Five key things you can do to pick the best classes for you at IU

The schedule of classes for the fall semester comes out in mid-March every year. It's always difficult to choose classes for any student, regardless of what we study or our priorities. I have provided a list of resources that I find helpful when I pick my own classes, and if you're having difficulties, hopefully this will help you.

1. Look for courses in the schedule of classes

When the schedule of classes comes out, it's time to look through it. The nice thing about the schedule of classes on this website is that all courses are listed under the department in which the courses are offered. It also gives you the amount of seats open, the professor and a short description. This webpage is mainly useful to get an overview of what the different departments are offering.

2. See your advisor

You do see your advisor in the beginning of freshman year, but beyond that I didn't see them much. However, the few times I went were invaluable. They are an extremely useful resource when it comes to figuring out how to fulfill requirements, not just within your own major, but the requirements within your college. When I was struggling how to fulfill all my minor requirements as well as the College of Arts & Sciences requirements last semester, I went to see two different academic advisors and they basically solved all my problems. Seriously, they are underrated.

3. The Student Center

Access the Student Center through OneStart. The Student Center has two very useful components. First of all, you can look through your academic advisement report and see what requirements you have fulfilled and not fulfilled. Directions: (My Academics & Grades -> View My Advisement Report -> choose "AAR - Academic Advisement Report"). The most useful thing about the Student Center is the search function when you press "search for classes." This function lets you search for very specific things that are incredibly convenient when you're trying to find courses that fulfill general education (GenEd) or college requirements. When you have inserted your institution and  term and course career, you can specify things like "GenEd World Culture credit" and what days and times of the week you would like. I have used this many times when I've found the courses I most want to take, and need to take one or two extra that fulfill other requirements.

4. Ratemyprofessors.com

Ratemyprofessors.com is a useful source if you know how to use it. When you read reviews on ratemyprofessors.com, you need to take it with a grain of salt. If everyone agrees that a professor is outstanding, you can usually rest assured that it's probably accurate. However, in my experience some students give bad reviews because they:

  1. got bad grades,
  2. are experiencing cultural misunderstandings (there are both many international students and international professors at IU), or
  3. disagree politically with a professor.

These are not necessarily bad things for you. When I want to take a challenging course with an intellectually stimulating professor, I look for professors that get both extremely positive reviews, but also very bad ones. If the bad reviews say that the professor is unfair, grades harshly or questions their opinions, it's usually a match for me. That's why ratemyprofessors.com is more difficult to use: you need to decide what's important to you, what kind of professor you want and what kind of learning environment you're looking for. Looking at the scores is not going to tell you much.

5. IU Grade Distribution

The grade database that IU publishes online is also a resource that's useful if you know what you want. The database gives you the average grade not just in the class, but the average student GPA. This is helpful because it tells you how well students did in the class compared to how well they do normally. The database can also tell you what to expect from a professor in terms of the range of grades they give, and it also tells you how many of the students were majoring in the department. This tells you about what to expect in terms of how many students take a specific course for a requirement like GenEd or CASE.

6. For hardcore learners: check out research specialty

I always check out what kinds of research a professor has done in the past, but that's because I'm interested in seeing what kind of perspective the professor has on the subject he or she teaches. On the departmental websites there are professor profiles, and they often have a brief summary about their academic interests, courses they've taught and titles of what they've published. This is very helpful if you're interested in the subject taught, but it's not something I do if it's for a science credit, since personally I have no interest in science. This is also useful if you're looking for an academic advisor for a senior thesis, but this is more common within the humanities and depending on what you're majoring in.

I hope this guide helps you in choosing your classes for the fall. Good luck!

About The Author
Idun HaugeInternational Student Ambassador

International Student Ambassador from Norway majoring in History, with minors in Political Science, Arabic and International Studies.