinas

The beginning of the semester is an exhilarating time for college students. Making a schedule, buying new notebooks, and submitting class schedules at work are all part of the exciting buzz that comes with starting a new semester.

Despite all their preparation, students often find themselves plagued with low morale halfway through the semester. The material they were once excited to dive into now seems disenchanting.

While preparing for the semester it’s easy for students to glaze over what ends up being one of the most important determining factors of their success, choosing the right classes.

It may seem like simply following the curriculum plan and advice from your advisors and professors is enough, but choosing the right classes each semester is an art that isn’t mastered without a little outside help.

1. Ratemyprofessor.com

The first tried and true tool you can access to help you choose the right classes is ratemyprofessor.com. This site is essentially like reading a dating profile for professors. Not everything you read will be completely true, but it will give you a general idea of what that professor is like.

When you read these reviews try to pick up on what type of personality the professor has and what types of assignments they give.

This will give you an idea of the course load you can expect this semester as well as the type of person you will be dealing with. It’s a whole lot easier for me to come to class to listen to an upbeat, interesting professor then someone who would clearly rather be in their office researching then wasting their time teaching me.

2.  Overlapping Classes

Another strategy for picking stellar classes this semester is choosing classes that overlap in material. For example, if you know Biology and Science Writing are both classes in your curriculum, you can take them at the same time and use what you’re learning in biology to complete assignments in your science writing class. I took advantage of this principle during a semester when I was taking a coding class and an independent study with the same professor. Since we were going over a lot of the same concepts in both classes, he was able to waive a few of my assignments in the independent study.

3.  Get an old syllabus

Another way you can make sure you’re choosing the best classes for this semester is by emailing the teacher directly to get a copy of last semester’s syllabus.

I’ll never forget the time I signed up for a Media Criticism class because I assumed it would be an easy elective to take during one of my hardest semesters in college. All my classmates bragged how all they did was watch movies and write papers for the class, so I chose the same professor they took and figured I was set. On the first day of class we were informed that this would be a debate class centering around issues in the media, and our grade would be based on our classmates’ and professor’s opinion of our arguments. What I thought would be an easy class ended up taking a lot of my time and being a detriment to my grades in some of the most important classes in my major.

Contacting the professor ahead of time can allow you to get a preview of how they’re planning for the class to function, and help you avoid the blunder I made. If they don’t have a syllabus ready to send you, you can still get an idea of what the class will be like by asking some basic questions about assignments and expectations.

4. Timing your courses

One last tip for picking classes that fit your schedule this year is to look over your curriculum to make sure you’re taking classes based on when they are offered. Especially if some of your major courses require prerequisites it may be a good idea to get those out of the way. I used my freshmen year to take some publishing and communication classes so I would be ready to enter my upper level classes when the time came. Another tip to remember is that while general classes like English and Biology 101 are usually offered every semester, some classes are only offered every few semesters or on a trial basis. This can be especially true with newer classes, so if you see a new class being advertised that you know you don’t want to graduate college without, go ahead and jump on the bandwagon, because it may not be offered again.

Something my pastor always said growing up was that five minutes of preparation saves fifteen minutes of perspiration.

Keeping these tips in mind while choosing your classes can certainly save you a lot of perspiration throughout the semester.

The biggest tip to remember for starting this semester off right is to never be afraid to ask. The worst thing you can be told is no.

College on Tap is DIG’s weekly guide to surviving on campus. Send ideas, comments, or criticisms to Claire Salinas @claire_ify_

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