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Smart Tips for Scheduling Your College Classes

June 5th, 2008 admin

Setting up my class schedule always stressed me out-would I get the classes I wanted, at the times I wanted? Would I have time to get my homework done, and have a job? Here are my top 5 tips to make your class schedule the best it can be. (This might be a little early since it’s just the opening of summer, but for since some schools make you set up your classes over the summer anyway, I thought I should get these tips out ASAP!)

  1. Sign Up for an Extra Class. Every quarter, I signed up for one extra class (I usually took 4 classes, so I signed up for 5). The first week, I went to all 5 classes, picked the one I liked the least (because it seemed too hard, the professor was weird, the topic was boring, or whatever) and dropped it. That way I had an easy out of one class: I didn’t get stuck with something I didn’t like and still had the credits I needed. [Note: Commenter Elizabeth shared that her registrar’s office penalizes if they feel you are abusing the registration process, so be sure to check your school’s add/drop policy!]
  2. Back-to-Back or Hours Apart? Decide ahead whether you can handle back-to-back classes or if you’ll need more than a 10-minute passing period between.  Some students feel pressured rushing from building to building in the passing period because they don’t know the campus, or find it hard to keep focused with one class after another. Others like to get all their classes over with in one fell swoop and use the rest of the day for work, study, and socializing instead.  If you do schedule you classes with extra in-between time, use it to review your notes from the class you just took. According to Strategies for Success, “extensive studies have shown that one’s recall rises immediately after a learning period, such as a lecture, and then declines rapidly until after about twenty-four hours, recall has diminished by about 80%. However, the decline in recall can be dramatically reduced if one reinforces the learning by a short review within one hour.” Translation: Shorter studying time later! You can also use the extra time to do homework, grab a snack, or get to know the campus better.
  3. Take Some Fun/Easy Classes. All through your pre-college school days your schedule revolved around the requirements-college is your turn to call the shots. Take at least a couple fun or easy classes in subjects you’ve always wanted to take (as long as you can keep up with your major). One of my favorite classes was a Pass/No Pass class in Gospel Choir-it was easy, relaxed, fun, and had a very enthusiastic professor. I looked forward to it every week.
  4. Don’t Schedule Classes You’ll Sleep Through. No matter how devoted you are to BioChem, you’re not going to get much out of it if you fall asleep in class-or worse, if you don’t even get out of bed. Be realistic when you’re scheduling your classes. If you’re going to skip anything before 9, set your classes up for 9:30 or later!
  5. Block Out the Rest of Your Day. When you’re setting up your class schedule, plan out how the rest of your life will work in around your classes. Give yourself time to go out with friends, have a part-time job, do homework and study, and set aside time for these things on your calendar-in writing. You can always move your activities around later, but figuring them out early will help you wrap your mind around everything that has to get done in a single day.

These 5 things helped me make a pretty good (sometimes great!) schedule every quarter. If you do nothing else, I definitely recommend that you take action on Tip #1 – sign up for an extra class. It gives you so much freedom to know you can drop one of your classes without falling below your credit requirements!

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photo: White clock by Fenix

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Paul  |  August 3rd, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Great advice. I wish I had been able to sign up for more classes, but most of my options were already full by the time I was able to sign up.

  • 2. Britt  |  August 5th, 2008 at 1:01 am

    terrible advice… what about work, budgets and difficult classes?

  • 3. Jamie  |  August 5th, 2008 at 8:14 am

    @ Paul: Thanks for the compliment. And I know what you mean about having few options–that happened to me often as a freshman & sophomore. I usually tried to prepare an alternate schedule of classes every time I registered–that seemed to help.

    @ Britt: I did address work in #5, and I’m not sure what tips you’re looking for about difficult classes. I’d be happy to add more if you have questions. Also, not sure how budgeting relates to your class schedule? If you’re worried about signing up for an extra class, as long as you drop the extra quickly, most schools will refund you the charge for it.

  • 4. Solo  |  August 9th, 2008 at 9:15 am

    good advice, but it depends on what you are majoring.

