For Freshmen: Picking your Classes (Now and Later)

This time last year, as an incoming freshman at IU Bloomington, I attended orientation and quickly realized that I had no idea what classes to take. I, of course, wanted that coveted spot in History of Rock and Roll, but more importantly, I had no idea what to take for my major. "What if all the classes I need are full and I get stuck in useless classes? Does a late orientation date mean that I won't have a choice of classes"? Choosing classes was possibly the most stressful part of my summer last year (and continues to be stressful every time scheduling comes around). It makes you realize how much you have to accomplish before you graduate and the stress of "What if the class I need is full"?! never goes away. Worst of all, it makes you wonder if you're really doing what you want with your life.

So what can you do? Is there anything to do?

First off, know what the scheduling procedures are. Seniors always scheduled first, then juniors, and so on. But here's the trick: The more credits you have, the sooner you get to register. For example, if you have enough credits to be considered a sophomore as a freshman, you register with the sophomores. Do those couple of days make a difference? You bet! Every day makes a difference when scheduling classes. This hierarchy will affect you throughout your time at IU and it means if you brought in credits from high school, you're already ahead of the game. This will help you when it is time for spring semester scheduling.

So, what if your orientation date is late?

The fact is some classes will fill up. From fun classes, like History of Rock and Roll, to the harder requirements, like Chem C117, classes fill up fast. But should you just go to a class you're wait listed for during the first week in hopes you'll get in? If you're within the first ten on the waiting list, go for it because you might have a chance. But if you are the 76th person on that waiting list, you're not going to get in this semester. Maybe that's harsh, but I am being honest. So what do you do when this happens? Look at what your degree requires and take another class that'll help you. 

There are so many requirements for each major, so what do you take and when?

For many people, going to advisors is a joke. They walk in and nod and smile at whatever they say, then leave and do what they want anyway. I am not excluding myself from this. But others stick EXACTLY to what advisors say and don't know how others do it. Here are my tips for choosing classes, whether you're discussing things with your advisor or not (during ANY semester):

  1. MAKE A LIST OF WHAT YOU NEED TO GRADUATE
    Just make a list so you know what  you have to take. Want to be a real star? Make a chart of classes to take each semester, complete with total credit hours and options for other classes you could take. It'll impress your advisor (and get you out faster) and, since you keep it saved on your computer, you can change the chart easily as your plans change.
  2. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
    You can take whatever classes you want, but you have to schedule FOR YOU, not your advisor. Can you take physics, chemistry, and math all in one semester? Sure. Can you take them all, do well, and not break down? That's for you to decide. I personally think you're setting yourself up for a pretty miserable semester, but if you think you can do it, more power to you.
  3. CONSIDER YOUR OPTIONS
    Most people switch majors when they get to college. I guess I'm an anomaly in that I decided to simply add a major instead of switching. Either way, it's important to know that you CAN change your mind and that's alright! Also, think about what YOU want to do with your life, not what your parents or friends want you to do because, in the end, you're the one that has to live that life.

There is no one right way to approach scheduling classes, so I suggest you find what works for you. I will say taking a fun class first semester, along with easier requirements, helps you get adjusted to college. For example, I took Archeology of the Movies (P240 and I HIGHLY highly recommend it) my very first semester, along with a bunch of intro-level courses which let me have the freedom to socialize and make friends in the first semester, which is very important. I stepped it up with harder classes second semester and now, entering sophomore year, I'll be tackling 18 credit hours.

In conclusion, I would just like to say that, yes, choosing classes can be difficult and stressful. It can make you want to cry. Just take a deep breath, step back, and consider what you want to take versus what you can manage. That is really the trick to scheduling, at least for me.

Here are a few more articles from other students that you might find helpful.

About The Author
Christen HelouGeology and Biology Major, Class of 2016

I'm officially majoring in geology at IU Bloomington, but I'll be adding biology this year, along with minors in animal behavior and chemistry. I will also be getting my scuba diving certification. I love reading, playing harp, and hanging out with my amazing friends!