Registering for classes is honestly one of the most stressful few minutes you’ll ever deal with in college, and people aren’t kidding when they compare it to the Hunger Games. Unless you’re lucky enough to snag the first round of registration slots, you’ll be biting your nails waiting to see if the classes you want fill up before you even get to register.
I have to admit though, I kind of love the feeling of planning out my next semester and figuring out what classes I’ll be taking. This will be my fifth semester registering, so after dealing with practically every registration issue imaginable, here are some tips for creating the perfect class schedule (or at least attempting to)!
Create your four-year plan before anything else
You might not know exactly what classes you want to take 3 years from now, but having a general idea of what each semester you’ll be taking looks like will make it so much easier to plan individual semesters. Pull out your degree’s requirements and divide those classes, along with any others you’re interested in taking, into however many semesters you plan on completing (usually 8).
The most important thing to consider here is prerequisites! Some classes require you to take anywhere from one to three classes before enrolling in them, which can totally screw up your plan if you schedule a class before scheduling its prereqs. When I’m writing out my 4-year plan, I generally take note of any prereqs required next to each class so I know not to move that class any earlier in my schedule.
The same goes for general education classes like history, literature, calculus, or government. Students sometimes get so focused on their major’s classes that they completely overlook their degree’s basic requirements, and end up realizing they can’t graduate because they forgot to take an English class. It’s totally okay to push some of these classes off until your last semesters, but make sure you have that in your plan!
A general rule of thumb is to keep the hours you take each semester to a max of 16, but that depends entirely on the difficulty of the classes taking up those hours. I had a 13 hour semester that turned out to be way harder than my 17 hour one, so what you should really be considering is balancing difficulty. Don’t put 5 difficult courses in one semester just so you can have two super easy semesters, you will regret it!
Finally, try to account for any mishaps that might happen along the way. For example, I don’t recommend filling up your final semester with 17+ hours, because if you have to drop a class in an earlier semester, you might run out of room to take it later on! Leave at least one class’ worth of buffer room in your last semester/year to take care of that possibility.
Get your prereq classes out of the way ASAP
Like I mentioned earlier, keeping track of which classes have prerequisites is super important! Even if it means filling up your first and second year schedules a little more than you’d like, getting all of your prerequisites out of the way early on opens up tons of opportunities when it’s time to take upper division classes. You’ll have a lot more freedom to take the classes you want, when you want to take them, and you’ll also be less likely to fall behind if you’re not having to push back classes until you finally get their prereqs done.
Talk to older students about their class/professor experiences
Professors can make or break your class (and grade), so talking to older students about which professors are the best can seriously change how well your semester goes. A few important factors to consider are:
- How well do they teach? Do they read off PowerPoints, write on the board, lecture only?
- What’s the grading system like? Is attendance part of the grade? Do they grade harshly? Do they offer extra credit?
- How difficult are their tests? Homework? Are the tests multiple choice, short answer, essay style?
- Are they genuinely interested in their students’ success? Are they helpful in office hours? Are they friendly?
- Will I learn a lot in that class? If it’s an easy class, will I actually learn anything?
If you’re in a science/engineering major, you’ll also want to take account for how much time is required outside of class for labs. Older students are the perfect resources for getting more info about this, and can usually tell you which classes don’t pair well together, or which classes you should schedule out a lot of extra time for.
Plan out your schedule on MyEdu
This website is seriously a godsend. It’s my go-to class scheduling website, and if you’re not using it yet, you need to for your own sanity. Basically, MyEdu pulls in data from your school’s course schedule and allows you to plan out a personal, visual schedule based on what classes are available. For example, here’s my tentative schedule for next semester:
You’re able to select exactly which section of a class you want to take, as well as which professor you want to take it with. Because MyEdu is so popular, there are also tons of student-made reviews about most professors that make it easy to choose which one to take, along with past grade distributions from that professor’s classes:
I love playing around with different section times and days until I find my perfect schedule (like that three day weekend!), and it’s also a lot easier to visualize how packed certain days might be so you don’t over-schedule yourself.
