Scheduling Your First Semesters at College

Many high school seniors are starting to think about their freshmen year of college. Some may have already been accepted and are already thinking about their summer visit and freshmen orientation. In their excitement, they may be forgetting the most important part of the visit, filling out their fall schedules. This article gives you five tips to remember when making your fall schedule this summer.

1. Know Yourself. Most college orientation programs include a graphic demonstration of how many of you won’t be back for a second semester. I remember the demonstration at my orientation. Freshmen attended a mandatory convocation in the arena where one college counselor pointed out that one-third to one-half of us wouldn’t be back due to poor grades. Then, he asked several sections – a thousand or so of us – to stand saying that was 1/3 of us. This many students wouldn’t be back. Several more sections stood and he added that this represented the number that would be on academic probation after the first semester; very close to dismissal.

The best way to ensure you’ll be coming back in the spring – in good academic standing – is to make a schedule that suits your personality, habits, and learning style. For example, can you get up at 7 a.m. if you stayed up until 1 or 2 a.m. finishing homework? If you do, will you be awake enough to listen and take notes in class? Be honest with yourself when looking at the list of available classes. If you’ll have trouble getting up at 7 a.m., sign up for classes that start at 10 or 11 a.m. Play to your strengths!

2. Memorize Requirements for Your Major. Even if you choose a General Studies major, you will have to meet certain requirements before taking upper-level classes. For example, you need to take – and pass – Biology before you’ll be allowed to sign up for Microbiology. It might seem like a minor thing, but it can have big consequences later. If you plan to graduate in four years but don’t find out until your junior year that you need to pass Microbiology before you can graduate, you’ll be upset when you learn you have to pass Biology first! Especially if you find out that Microbiology is only offered in the fall! Make sure you memorize all the requirements for your major so you can schedule required classes first.

3. Plan Several Semesters at Home. Before your scheduling meeting, plan three or four semester’s worth of classes at home. Include summer school or online classes that might last six to nine months. Consider required classes, too. If you need to take Advanced Geometry for your major, make sure you schedule Algebra I during one of your first two semesters. Write your plan on a piece of paper you can take with you when you schedule classes. That way, if one of the classes you had planned to take is full, you can look ahead and quickly substitute something else you need.

4. Stick With Your Plan. Once you’ve thought about your personality, work habits, and learning style, make a tentative plan for your schedule meeting. If you decided on certain classes and class times, don’t change your mind at your meeting. College counselors tend to push students toward certain sections of introductory classes, usually because returning students filled all the spots in the sections that start later in the day. If you wanted to take a Natural Resources class your first semester to “see what it’s like”, don’t give in and sign up for the 8 a.m. section because that’s all they have available. Register for something else and remember to register for classes early once spring registration starts.

5. Play to Your Strengths. In general, class numbers indicate the approximate grade level you’ll be when taking a class. For example, you’ll know that Natural Resources 101 is an introductory class because it’s a “100-level class”. At my alma mater, classes were 100, 200, 300, or 400 level – freshmen, sophomore, junior, senior. If you really like History, find an introductory level History class (100-level) and sign up. That will help keep you motivated during your first semester. On the other hand, if you’re not so good at sciences, wait until your second semester to schedule Biology 101. Play to your strengths wherever possible.


High school seniors will soon be getting college acceptance letters and planning their summer orientation visit. An important part of that visit is meeting with a college counselor to make your fall schedule. Before you go, take a few steps to make sure your freshmen year is successful. Consider your personality, work habits, and learning style when looking at the class guide. Pick classes that give you the best chance of success. Make sure to review the requirements for the major you’ve chosen and memorize them. Create a three or four semester schedule of classes and write it down so you can take it to your meeting. Choose classes in subjects you like and are good at for your first semester to keep yourself motivated.

I hope you found this article helpful. Please take a minute to leave a comment, Like this post on Facebook, or Tweet the post via Twitter using the buttons on the right side of my blog page. If you have questions about whether a tutor is right for you, or if you would like advice for your unique situation, feel free to E-mail me using the “E-mail Jeff S.” button on my Wyzant tutor home page.

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