5 Things I Do When Choosing College Classes
- Read ALL of WesMaps. When WesMaps is updated before pre-registration, I take my time to look through not only classes in my major but also courses in other departments. This is a good distraction from current schoolwork, and it also lets you discover classes you’d never think to look for. For example, I’m currently in my second semester of ASL just because I randomly clinked on the Less Commonly Taught Languages link in WesMaps last year. Even if you know exactly what classes you want to take, its still a good idea to explore different departments (especially courses in the “Other” section).
- Read Rate My Professors (but don’t take it too seriously). After I have an idea of what classes I’m interested in, I’ll always check on Rate My Professors to see what previous students have thought of the professor and the course. Although some professors will not have profiles (especially newer professors and those in small departments), many will have at least a few ratings that can give you a sense of their teaching style. However, I never take these reviews too seriously. Remember that students are much more likely to write a review if they had an extremely positive or extremely negative experience in the class. People are less motivated to share their opinion if they have neutral or positive thoughts. Keep this in mind when reading the website, but look for red flags such as unfair grading, inaccessibility, or rudeness. Even if you love the topic of the class, a bad professor can ruin your semester. An even better strategy for researching professors is hearing personal experiences, which leads me to the third thing I do when choosing my classes…
- Talk to people! This one doesn’t apply to pre-frosh but for anyone on campus it is a necessary step. At a small school like Wesleyan, it is likely that someone you know has had a class with the professor you’re considering. Even if they haven’t, many people have heard positive or negative stories about most professors in their department. I find it easiest to start by asking my friends in the department I am considering. They’ll either know how the class is from experience, or they will know someone who does. If none of your friends are helpful, try asking people outside your circle (and class year!). Co-workers, people in your current classes, or dorm/ house-mates are all good choices. If you’re an underclassman try asking an upperclassman in the department you’re interested in. They will probably know the professor and might even have experience in the class.
- Make a Schedule. If you have friends who never have classes on Fridays it’s because they pay attention to meeting times during pre-registration! Not only should you make sure that none of your ranked classes interfere, you also have the option to tailor your schedule for the next semester. When doing this, be realistic!! I once thought that I could have an 8:50am class everyday because I am a “morning person”. This was wrong and could have been avoided if I had paid more attention to the classes I registered for. Although timing is important, I never rule classes out just because of their time. Some courses are worth having Friday class for. Everyone has different priorities though, so just be aware of what will work for you next semester.
- Don’t Panic Because There’s Always Adjustment and Drop/Add. Although choosing classes is stressful, there are two opportunities to change your mind after pre-registration. Adjustment happens after pre-registration the semester before, and drop/add is the first two weeks of the semester. These are chances to get into a class that you were registered for, drop a class you decided wasn’t for you, or discover a course you’d missed on WesMaps. Adjustment and drop/add relieve some of the stress of pre-registration, since there are two safety nets before you have to commit to your choices. I try not to rely too heavily on these periods because there are no guarantees of getting your ideal schedule, but they are nice to have if necessary.
Other Resources Available To You
- Your advisor. If you’re pre-major, your advisor might not know specifics about the classes you’re interested in, but they will be committed to helping you. After you declare you’ll be assigned a major advisor who will be knowledgeable about the department and its classes, and who will be a great resource in helping you talk through your schedule.
- Peer advisors. Peer advisors are students who are available to give guidance, advice, and provide extra resources during class registration. They meet with freshman during orientation, and will continue to be available throughout the year. Not only do they have personal experience with classes and professors, but they are there to talk you through the (sometimes confusing) process of pre-registration, POIs, adjustment, and more.
- Professors/ Department Heads. If you have specific questions about a class and its requirements, the best resource is the professor! Although it is intimidating to attend office hours for a professor who doesn’t know you, it’s a good way to start a relationship with the professor and get your questions answered. Another option is meeting with a department head to talk through your options. I met with a department head last year during pre-registration and she was able to advise me about which class would be the best fit. This is a great resource, especially for non-majors interested in learning more.
Although choosing classes can be overwhelming, there are many resources available to you! And remember, professors, advisors, and peers are all here to support you and help you make informed choices about your classes.