November 12, 2013

Beating the "I Don't Know What to Register For" Blues

Hello, dear procrastinator. It’s happened to the best of us. The time to register for spring classes is here, and you’ve suddenly realized that you don’t know what courses to take. And the next advising appointment is in December. And you register TOMORROW. 

Dean Frosh is sympathetic, so we’d like to offer some quick suggestions, as long as we agree on the following:

1. Next semester, you will schedule your advising appointment way, WAY in advance. Maybe even when the Fall Schedule of Classes opens or even at the beginning of the semester.
2. This generic advice is NOT real ACADEMIC ADVISING. Real advising is a unique conversation about YOU – your interests, background and goals – and cannot be replaced by general information or clever memes.
3. You will still schedule an appointment with an adviser…even though it’s in December…to review the class schedule that you’re putting together this week.  You’ll definitely still have questions and things to discuss with your adviser about long-term academic planning. Registrations can be adjusted all through December, winter break, and the add/drop period.
Ok, assuming we’re on the same page, here are some tips:
Courtesy of Flickr user laughlin under Creative Commons license
Think Balance. Most first-year students take 5 classes (around 15-16 credits) for their second semester. Science-track students generally take 4 classes, also in the 15-16 credit range. But it’s not just about credits: those 4-5 classes should serve a balance of uses. At least two of the classes should be in your planned or possible major choices. Two should work toward SAS Core or other requirements. Loading up on any one purpose (ie. Four courses toward your planned Psychology major, or taking all Core courses because you’re undecided) is a too heavy and unbalanced, not to mention unnecessary for a 4-year plan.

Minor things can be Major. Most SAS students require a minor, and most students truly have no idea about their minor options. While the major connects somewhat directly to your long-term plans, the minor can serve many purposes. It can enhance your academic plans, giving you an additional body of knowledge connected to your major, or it can be the opportunity to indulge your other interests and passions. Remember, the minor does NOT need to be connected with the major – except that they should both be interests of yours! A full list of offerings is available at

Review your Core. Use Degree Navigator to review your progress on the SAS Core requirements. While you don’t need to complete the Core immediately or even soon, you should try scheduling at least one course per semester to satisfy Core requirements that don’t overlap with your major/minor departments. Remember, though, that the Core is designed to be spread across your 8 semesters of study. For instance, if you are a math/science-phobe, you should spread your Quantitative and NaturalScience requirements over multiple semesters rather than schedule math and science together in one semester…because you can!

Browse Classes. Too often when students are looking for classes, they start by looking for a specific class rather than browsing to see what options exist and spark an interest. Look through different departments and browse course titles to look for interesting classes. Use the Keyword search in the Schedule of Classes to see if we offer classes in something you find interesting. Maybe consider the new German class (taught in English) Fairy Tales Then and Now or the Computer Science class Data 101 for non-majors.

Don’t believe everything you hear/read. Tools like Rate my Professor can be useful to provide insight about a professor’s teaching style and class demands, but you need to filter what you read through your common-sense-ometer. Read comments, not just ratings, and remember that “hard” may be your ticket to really understanding the subject.

Remember, registration is a process (that lasts 3 months)! We’ve already told you that registration remains open through Winter Break. You should plan to have at least a full-time (12 credit) registration at the end of this week – that gives you a full-time term bill, which helps relieve you of hassles with financial aid and with making changes to your schedule. But you have the full span of three months (now until the end of add/drop in January) to take final exams, research major/minor ideas, identify fun electives, and amend your schedule accordingly.

We hope these tips help you with some initial plans for your spring schedule, but be sure to make – and Keep! – an advising appointment, so you can get some good individual advice from your SAS adviser.