college course selection

A Crash Course in College Course Selection

In college, you will spend 4+ years studying many things for your degree. You will have much more freedom of choice in what you study than you had in high school, and many more courses will be offered. This freedom of choice can be overwhelming. This article will help you know where to start, and how college and high school differ in terms of course selection.

In high school, course selection is fairly rigid. When I was in high school, I was required to take four years of math, four years of English, three years of science, two years of a foreign language, as well as many years in required electives such as Phys. Ed. and Health.

These diploma requirements are the bare minimum, and most students do more than what’s required to make their college applications more impressive. I took two extra years of French for this exact reason.

These diploma requirements mean that everyone’s high school diploma is the same. Your GPA and your accomplishments, academic or otherwise, are what make your high school experience stand out, not your diploma.

College is different; College course loads differ based on each person’s major. At many colleges, you may have only one course in common with most people across all four years. At UMass Boston, the only three courses each student has to take are English 101, English 102, and Quantitative Reasoning. I didn’t have any classes with my friends, and they didn’t have any classes with each other unless they had the same major.

This difference in courses means that you have much more sway over what your college education is like, but also that you have to make more responsible choices when selecting courses.

Putting yourself in classes with your friends may mean you take classes that don’t line up with your major, and that may prevent you from graduating in four years. The right choice for your college education may also be the lonely choice, but you will have many opportunities to make friends within your major as well. Don’t worry about your social life while choosing courses; college will always give you an opportunity to make friends. Your focus should be your college career and your educational interests.

Conventional wisdom will tell you to take your required courses first. This will mean that your freshman and sophomore years will be filled classes that may not relate to your major, depending on what that major is. In this case, the first two years of college will get your required general education courses, or Gen Eds, out of the way so that you can focus on your degree material later.

Completing your Gen Eds first is a great idea in case you want to change your major later. Taking too many major-specific classes before changing your major may mean losing some credits you’ve earned, potentially wasting time and money.

In college, it’s best to keep your options open. Your major will likely become your career, and being able to change your major gives you time to see if that major is truly what you want. Completing your Gen Eds first gives you lots of time to reconsider, and it keeps your options open.

Once your Gen Eds are out of the way, you focus on your major and any additional courses that may interest you. I was friends with an I.T. major at UMass Boston, but he still found time to take a course called History of Comic Books. It didn’t contribute to his major, but it did make his day.

Another way to keep options open is to take courses that count towards multiple majors. Many courses bridge the gap between subjects, especially similar subjects like Literature and Social Sciences.

A course on Russian Literature may count towards a degree in English, History, and Russian. This is just one example of courses that count towards multiple majors, and these can open many doors for you throughout college.

These multiple subject courses can also contribute towards minors, which will make your degree more impressive and multi-faceted. A minor will open doors after college and will give you opportunities to pursue educational interests that may not relate to your major.

Finally, there’s your major itself. You may already know which major you want to pursue, or you may have no idea. Either way, your junior and senior years of college will be all about whichever major you choose.

Your major will entail many courses covering many different facets of the same subject you chose to study. An Economics major will study micro- and macroeconomics as well as some business and statistics classes, for example.

Most majors require a certain number of courses at each grade level, which may not equate to the amount of courses offered. This means you will have some freedom of choice within your major in terms of which classes to take and/or which order you take them in.

The order you choose to take your classes in is up to you but be careful how many similar classes you take at once. I once took two sophomore level Literature classes at the same time, and had to read two Shakespeare plays simultaneously, 40 pages a night for each. That was not easy.

To avoid situations like this, be sure to read a course’s overview thoroughly, and give any questions you may have to your academic advisor or the professor that teaches the course. No matter which college you choose, they’d rather you ask questions now than switch your courses later.

No matter what your major is, be sure to put your best foot forward in every class. Show up on time, get a good night’s sleep, do your homework, and be ready to learn and engage. Not every class will excite you, but every class is important to your degree and your future.


Author: Hastings Davin



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