  • 5. Jamie  |  August 11th, 2008 at 8:07 am

    @ Solo: True, some majors are more demanding than others (so for example, fun classes might not be so much of an option), but you can still sign up for an extra class and drop one–this is especially helpful with tough majors, because you’ll notice that teachers have different styles of teaching the same course. You may hate a genetics course taught by one professor, but love it when it’s taught by another.

  • 6. Mel  |  August 13th, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I like the idea of having an extra class but my school likes to tell it’s freshman that to many “W”s (withdrawls) look bad on you when you to get a job later. Can you look into this? Are they just lying?

  • 7. Allan  |  August 13th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    #4 is the only useful one. ALWAYS schedule back to back classes. Do you really wanna be in class all day? also, wtf is there to do for like an hour and a half while you wait for your next one to start…

  • 8. Jamie  |  August 14th, 2008 at 8:25 am

    @ Mel”: At UCSD the policy was that you had about 2 weeks to drop a class without anything (including a W) going on your record. They included the deadline on the calendar every quarter. I always dropped my extra class before the deadline, so it never earned me a W. I’d ask the registrar or check your college’s course website.

    @ Allan: Sorry you didn’t find many of these useful, but I’m glad you liked #4. As to back-to-back classes, a lot of students find that the longer they’re in class the harder it is to focus on the lecture. Time in between classes is a great time to study, catch up on homework you should have done yesterday, eat lunch, etc. But if it doesn’t work for you, the solution is easy: don’t do it. These are just suggestions.

  • 9. Mel  |  August 14th, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Thanks a lot Jamie, I revisited my schools website and it turns out we have two weeks before any thing shows up as a “W” The thing is they don’t really mention that to the freshman. I’m glad that into my second year they school is much less over bearing.

    I personally prefer back to back classes, I would much rather take three classes back to back and be finished before 4 pm than have classes all day wasting away precious time! I’m the type of person that if I have enough time to go back to my dorm between classes I usually take a nap and forget to go to the rest of the classes. So to combat that I’ve been scheduling myself back to back classes since my second semester. It’s worked out well. Then again different things work for different people. I had to learn how to discipline myself.

  • 10. Lydia  |  September 8th, 2008 at 4:16 am

    Id like to mix day with back to back classes and days with spaced out classes (not too spaced out though). Just want to slip in a little lunch

    Extra class wise, my university has a maximum number of classes(unit of credit, we call it) you can take per semester. If you want to overload, you have to go through getting permission from head of department, schools etc…

  • 11. abbie  |  March 2nd, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    This really helped me, i always struggle with how to set up a schedule that was workable and that I liked. I never even thought about adding an extra class, that really helps. It’s a lot less stressful when you know that there’s at least one class that you can drop.

  • 12. Twin XL  |  May 5th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I agree with Britt, not the greatest advice when you consider all the other factors going into these types of decisions

  • 13. Mandie  |  September 21st, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    There’s a great website that helps with planning your schedule called It used to be pick-a-prof, but they upgraded it and made it way better. It lets you go through all potential degree options, research different classes, get professor reviews and grade histories.. basically, AWESOME for getting your college life together. I definitely recommend checking it out.

  • 14. College Tips on Schedulin&hellip  |  December 14th, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    […] way you plan your breaks can make or break your chances of success in college, and this is what Surviviing College Life explains in the following passage: Decide ahead whether you can handle back-to-back classes or if […]

  • 15. Elizabeth  |  May 12th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Actually it is not a good idea to register for an extra class that you did not plan on registering for just in case. You could end up stealing that class from someone needs it more i.e. its required for their major, they can only take it at a certain time, etc. Its the same thing as holding a class for another student then dropping it – most registration offices do not approve of this and if caught you could be penalized.

  • 16. Jamie  |  May 18th, 2011 at 8:17 am

    @Elizabeth: I agree, you shouldn’t sign up for a class you don’t need to take just for the sake of having an extra class–I only signed up for courses that I needed for a graduation requirement, and if I felt the workload was too much, I would drop one.

    Thanks also for the tip about penalization–I have never heard of that policy before.

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