Have a good mix of classes
As an engineering major, it’s not uncommon for me to plan out a schedule and realize it’s entirely composed of science and math classes. That can get overwhelming very quickly, which is why I always try to have at least one class that’s different, like a general education class (history, government, literature, etc.). This goes the same for someone taking all writing/reading classes who might want to add in a math or science class!
Unless you’re an early morning person, DON’T SCHEDULE 8AMS!
I’m not kidding, if you’re not okay with waking up at 7am every morning (as in you actually have experience doing that, not “once I get to college I’m going to be a morning person!), don’t take 8ams, or even 9ams. They’re one of the worst ways to ruin a schedule, because despite how optimistic you may be now, after a few weeks of taking them you’ll either be sleeping through every class or dreading the idea of going to school every morning, both of which are exactly what you don’t want. Being in class until 5 or 6 really isn’t as bad as it sounds, especially if you live on or very close to campus.
Consider how long you can handle sitting in class
Some people can’t deal with being in class for more than two hours at once, while others can go through a full 7 hours and be fine. Personally, I prefer scheduling the majority or all of my classes on either MWF or TTH and having the opposite days free to work, sleep, or get any other business done. I have to admit, not having class every other day has made this semester one of my favorite so far, because as soon as a class day is over I can actually relax. It also gives me tons of time to study for tests, and I can afford to put off homework until the day before.
For some students, the idea of a full day of classes is extremely off-putting, and that’s okay! You might be better off having one or two classes each day, sort of like an A/B schedule. This way lets you balance class difficulty between days, so you can possibly get all of your hard classes out of the way at the beginning of the week so Thursday and Friday still feel like a breeze.
Think twice before scheduling back-to-back classes
I’m obviously not the best at avoiding these (see schedule above), but that’s because I know I’m personally capable of sitting in class for that long and getting to each on time. But if you
- Have a large campus with lots of distance between classes
- Tend to fall asleep in class towards the end of the day
- Need a long lunch break
then back-to-back classes probably aren’t for you. Also consider that some professors will count you as absent just for showing up a few minutes late, so check out your potential professor’s syllabus to make sure that won’t be an issue!
Have back up classes!
No matter how much time you’ve spent planning out your seemingly perfect schedule, there’s always the chance that one of your classes will fill up. Seriously, expect for that to happen (it’s happened to me every semester for reference). You should always have a back up class (or two) just in case. Whether that be a different section time/day or a different class entirely, make sure it’s something that will still get your closer to completing your degree. I like to make a list of extra section numbers for all of my classes so I don’t have to go searching anywhere during those crucial seconds of registration.
Set a million alarms before your registration time, and be prepared
If your school does registration like mine (aka if you’re not refreshing the registration page every 2 seconds your class will fill up before you enter your first section number), prepare to feel stressed when your time comes around. I make a whole event out of registration, making sure I have alarms set to wake myself up on time and setting up anything I could possibly need like my back-up class list, a laptop charger, and potentially a friend’s laptop just in case my WiFi decides to cut out (that’s definitely happened). You’ll also want to have any tabs you might need open, like the course schedule and MyEdu.
Everything is (usually) over within 30 seconds if you plan everything out well, so being organized is essential. I like to keep a note open on my laptop with each of my course numbers listed out so I can easily copy and paste them while registering. You might think I’m crazy, but I’ve actually missed out on getting into a class by seconds. That said, prioritize which classes you plan on adding so you can increase your chances of getting into the most essential ones. For example, if two classes are co-requisites (meaning you need to take them at the same time), add those ones first!
There’s always the chance that your perfect schedule won’t turn out to be so perfect. Don’t let that get you down! Waitlists are beautiful things that often get you into classes you missed out on within a few days, and it’s pretty much guaranteed that in the first week of school, a number of seats will open up as people drop out of difficult classes. Scheduling isn’t over until registration is literally closed off (usually after two weeks of classes starting), so keep checking back for class openings and make the most of add/drop periods!
Do you have any registration horror stories? Share them below along with any advice you have for new students!