Striking the balance between number of small class and large lectures can make all the difference.
In most high schools, classes are fairly standard. To make yourself competitive academically for college, the general guideline is to take four years of English and mathematics, with at least three years of science, social studies and a foreign language. Then you usually have a few electives you get to pick along the way.
However, by the time you get to college, it’s a whole new ballgame. Colleges and universities vary with amounts of required courses, recommended courses and take-any-class-we-offer-or-even-make-your-own. Either way, there’s much more variety at your college than there was at your high school. Navigating this can be tricky for even the most savvy senior. Here’s four tips for the curious freshman.
Size does matter
Small classes and big classes both have their perks. Small classes give an incredible advantage to get to know your professors and classmates, and they practically guarantee personalized attention. If you have the opportunity to take a freshman seminar, or first-year-only course, you should definitely check it out. However, taking many small classes can be very demanding.
Classes of 100 or 200 people can be just as informative as a class of 10 or 20, but you probably won’t have to know all the material for every class. Skipping the reading for a week might be dangerous, but skipping for a day or two will be fine, especially if you have an exam in another course.
Size matters, and balance is key — too many small courses can be very hard, and too many big courses can leave you without personal contact with professors. Find the balance that is right for you and go for it.
Cover your bases
Especially if you are not sure exactly what you want to study, look at the requirements for various majors you might be interested in, and see which classes stretch furthest. See which courses are applicable to the most majors you’re interested in and enroll in some that look entertaining in your first year. If you’re not sure what you want to study, you might also use your school’s “shopping period,” or any spare time at the beginning of the semester to sit in on more advanced courses within a major — go see if that Complex Function Theory class gets you going, or you might be into Gnosticism. This legwork will give you more of an idea of which professors are good and which classes you’re interested in.
It’s all in the timing
Pay careful attention to what you need in terms of sleeping hours and time between classes. This all just depends on what you like, but if you KNOW you’re never going to get up in the morning, schedule your classes accordingly. If you’re a morning person who loves an afternoon nap, load up on a.m. classes.
It might seem tempting to give yourself long weekends. You could even theoretically schedule all your classes during two days during the week, but be careful with this strategy — those days could get very stressful very quickly. Balance your schedule during your first semester and figure out what you really need.
Know the deadlines
You never know when you might want to switch out of a class to a different one, add another class, change something to pass/fail or drop a class altogether. Make sure you keep track of all the deadlines — you never know when that English or chemistry class might not be what you bargained for.
There is a lot to figure out when you first step foot on campus, from where your dorm room is to who your friends are going to be. Picking the right classes can be a huge headache, but if you keep these tips in mind, hopefully it’ll be a little easier.
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