Monday, 9 March 2015

Pro-Tips for a Prodigious Schedule (i.e. how to pick your classes)

It’s that time of year again.

You’ve probably got a lot going on this month: midterms, papers, volunteering, birthday celebrations you need to make an appearance at, coffee dates with friends you haven’t seen in ages and a whole series on Netflix you still need to tank through. Get ready to add something else to the list: schedule building. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be super excited to plan out your courses, and will spend countless hours shifting things around and eventually synergize it all into the perfect schedule.

If you’re a third year, or are first year, you’ve had to use BearTracks at some point. Regardless if you pronounce “schedule” as “shed-yul” or “sked-yul”, here are some useful tips you might want to consider while you make your schedule this time around.

Yeah, I’m no stranger to schedule building.

Pro-Tip #1: Advisor + Academic Calendar

Before you start, it’s always best to meet up with a faculty/departmental/program advisor to see if you’re on track towards fulfilling your degree requirements. More specific programs have their cours requirements  for each year laid out  in the academic calendar (which can be accessed here), but it still doesn’t hurt to verify with an advisor. You want to make sure that you’re not taking too many options or 100-level courses. You should also strongly consider doing a program check. A program check is easy to request from your faculty office, and will provide you with a typed list of which credits you’ve already fulfilled, and which credits you still need to earn.

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You don’t want to find out a course you’ve taken doesn’t count towards your degree.

Pro-Tip #2: Make a spreadsheet

I always suggest to my friends to make a spreadsheet, laying out all the courses they’ve taken, and all the courses they’re planning on taking. This helps to visualize your entire degree. You can jot down other classes you might want to take down the road or you can even calculate how many credits of each degree requirement you have. It’s really up to you.

I colour code my spreadsheet according to my different degree requirements. Since I’m a Biological Sciences Major and a Sociology Minor, I’ve colour coded my courses to categories: Bio Sci, Sociology, Science, Arts and Others (non-science/arts).

Pro-Tip #3: Download the PDF version of the Course Listings. 

Instead of searching for different courses through BearTracks, you can search them in the course listing PDF. Just do a quick control + F (or command + F for you Mac users) to find if a course is offered. If you can’t find the course in this document, chances are it might not be offered this year.

Even if a course is listed here, it might not be offered. Always double check on BearTracks.
You can find the PDF here

Pro-Tip #4: Schedule Builder Search

I honestly didn’t know this existed until a few months ago. Head to your “Schedule Builder” and click on the “search” button.

Once there, click “Advanced Search Criteria”. Here you can search up courses by building location, professor, days of the week and even time. Pretty sweet eh?

Pro-Tip #5: My Planner

This is another feature I wasn’t aware of until till recently. Click “My Planner” on the left-hand menu. I’d explain what it is, but I’ll let the photo do the talking.

To add a course to your planner, just look up the course and click the “add to planner” button.

Pro-Tip #6: USRI is a popular tool used to get a feel for a professor. But it can be extremely subjective if only the people with negative (or positive) comments actually rate the profs. So how do you get a better feel for a prof or a course? USRI.

USRI stands for “Universal Student Ratings of Instruction”. You know all those course evaluations you do at the end of each term? Not only do they serve to help professors improve, but they also help students. It turns out you can actually view the compiled evaluations for courses taught in previous years. You can search by course or by professor, and see how they were evaluated by their students.

Check it out here.

P.S. This is why it's important for you to fill out your prof evals!

Pro-Tip #7: Enrollment

Everyone has a different enrollment date. Check back periodically on BearTracks to see when your date is. An earlier enrollment date is obviously the better, because you’ll be able to snake a spot in a class before it fills up. Just take note of what time your enrollment opens, and set your alarms so you don’t miss out on a certain class!

This leads me to sub Pro-Tip – Watch-list.

If you didn’t already know, watch-list is a way to get notified when a filled up class suddenly has an opening. You can opt to receive phone and/or email notifications.

If you’re super keen on getting in to a particular class, I suggest that you sign up for both an email notification AND a text notification. Install Gmail on your phone + link your ualberta email to it, and make sure your phone notifies you when you get an email. The advantage of the email notification is that it’ll have a link right to the enrollment page on BearTracks. 

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Your reaction when someone snakes that open spot.

So now you have the tools to be a master schedule builder. Just remember to take your time. No really. Sometimes you’ll find yourself spending a few hours straight on your schedule. It’s a good idea to take some breaks and to come back at it with a fresh mind.

About the Author


Oh, hey there! My name is Edward and I’m currently in my fourth year of a Biological Sciences major with a minor in Sociology. As I near the end of my degree, I’m really taking the time to enjoy this thing called “student life.” I’m an amateur astronomer, but I don’t own a telescope.

When I’m not struggling with being un-photogenic, I can be found near the back row of class, not because I think I’m cool, but because I like to observe my surroundings from the best view possible. I’ll also be at a random table somewhere, with Tims in hand and a Metro in front of me, turned to the crossword/Sudoku page.

Quite a bit happens here on campus. Events, experiences, the trials and tribulations of university life. With so much going on, I hope to show you tidbits and snapshots of what else is happening at this place we all call “home.”


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