College Tips for Freshman: Managing your Courses

As a freshman attending college for the first year, you will inevitably feel overwhelmed, miss a class because your overslept and have a conflict with your roommate. In addition to leading a new and hopefully exciting social life, you will have to keep track of the courses you are taking. Being familiar with the course registration process and knowing the add/drop rules at your school is vital.

Depending on what school you attend, the classes you take your first semester may be standard core classes or may be more specific to your desired field of study. Either way, the average freshman registration is a blur and you'll be lucky if you don't wind up sitting in at least one wrong class your first week. Don't worry - this is perfectly normal and has happened at least once to almost every college grad.

However, regardless of what classes you find yourself in, never sit in a class and struggle. This is not to say try and take only easy classes. But there is a difference between feeling challenged and feeling like everything is a mile over your head. Sticking out a class that you know you can't possibly do well in will only result in a bad grade that will haunt your GPA until you graduate.

First, get familiar with your course requirement and the course listings. This information can be found in a booklet in the registrars office, on the school website or both. Determine whether you have to meet any core requirements and see which classes will meet those requirements. Read through the descriptions and check out to get a sense of what the prof is like.

Second, get familiar with the add and drop policies for courses at your school. If you know there is no way you're going to pass a course with anything above a C-, don't stick it out just because you think you should. Drop the class and add a different course. Dropping a class before the deadline will not affect your GPA or class standing and will leave you with peace of mind. Some schools may also let you choose to take a course as a pass/fail but make sure to find out how this affects your GPA.

In addition to the lecture, most core classes will have an additional section in which you meet with a professor's assistant. You may take quizzes in this section, review lecture information or simply be able to ask questions regarding things you don't understand. Don't skip these sections! Because core lecture courses tend to be enormous, the professor will most likely never know your name, let alone remember your face. The professor's assistant is a way to get valuable information and help regarding the course, not to mention they will take attendance.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't go and introduce yourself to your professors during their weekly office hours. Most students never bother to do this unless they have a complaint. Going in for a quick meet and greet is well received by professors and will at least make it look like you are taking the course seriously.


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