8 Tips for Choosing College Classes

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The Choice Is Yours Regarding What Classes to Take in College

Picking classes in college is different than in high school. For one thing, colleges can offer hundreds, even thousands, of classes. And college students usually have to plan their own schedules. Here are some strategies to help you choose your classes.

1. Check Out Your Options for Your Course Track

Familiarize yourself with the available courses prior to meeting with your adviser. During your first and second years, you’ll take many of your required core classes. However, you’ll also have space for elective courses. This is an opportunity for you to take courses that spark your interest.

2. Visit Your College Adviser 

Colleges have advisers to assist students with the selection of their courses and to make sure they’re on track to satisfy their degree requirements. Try to meet with your adviser before registering for classes to receive guidance on what courses to take your first year. Show up for the meeting with a list of questions. 

3. Ask Others About Courses

Talk to students who’ve taken courses you’re interested in. They can give offer insight into the class and the professors, and they can give you tips on how to be successful. While you’re at it, ask your fellow students to suggest good classes to take. You can set up appointments with professors who teach the courses you want to take and ask questions.

4. Create a Schedule That Works for You

If you want to be a full-time student, expect to take at least 12 credit hours per semester. This breaks down into four courses, each worth three credit hours. You’ll be able to choose courses offered morning, afternoon, or evening. Some schools offer courses online in addition to in person. Some courses occur daily while others take place two or three times a week. Consider the time you’ll need for studying, work, and extracurricular activities when creating your schedule. 

5. Get Your Degree Requirements Out of the Way

During your first two years, you'll take required courses before diving into your major courses later on. When you meet with your adviser, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your core requirements are, and plot out when you’ll take each one.

6. College Credit, Advanced Placement, or Both Lessen Class Load

If you've taken AP or IB classes, find out if you can use them to fulfill any core requirements before you register. You can also be placed in a more advanced course by scoring well on a college placement exam.

7. Maintain Balance with Course Load

You may want to jump into difficult courses or sign up for a heavy course load right away. But keep in mind that college courses require more time and effort than high school classes. One of the most valuable college schedule tips to remember is to start with a course load you can handle. This helps you set yourself up for success. 

8. Register for Classes as Soon as Registration Opens

The earlier you register, the more likely you’ll get classes you want. Also, if a problem comes up along the way, you'll have more time to deal with it. But regardless of how early you register, make sure you have a list of backup classes. That way, you'll have alternatives if some of your first choices are no longer available.

What Should Be Your Next Step?

Need help once classes start? Visit College Course Work: Help Is Available. Interested in special college classes and programs, such as study abroad or honors classes? Read Special College Programs.


Can you choose any class in college?

Yes and no. First- and second-year students are required to take a certain number of core courses. But they may be able to choose from several options to fulfill that requirement. Moving into junior and senior year, many students have completed the required courses. As a result, they have even more course options available to them.

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How are college classes chosen?

First- and second-year students typically take a mix of core requirements and electives. Students will then usually take courses within their major during their junior and senior years. It’s best to work with your college adviser to make sure you select the correct courses. 

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How many college classes should I take per semester?

You usually need to take at least 12 credit hours per semester to qualify as a full-time college student. Twelve credit hours usually translates to four courses worth three credits a piece. Some students take more than 12 credit hours a semester. The number of classes you take per semester depends on the course plan you've mapped out to earn your degree and any elective classes you decide to attend.

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Is it better to have early or late classes in college?

The answer to this question depends on your course schedule and preferences. If you have several classes in one day, it may be better to sign up for early classes. Having an early class schedule means you can use your afternoons and evenings to do homework and study. But, if you focus better in the mid-afternoon or late afternoon, you may prefer classes held later in the day. Remember, you don't always get to take classes at your preferred time.

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How early should I show up to class in college?

It's a good idea to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for your college classes. If your classroom is empty, you can choose a preferred seat and organize your class materials. Taking the time to review your homework or notes is also helpful before class begins. Being an early bird gives you a bit of time to relax and get in the right mindset to learn.

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