Choosing classes can be daunting, especially when doing it on your own for the first time. First semester, we picked classes at New Students Orientation, where peer and academic advisors basically chose my schedule for me. After spending almost a semester here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I had developed a better sense of what class times I preferred and didn’t prefer, and what classes I had in mind for the spring. So, let's talk about what I've learned about choosing classes!
Tip #1: Be flexible and open to change
It can be frustrating when classes aren’t working out the way you’d hoped, or you can’t seem to make that “perfect” schedule. Chances are, you aren’t going to have the “perfect” schedule, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good one. Priority is given to seniors, and go down from there. As a freshman you might not get your first pick of classes, but there are still many options for you. Don’t be afraid of flexibility and change!
Tip #2: Have backup options.
You should be planning out more than one schedule in case a class you were looking to take has already been filled. Luckily, many classes (especially Gen Eds) have multiple time slots, so be open to other options and add alternatives to your “shopping cart”. Adding multiple sections of a class to your “shopping cart” allows you to quickly readjust and enroll in the alternative time slot, instead of wasting time searching for new classes, or having to create a whole new schedule for next semester.
Tip #3: Don’t pick your classes just because your friends are picking them
You may be tempted to schedule classes with your friends from first semester, or be pressured to fit your schedule around them. While it may be to your benefit to have some familiar faces in your classes, remember that you’ll be able to make other friends in your classes, so don’t solely plan your schedule to match theirs! Do what’s ultimately going to be best for you, and strike a balance.
Tip #4: Think about knocking off those Gen Eds early
This tip applies mainly to underclassmen. I’ve had numerous faculty, advisors, and peers tell me to try knocking off my Gen Eds earlier rather than later. While it may be tempting to dive right into your major requirements, getting those Gen Ed classes out of the way first will help you in the long run. You will have more flexibility later on if you’re on top of the Gen Eds earlier.
Tip #5: Plan according to your preferences
After spending a semester on campus, I’ve learned that I’m a morning person who would rather have 8 AM's, and be finished by 2 PM. My roommate is the complete opposite — she has to drag herself to the 8 AM's, and would rather sleep till noon and take late afternoon classes. While you can’t guarantee you’ll get the ideal times you want, you will have more flexibility to aim for classes that better suit your preferences.
Tip #6: If you’re planning on studying abroad, think about what requirements you can and cannot fulfill abroad
It’s never too early to start thinking about studying abroad, and there are many options out there for every major. That being said, not all classes can be taken abroad — so if you’re thinking about studying abroad at some point in your time here at college, do some research beforehand!
Having to plan your schedule can be overwhelming, but you’re not alone! As an Isenberg student, we have both walk-in hours and by appointment for academic advising. I strongly recommend doing walk-ins earlier, rather than later. I made the mistake of waiting until less than two weeks before registration opened, and getting in was tricky. I found my experience to be really helpful, and my advisor not only helped me map out next year's schedule, but also gave me a rough outline of what to expect for the next four years. They’re here to help you take advantage of it!
Other resources include your peer mentors and even your club leaders! I’m a member of the UMass Club Management Association of America (CMAA) chapter, and American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) club. In both clubs we’ve discussed recommended classes, and club leaders and faculty have been very willing to help underclassmen with the class selection process.
While choosing classes can be stressful and hard for the indecisive, it can also be exciting to see all of the options available, and comes with a new level of freedom. I remember being assigned classes in high school, and operating on a 7:30 AM - 2:30 PM schedule with limited flexibility. With choosing classes in college comes a new level of freedom and flexibility, as you now have options ranging from 8 AM's to 4 PM's.
Lastly, remember that your experience is what you make of it! With a positive mindset, you can succeed in all of your classes and you’ll adjust to whatever schedule you end up with.