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How to Schedule College Classes

A successful college student shares her tools and tricks on how to start the semester off right - beginning with class scheduling.

When my friend went to sign up for their first semester of classes, they called me panicking because they had no idea how to schedule college classes. They told me all of their classes met at 7 am, many classes met at the same time, and they had no idea how they would set up their schedule if they could only take a few classes.

I invited them over to my house so that I could figure out what was going on, and I found out that my friend was correct and that they really had no idea how to schedule college classes, because they had only been looking at the first row of the scheduling application. There were several sections of classes that they could take, and they weren’t limited to just the 7 am class after all.  Within an hour, they had an awesome schedule set up with highly rated professors, interesting topics, and plenty of time to eat meals and participate in extracurriculars.

For this post, I will be sharing my top tips for how to schedule college classes to avoid burnout and have a schedule to look forward to, based on my own experiences of registering (and helping people register) for college classes in the last five years.

Pay attention to priority registration dates/times

At my college, students that have a file with the Office of Disability Services or that are enrolled in specialty programs can participate in priority registration dates/times to ensure they can register for the classes that best fit their schedule. I use this opportunity to make sure that I register for classes that I won’t be super tired for (so no 7 am classes for me), or to make sure that I get a certain professor that I know will let me video chat into class if needed. I like to look at class registration numbers in advance so that all I have to do on registration day is copy and paste the class numbers.

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Use an app like Coursicle to register for classes late

I changed my major about three weeks before classes began for the new semester, so many of the classes I needed for my new major were full. This wasn’t a problem though, because I used Coursicle to send me notifications if the class or classes I wanted had an open slot. I ended up getting all of the classes I wanted before the first day of class, because students are constantly changing classes or moving into a new section.

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Consider eyestrain and fatigue levels

Personally, my vision is best during mid-morning classes or after lunch, and it becomes more difficult for me to focus my eyes at night or in early morning classes. While there are some classes that only have one section available, I try to schedule my classes between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm whenever possible so that I can make sure that I don’t exhaust myself or deal with too much eyestrain. I remember there was one semester where I chose to take a class that met between 8:45 PM and 10 PM twice a week and found that it was extremely difficult for me to not only focus on the board, but to figure out how to walk back to my dorm in the dark.

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Research professors in advance

I always check websites like RateMyProfessor to find out what professors are the best at following disability accommodations and leave reviews at the end of the semester for my professors as well. The assistive technology specialists at my college are also more than willing to talk to me about the availability of accessible materials in different classes, as they see which professors use accessible materials in their classes. Some adjunct professors may not have reviews available, so students may want to talk to their advisor or other students about what professors are the best.

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Check where buildings are located

One of the other major factors that I consider when figuring out how to schedule college classes besides the time class meets and the professor teaching the class is the building where the class is located. I have signed up for less popular sections of classes that meet outside of the hours I typically prefer to take classes when the class building is located close to my dorm, as it is easier for me to get to class and I don’t have to worry about using alternative transportation services. A few of my classes even were held in a classroom in a dorm building next door to my own building.

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Consider the classroom layout

Is the class meeting in a large lecture hall, or a smaller classroom? I do best in smaller classes where I can easily see the board or what the professor is doing, and I typically try to sit near an outlet so that I can plug in assistive technology as needed. Before I became more familiar with the campus buildings, I would look at the class registration limit to get an idea of how big the class would be- I found that classes with 40 students or less were held in classrooms that had plenty of outlets and space for me to follow what’s going on with the lecture. I did not consider class size to be a factor when registering for virtual classes.

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Should I schedule college classes back-to-back?

If the classes are in the same building or a building that is next door, scheduling classes back-to-back can be very helpful as students do not have to run between buildings. During my final in-person semester in college, I had three classes in a row (from 10:30 to 2:45) that were in connected buildings, so I didn’t have to worry about walking to classes multiple times a day on the other side of campus. My major encouraged students to take classes back-to-back, and I shared the same class sections with several students. The professors also scheduled breaks during classes knowing that students had multiple classes in a row.

If the classes are in a building that is on the other side of campus or that is otherwise far away, I do not recommend scheduling two classes back-to-back, as trying to race across campus can be difficult. That said, I took two classes (in two different semesters) that ended ten minutes before band rehearsal would begin, so I learned to take advantage of services such as the campus bus, getting rides from friends, and learning shortcuts on campus so that I didn’t have to worry about missing valuable time from rehearsal. That said, band rehearsal rarely started on time so it was not a strict deadline. I recommend that students avoid taking classes back-to-back until they are more familiar with their college campus and how long it takes to walk places.

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Look at the class syllabi

Once I am registered for my classes, I like to run a web search for the most recent syllabus for each class so that I can get an idea of how the class will be structured. To run this search, I type my class name (i.e. EDAT 410) or the professor name followed by “site:” and my college website. From there, I can find information about the textbooks and determine if I will need to request an accessible textbook, and I can also get the professor’s email so I can send them the contact sheet for my Disability Services file.

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Other tips for how to schedule college classes

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes,

Updated July 2023; original post published January 2017.

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