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.
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.
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.
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):
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.