For incoming college students, it is that time of the year where you will have the ability to sign-up for your first semester of classes in college! This can be a big change from scheduling classes in high school as you will now have a lot more freedom and many more class options to choose from.
Here are some items that I think about when I am building my college class schedule:
1. Create a Class Schedule Document: Having a class schedule document that you use throughout college to keep track of your classes, your major requirements, and other general education requirements that you need to take in order to graduate is very helpful to keep yourself organized. You can write all of this information down in any kind of document style that you prefer. Personally, I used a Word Document. Each semester, I would note down the classes that I was interested in taking and then what requirements the course fulfilled, the class average, and the number of units. Doing this allowed me to keep track of the courses I needed so that I could graduate on-time.
2. What Time/Days You Want to Have Class: Going to college, you will have a lot more freedom to take classes whenever you want. In high school, you would have to take classes all day during the school day. In college, if you did not want to wake up early to take an 8 AM class, you don’t have to!
Class timing is a factor that you need to think about. In high school, waking up at 6 or 7 AM to go to school was normal and you may have been able to wake up early everyday. While I was in college, I took one 8 AM class my sophomore year and realized that waking up at 7 AM to go to class was something that was now hard for me to do. Your sleep schedule may change from high school to college, so you will need to learn whether early classes or later classes will be more beneficial for your sleep schedule and learning styles. After my one 8 AM, I strayed away from taking 8 AM classes. Instead I tried to sign up for 9 AM or 9:30 AM classes since I felt I was more focused and could learn better in the morning. Some of my friends hate morning classes, so they would try to schedule all of their classes after 2 PM since they could focus better in the afternoon. This factor of your college schedule is something you need to play around with in order to figure out what you like and dislike in terms of class times.
In other instances, you may not have an option to sign up for a class at a specific time because only one time is offered. You could try to take the course during a different semester as the class may be offered at a different time next semester. But if you are set on taking the class this semester, you may be stuck with an early morning or later afternoon class.
In addition to class timing, you will also have freedom in choosing what days you want to have class. Sometimes, you may not have a choice and must take classes five days a week, but other times, you could get class schedules where you only have classes three or four days a week. My junior year, I only had one class on Mondays and Fridays, so I stacked most of my classes on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Having only one class on Mondays and Fridays allowed me to take up more shifts at my jobs on campus. You could use this extra time to get a job, study to get ahead in your classes, or go on an extended weekend trip.
3. Back-to-back Classes: Similar to my last tip, scheduling back-to-back classes versus separated classes is something that you need to test out to see which you prefer. For me, I really liked stacking all of my classes back-to-back so that I could complete my classes for the day faster. On the other hand, in Sarah’s blog about class schedules (linked below), she says that she does not like back-to-back classes because it can be difficult to focus for hours at a time.
When I created my class schedules, I enjoyed back-to-back classes so that I would not have random one hour gaps in between classes. If I could not stack my classes, I made sure that my breaks between classes were at least 1.5 hours or longer. I felt that one hour breaks were not useful because I could not get anything done during that time - by the time I walked to a library to study, I would only have 20 minutes before I needed to get to my next class. Therefore, I found that having breaks that were at least 1.5 hours allowed me to actually be productive during my breaks between classes, where I could study, get food, or go to work.
4. Schedule Food Breaks: When you are building a class schedule, make sure you remember to schedule in a breakfast, lunch, and dinner break. During my sophomore year, I did not schedule a lunch break, so ended up only eating dinner on most days. This was super unhealthy and I would be hungry throughout the day and unable to focus. After this, I made sure to schedule a break so that I would have time to eat.
5. Class Location (compared to next class): When you are looking at classes that you are interested in and potentially signing up for, check out if the class has a location posted yet (building and classroom). When creating your class schedule, if you have back-to-back classes, you want to compare the locations for these classes. Are these two classes in the same building? Are these two classes totally across campus from one another? If your back-to-back classes are in the same building or in nearby buildings, then there is nothing to worry about. However, if your classes are super far apart, then you may consider switching these classes around so they are not back-to-back or choosing a different class.
If your back-to-back classes are far apart, you may not be able to reach the second class in time. Maybe you can not walk there quickly enough or maybe you would have to take a bus to get there - in that case, you would not be able to take these classes back-to-back because you would always be late to your second class.
6. Professor Teaching: While choosing your classes, you may want to look up the professor who is teaching the course. Different professors may teach the class each semester, so taking the course a different semester could mean you would learn from a different professor. For me, I never looked up the professor when choosing classes nor did I decide not to take a class because a specific professor was teaching it. However, for some of my peers, they would always look up the professor for classes they were interested in via ratemyprofessors.com, googling their name, or asking other students who have had a course with that professor. Some professors may be better than others or easier than others, so you may consider researching professors before choosing to sign up for their class.
7. Class Average: For certain classes like major requirements, you may not have a lot of flexibility when choosing which classes to take. However, for other classes where you do get a choice, you may consider researching the class averages for the classes you are potentially interested in. For requirements where you get a list of courses and you have the choice to choose which class to take to fulfill the requirement, it may be smart to see which classes have a higher class average - this could help benefit your GPA. A class with a higher class average does not mean that it is “an easy A,” but you would still need to put in the time, effort, and hard work towards the class to earn the high grade.
8. Planning Your Schedule Around a Job: This is something to think about if you plan to work or get an on-campus job while you are also a full-time student. When I worked as a campus tour guide, I had to plan my college schedules around tour guide shifts. To be a tour guide, we had to give 10 hours of availability during business hours on the weekdays. With that, I had to plan my class schedules so that I would have at least 10 hours of breaks in my schedule where I did not have class, so that I could be assigned tour shifts. On the other hand, my other job as a Hiring and Training Coordinator was more flexible. With this position, I could schedule my shifts whenever I was available in order to work 10-15 hours a week. When looking for on-campus jobs, the job’s flexibility and work shifts would be something to consider.
If you are looking for even more tips on scheduling classes in college, check out Sarah blog:https://www.shcollegeconsulting.com/our-advice-blog/planning-your-college-schedule. Additionally, if you are an incoming Berkeley student, schedule a College and Career Coaching Call with Rachel or Sarah and we can walk through your proposed schedule together!
Rachel is the Founder of Study Hall College Consulting. Rachel graduated from UC Berkeley in May 2020 where she double majored in Cognitive Science and Legal Studies. For more application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.