How To Schedule Classes Like A Veteran
For those of you who are approaching graduation (and those who happen to be in Schreyer), waiting until midnight to frantically enter course numbers and press enter before several thousand students with similar semester standings is a nightmare you will never have to deal with again. For the younger underclassmen, however, that struggle will be a part of your lives for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Onward State has a gaggle of scheduling veterans ready to teach you the tips and tricks of the trade. Here are the seven steps that will help you put together that perfect schedule.
1) Know Your Sleep and Study Habits
Are you a night owl, or do you rise with the sun? Do you like to have breaks between classes, or would you rather power through them all in one fell swoop? It’s important to be honest with yourself here. Will you really wake up for that 8 a.m. class and go to the gym before it? Probably not. You’ll be stuck with some classes at certain times, but if you have options available, make sure you’re setting up a class schedule conducive to your lifestyle.
2) Research Possible Professors
If you’re unsure of the reputations or styles of a certain professor, talk to older students and alumni about their experiences with that specific class. The way someone lectures, assigns work, and interacts with the class will make or break the course for you more often than not. Find someone who you think you’d mesh well with, or at the very least be able to tolerate for a semester. You won’t hit every time, but at least you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. If you don’t know a wide variety of kids in your major, RateMyProfessor isn’t exactly a bastion for unbiased opinion, but take it with several grains of salt and it can be useful.
3) Avoid Three Hour Classes
The idea of the three hour class seems somewhat appealing. “I only have to go once a week!” you say to yourself, knowing full well that it will be the worst night of the week every single week. Knocking three hours out of your life in a block for what is more than likely a relatively mundane course will not make you happy. If you hate being in class don’t schedule a 6 to 9 p.m. on Mondays. It’s a pretty simple concept that many get tripped up on. It may seem like a good idea to knock it out at once, but right around hour two you’ll hate yourself.
4) Coordinate With Your Friends
Taking classes with your friends can be distracting, but they can also be an invaluable resource. Not that you, as an upstanding student citizen, would ever violate academic integrity standards by doing something like having them get you participation points, but having friends to get notes when you miss class instead of being that guy emailing the entire course listserv (or paying for Nittany Notes) is always a plus. You’ll have someone to study with and complain with, and even if you’re not in the same section, taking the same professor will prove valuable. Of course, you’ll have to make friends first. If you make friends with Schreyer kids, you can ask those nerds very politely if they’ll hold a class section for you until you register. Is this taking advantage of them? Yes, but it’s also a great idea. Buy them a drink or something to make up for it.
5) Check A Map and A Calendar
Find out which buildings are closest to home, or most convenient for you. Trying to bunch your classes together in buildings with minimal walking distance between them can be difficult. However, if you plan ahead and get a bit lucky, you can successfully utilize the 15-minute time slot during change of classes to grab coffee, stare at some campus landmark, or get in a fight on twitter. This is easier for certain majors whose classes tend to be in the same building (Business and Engineering come to mind), but those electives can mess up your whole flow. Also, if you want to try and be that kid who is only in class two or three days per week, you’ll need to prep heavily ahead of time. See what you can do about trying to get four day weekends, as I can assure you from experience they are awesome. Be a bit wary of that lifestyle though, because skipping your first class can often turn into skipping them all. Also, don’t forget what day you schedule, because the odds of you being screwed out of a class are significant. The registration timetable is your friend.
6) Utilize the Schedule Planner
An underutilized tool, and one I personally did not discover until junior year, eLion’s Schedule Planner looks like this:
You can add whichever course you want to the list, schedule breaks for times you need off for club meetings (or, in my case, sleeping in), specify certain sections with certain professors if you so wish, and it spits out every possible combination of classes. Then you can have the class numbers copied and ready to enter into eLion all at once, as opposed to frantically scrambling to find a replacement course as every section fills up.
Congratulations, you’re now an expert in figuring out which combination of numbers to plug in to eLion to build your dream schedule.