Wednesday, 30 March 2016

To Enroll, or Not To Enroll: How I Make A Perfect Schedule (Or Something Close To It)

Course Selection

Picking courses: In my personal opinion, the most stressful and confusing point in the student life cycle.

It took me a while to get used to the course selection process. Since first year, I have switched programs, double checked and then double-double checked whether I am fulfilling all my requirements, had Bear Tracks “Watch-List wars” fighting for a spot in the class with the decent prof, and tried to avoid being stuck at school with a 5 hour break between two classes. I won’t lie though; now that I’ve got the hang of it, I actually enjoy making my schedule. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I produce a timetable that fits around my work times, my extra-curricular activities, the other responsibilities that eat up parts of my day, and that of course offers me some free time: it’s the perfect timetable.  

Although I feel like I have the hang of it, making my timetable is still an experience. It took me a while to figure out a system that worked for me, and even in my 3rd year I am still a little rusty at the whole process.

As soon as I receive the email from my faculty that says “hey, you can start looking at your classes/your registration date is [insert date here]” I start my search for my dream courses. [Full disclaimer: that might not be the actual wording that my faculty uses in their emails.] But, let’s be honest, my search is never as simple as just looking for the courses that I like. Instead, it involves having 10 tabs and 5 windows open at the same time, placing a hard copy of the courses listed as my degree requirements by my keyboard, and I also keep a notebook open next to me in case I need to write down any important information or reminders about my program or my courses. I also hate having multiple tabs and windows open, so I try to limit myself to just five (BearTracks, the Course Catalogue, Rate My Professors, the University Calendar, and Universal Student Ratings of Instruction).

Universal Student Ratings of Instruction
Seriously - fill these out people! Help your fellow students.... and your profs. Let them know how they're doing.
I always have to remind myself to get my priorities straight. Some classes look incredibly interesting and these often distract me from what I am supposed to be registering in. So, I highlight all of the courses I HAVE to take, so that I remind myself that these have top priority when it comes to enrolling. In my first year, I also made the decision to take 4 courses a semester instead of 5. It was the best decision I have ever made, as I was able to ease myself slowly into the university routine instead of trying to do as much as I could all at once. This strategy really helped me cope with stress, taught me discipline, and helped me keep my grades up.

Through my schedule building experience, I have also had the pleasure of making a new best friend whose name is In first year, this website was literally the difference between an A and a C for me. I use it to search up the ratings of the professors that are teaching the courses I need to take, and I let it be another deciding factor in the process of making my schedule. When things get a little bit tricky and there is an equal distribution of both positive and negative reviews, I give the prof the benefit of the doubt and usually end up enrolling in the class with the hopes that I will be one of the students who will leave a good review. So far, I haven’t had any issues with this strategy. If I love the prof, I always give them a rating on the website because it will be really helpful for them and for other future students.

I have realized that more often than not, I have to judge whether I want to risk enrolling in a course without an assigned professor. When I enroll in a class without an assigned prof, I use my notepad (because I have very bad short-term memory) to write a reminder to keep checking for when a professor is assigned so that when the time comes, I can check their rate my professor profile and decide if I still want to stay in that class.

I always ask myself:

1. Do I want an excellent professor?

2. Do I want a break between my classes?

3. Do I prefer 50-minute or 80-minute lectures?

4. How badly do I need a few extra hours of sleep?

5. Should I take this GPA booster, even if the topic sounds extremely boring?

6. Should I take this course because it sounds really interesting, even though it will be challenging?

7. Am I okay with taking a class that has a midterm worth 40% and a final worth 60%, or should I switch before the add/drop deadline? How will this effect my requirements?

I remember that the day I discovered that faculties do credit checks was the day that a huge amount of weight was taken from my shoulders. I visit my faculty office and ask for a program check after each term. Other than the fact that it takes a few weeks for these to process, credit checks have been very helpful to me during my university degree.

For more information, check out Edward’s Pro-Tip #1 for a description of what a program check is.

The most difficult decisions that I have to make in relation to my schedule are around choosing electives. GAHH! THERE ARE SO MANY COURSES TO CHOOSE FROM…I was lucky enough to have complete elective freedom in my first two years of university, so (with great difficulty, debating, and restraint) I chose classes that interested me and that I knew I would do well in, in order to boost my GPA. And it worked like a charm…most of the time.

Let me just talk a little bit about “GPA Boosters.” I choose my electives with the mindset that I know where my skills lie and that I know what classes I will most likely ace. This is always hard, especially because I am basing my judgment off the title of a course. I try to listen to what other students say about classes that I am interested in taking as GPA boosters.

Each year, planning my schedule become easier  - and while this might have something to do with the fact that I have fewer requirements left, I’d like to think that it has more to do my self-knowledge of what I like and what I want to get out of my degree. Hopefully.

Hit the comments to share your course planning experiences!

Niabi - YouAlberta Contributor

Niabi is a third year student just starting a BA in English with a Spanish Minor. She’s a relentless optimist, hazardously curious, and tends to laugh a lot (her friends would say that she has a juvenile sense of humour). When not spending money she doesn’t have on clothes, or jamming out to Reggaeton, you can find her in a movie theatre, reading a book that involves sword fighting and dragons. 

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