How to Create Your First College Schedule

One of the most exciting parts of starting college is the newfound freedom—adjusting to dorm life, choosing when you go to class, and what courses you take. Your ability to choose courses in high school was likely limited; you probably didn’t have too many options to choose from, since most credits were mandated. However, colleges offer an array of choices for every interest. How do you choose courses for your first semester of college?

Creating your first college schedule can seem exciting but also daunting. No matter how you feel about your new freedom, be sure to follow these tips when creating your first college schedule.

1. Be realistic when creating your schedule

With all of the new and exciting class options, it’s natural to get excited and want to try them all. However, do not overload your course schedule during the first semester. College is a huge transition, and not just in terms of academics. Adjusting to your new life will be work in itself. Each college has a different recommended number of courses to take per semester. Do not plan on exceeding this recommended amount—at least in your first semester.

It’s also important to be realistic when it comes to your lifestyle. Choosing all night classes may seem like a great idea (you get to sleep in!), but if you know you are most productive before nightfall, you may not want to heavily load all of your classes into the late afternoon. Furthermore, having later classes does not necessarily translate into sleeping in. If your afternoons and nights are consumed with class time, your mornings will need to be reserved for studying, homework, and assigned readings. It may come in handy to have an early class that forces you to be up and productive.

Your first semester is a great time to discover what your best habits are. Mixing up your class schedule to discover when you are most productive can help determine your future schedules.

2. Use your schedule to plan ahead for later in your college career

College is a marathon, not a sprint. Every college has different requirements that you must meet before graduation, and each degree comes with its own set of requirements as well. Before beginning to choose classes, make sure you are aware of your school’s education requirements. If you know what you would like to major in, you should also be aware of the prerequisites needed to enter the program and to graduate. A rough four-year plan can make each semester’s scheduling an easier process. Map out the classes you know you will have to take and tentatively place them in a four-year schedule. This planning can ensure you aren’t stuck with a 20-credit semester senior year in order to graduate on time (or, that you must delay graduation).

Use a class catalogue to do some research on the types of classes you are planning to take before setting your schedule in stone. Some classes have extra requirements, and it’s important to know those before the class begins. Does your class require an extra lab? Will you be required to participate in a service learning project that takes place over the weekend? These components might be required to pass the class, so be sure you can complete them before you sign up.

3. Maintain a balance of requirements and electives in your class schedule

Your first instinct may be to spend your first semester knocking out all of your required classes. General education classes, typically referred to as “gen eds,” are classes outside of your major that must be completed to reach your degree. These requirements ensure that all graduates have a well-rounded education and the opportunity to acquire a variety of skills. In addition, these classes are most beneficial when scattered throughout your academic career, over several semesters—loading up on these requirements in one semester will not provide you with the maximum benefit. Gen ed classes complement your major classes, allowing you to make connections between disciplines and gain skillsets that can help you in your future career. Plan to take a few general education classes each semester, along with classes in your major.

4. Expand your horizons by signing up for new courses

As a college freshman, it is completely normal to be unsure about what you want to do with the rest of your life. College is a time to explore and discover your interests. Even if you do know what you want to study, it’s important to use your first semester as a time to expand your interests. Try to take one or two classes that interest you, even if they aren’t in your planned major. You may find that your original plans change—perhaps you decide to double major or minor in a new subject. At the very least, you’ll likely discover a new interest.

Many colleges offer seminars and workshops specifically for freshman that cater to their interests, or even that help with the college transitioning process. These classes are a great way to meet other students who share your interests, while helping you hone your college skills. You never know what you can learn from a sports in history class, an event planning class, or even a class on Harry Potter. Find what peaks your interest, and see where it may take you.