Tag Archives | course selection

Image by UBC Library Communicationson Flickr

Image by UBC Library Communicationson Flickr

One of the biggest mistakes an undergraduate can make (and most do) is to assume that once the academic term ends and you are physically removed from campus, you can mentally distance yourself as well. As much as we all might want to turn off and fall back into the summer routine of our youth, the one thing they never tell you is that even though you are not technically in the classroom (unless you elect to take summer school of course) that doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do. One not-so-pleasant way most institutions remind their students of this reality is by scheduling the designated time to select courses for the upcoming year right in the middle of this well-deserved break. Thanks to the internet, most of this process is now done remotely, but just because you can do it while lounging in your bed doesn’t mean that you should (or that it will be any less stressful). The key to course selection success is to prepare ahead of time. When your diploma is riding on admittance to certain classes, you are going to need more than luck to secure that last spot. You are, at the very least, going to need to avoid making these all too common mistakes.

1. Not Checking Your Program Requirements. No matter what discipline you have elected to study, there are going to be certain courses that are mandatory in order for you obtain your degree. The majority of these classes will fall in your first and second year and if you have chosen a double major or added a minor (or two), creating a workable schedule may require some creativity and compromise to achieve the right balance. However, don’t worry too much if you can’t fit everything in. Most programs have a bit of leeway and will allow you to take some of these courses in upper years when you will have more scheduling flexibility.

2. Ignoring the prerequisites. That said, often programs are structured in such a way that taking introductory courses paves the way to allow you to take more advanced classes in later years. Therefore, some courses may not be accessible until you have taken certain others (aka prerequisites). So before attempting to enroll in a course, especially if it is not in your year or area of study (e.g. any elective), always make sure that you have successfully completed all the mandatory prerequisites. The administration is usually very vigilant about this and despite what you have may heard from those who claim to have slipped under the radar, you can and usually will get kicked out. By the time this happens the rest of the classes you are actually able to take will likely be full.

3. Creating Only One Perfect Schedule. At most schools your first year courses are virtually selected for you, leaving most people woefully unprepared for the amount of choice they will have in the following years. However, as course selection gets more complex it puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the ability to tailor your class schedule to your interests and time preferences. Yet even if you are able to build the perfect timetable, you will have to come to terms with the fact that due to forces beyond your control, you may not be able to get into every class you want. The best way to avoid getting thrown off-balance if (when) this occurs is to prepare for such a scenario beforehand. Choosing decent just-in-case courses and making a few different but compatible schedules will allow you to approach the process with some much needed confidence.

4. Enrolling in Courses You SHOULD Take. Now this may seem like a contradiction considering the advice above, but what you need to realize early in your undergraduate career is that there is a big difference between courses you HAVE TO take and those you feel you SHOULD. As stated previously, in every program of study there are classes that are nonnegotiable – those are your HAVE TO courses. Your SHOULD courses are those that you may feel pressure to sign up for regardless of what you may really think about the class. This could be the class that all your friends are in, the one with the great professor or that everyone says is a real GPA booster. Regardless of reason, never take a course that doesn’t spark your interest. You will end up resenting it no matter what everyone else says and often your grades with suffer as a result. On the flip side, if you feel compelled to take a class that is known to be obscure, difficult, or boring, don’t let other people’s opinions sway you in a different direction. They don’t know you like you do.

5. Not Seeking a Second Opinion. While there is usually no downside to going with your gut, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t investigate your choices further. Learning as much as you can about the professor, the marking scheme, and the specific topics covered in the class is never a bad idea (an old syllabus is typically very helpful on all fronts). The more informed your decision, is the happier you are likely to be with it by the middle of the semester. While friends and classmates are usually good primary sources, their own personal bias may get in the way of them being able to give you the objective assessment you need. In the end, a simple Google or Reddit search may be enough to solidify your selection or push you to look for an alternative.

Image by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography, Flickr

Image by Texas A&M University-Commerce Marketing Communications Photography, Flickr

Summer is almost half over and school is right around the corner, which means more studying, more exams, and more assignments. Before you get to all of that, you’ll have to choose your classes. Some of you have probably already gone through this process and are now registered in your selected classes. Whether you are already prepared or haven’t even thought about the next year of school, the following tips will hopefully guide you toward choosing courses that you are satisfied with and work best for you.

1. Check your start time for course enrollment.

First things first—make sure you have the correct time and date noted for the start of course selection. Some schools such as the University of Western Ontario have already begun the process of admitting students in classes through web registration. Other institutions such as the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto require students to check their start time during a certain period as well as actually enroll in classes during that start time. Faculties often differ on their dates and requirements for course registration, so make sure to double check with your faculty.

2. Check any requirements that need to be fulfilled.

Each faculty as well as any major, minor, or specialist program needs a number of different categories to be fulfilled or classes to be taken. In addition to this are the requirements for a degree laid out by the school at large. For example, the Faculty of Arts and Science at U of T requires students to fulfill a Breadth Requirement, meaning that students have to take classes in 5 different categories including “Society and Its Institutions” and “The Physical and Mathematical Universes.” Make sure to choose classes that fulfill both the requirements of your specific program as well as any more general requirements.

3. Create multiple schedules with back-up courses.

Many of you might have a list of classes in mind that you would love to take. However, many classes fill up quickly and have a limited number of seats available. As a result, a good idea would be to have back-up classes on hand in case your plans don’t pan out. Make sure you think you’ll like or at least don’t mind these classes—you don’t want to be stuck studying something you hate. In addition, create schedules for both your ideal classes and your back-up ones—they create a great visual, as selecting courses for different time slots can get confusing. This way you can also make sure that there are no scheduling conflicts, and it is easy to see how a typical week will go once school actually starts.

4. Keep your plans for after the summer in mind.

Some of you may have extracurriculars or a job during the school year, or plan on getting involved with activities outside of school. If this is the case, be sure to take on a reasonable course load that will hopefully make it easier to balance the different aspects of your life. If you have a job, are the head of a club, and want to have time for friends and family, don’t take on a maximum course load if you think it’ll be too much for you.

5. Check for information about potential classes or professors.

There are resources online through which you can learn more about courses you want to take. Websites such as CourseMate provide ratings from students on things such as course workload. Some schools also collect student evaluations of courses that are then compiled into information for future students. For example, the Anti-Calendar produced by the Arts and Science Students’ Union at U of T is a collection of evaluations on courses and instructors in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Another site for information on instructors is Rate My Professors.

The sheer number of classes available may seem overwhelming at first, but with good planning it can become much easier. Good luck, and hopefully you’ll get the courses and professors you want!