How to Pick the Right Classes

By Features Editor

College seniors weigh in on what they've learned about choosing classes. Kaylin and Erica are Silver Gurus at GradeGuru is a knowledge sharing network where college students can share their course notes, find relevant study materials, build their academic reputations and earn rewards.

"Take classes that you're interested in! If you don’t like the material, then you will regret it, and you probably won’t do as well. You can probably find classes that you are at least semi-interested in to fill even your most dreaded requirements. For example, I had to fulfill a science requirement, and to do that, I took a human evolution and disease class, which was absolutely fascinating. And despite the fact that science was never my best subject, I did so well in that class because I was so interested."

- Kaylin Dalrymple, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"When I take a class I definitely do my research on the course: if it’s going to be a challenging course for you, you’ve got to look into the grade distribution, how many people stuck with the course in the past, and the professor. I always find that looking into the grade distribution through your registrar’s office is helpful to determine the difficulty of the class.

I would definitely suggest not taking on more than you're ready for! In the beginning, take it slow, figure out what’s going on, and from there become very dedicated to the few classes you do have. Also, follow the suggested course plan from your school—don’t try and take all of your requirements for your major immediately, and look into electives to balance out your workload.

Using online resources like GradeGuru can be very helpful when looking into a course. Just as with anything else in life, if you have an idea of what you're about to get into, you’ll understand it so much better. It’s like following directions: if you can review the directions and a map before you begin your trip, you find it a lot easier to navigate throughout, rather than having a GPS yell, 'merge left NOW!' when you're in the far right lane on an eight-lane highway."

- Erica DeVasier, Indiana University Bloomington



"College is a time to explore. Take a class that seems ridiculous to your parents and even to your friends. You may be a bio major but you’ve always thought you might like to draw—college is the place to learn."

- Libby Propp, Wellesley College

We asked Raisa Williams, Dean for First-Year Students at Haverford College, about the advice she shares with new undergrads, including how to start picking classes.

Careful course selection is very important in ensuring a successful first year. Exploring courses that might lead to a major is the task at hand for the first year. The first semester schedule should include subjects you think might be a major as well as other subjects you liked in high school. The level of intensity will surprise you and will help you define your real interests. Keep doing some of the things that helped you feel successful in high school. Theater, dance, studio arts and music are often credit-bearing courses in college. Participating in clubs and organizations is an integral part of college life and can lead to many important connections. Be moderate in choosing extracurricular activities and in your social life. Don’t expect the ride to be smooth. There will be bumps along the way and there are resources available to support you in the journey. Make sure you know who they are and where to find them.

Every year I welcome the first-year class by telling them that being independent means being independently responsible for one’s actions, in and out of the classroom. This, I feel, is the most exciting and challenging difference between high school and college life. No longer will speaking with your professor be enough to change your schedule. You must follow through with the registrar and check your transcript to make sure the changes are officially made. How you use your time is no longer being monitored by school or family. You must learn to manage your time effectively on your own in order to reach your full potential in college.

Every college has resources available to assist students develop the skills necessary to succeed. The students who are successful have learned how to use the resources. They work with tutors and professors to achieve top grades, not simply to avoid failure. Faculty are experts in their fields who assume you are in their class because of a shared interest, and this will be reflected by the amount of work expected for each class.