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How To: Planning Your Class Schedule

How To: Planning Your Class Schedule

It is important to recognize what learning style works best for you before you set your class schedule. Are you an advanced student who is on track to complete your major early? Are you working towards a minor or are you balancing your school schedule with your work schedule? Do you prefer to learn from presentations or take notes directly from the professor? Do you prefer to study alone or does having a group of friends to study with motivates you? These are all questions to ask yourself as you plan your class schedule. The three fundamental topics we will be discussing in this article are listed below.

Step 1: Selecting your Professor: The Good and the Bad
Step 2: Taking classes with Friends
Step 3: Class levels of Difficulty

Let’s dive deeper into these steps to learn more about how to effectively plan your schedule!

Professors: The Good and the Bad

When choosing a class, we often wonder who is teaching it. Some questions to think about include the flexibility of the professor. What is their grading policy? Is attendance mandatory? How is the homework load? Are there any TAs available to work with outside of class? One of the first places we go to find these answers is online. Getting recommendations from a friend or classmate is a great route to turn to. After all, they went through the same experience and lived to tell the tale! However, it is important to keep in mind that not everything you hear or read online is true. Remember to take these suggestions with a grain of salt. Finding the balance between these two is key in selecting your best professors!

Pros: Websites such as ratemyprofessors.com offer insights from prior students about the classes and teachers. We often utilize our friends as reliable and credible resources when it comes to deciding what teachers we should take. Some classes only have one teacher covering the subject which can be either a good thing or a bad thing. While these websites can provide great insights for students, it’s important to not rely solely on other people’s opinions. Typically, the people who take the time to write reviews either had really good or super bad experiences in that class. A majority of students probably lie in the middle and may not feel the need to post a review. Looking into substitute and/or equivalent classes offered over the summer or at a local community college may save you the trouble of enduring  a class you’ve been dreading or assist you in getting a class with a desired professor who’s booked up for the next upcoming sections.

Cons: Judging a professor solely on their reviews from previous students isn’t necessarily a good thing. Often times, students who have a bad experience with a professor are more likely to leave a review while satisfied students won’t. In general, you should look for reviews rated as most helpful for the highest, middle, and lowest scores. In addition, you should dismiss any poor reviews that are clearly a result of student error (i.e. “This professor wouldn’t round my grade up!”). Taking some chances are necessary. Figuring out what realistic qualities you look for in a good professor can help guide your decision.


Taking Classes with Friends

We all have certain friends we go to whether that be for advice, someone to grab a bite to eat with or even go on road trips with. This same principle applies to friends we take classes with. Sometimes it’s hard  to differentiate your fun friends from your studious friends because we often don’t look at them for what they are but rather how they make you feel. Some good questions to ask yourself are: Would they be a good person to study for an exam with? Are we in the same major? Are getting good grades one of their priorities? Do our learning styles differ in any way? Do I have any reason NOT to take a class with them?  

Pros: It’s always nice to see a familiar face in the crowd. That comes especially in handy during group projects. Having a friend to sit next to in class and work on homework with can help give students incentive to go to class. You can also carpool to campus with your friends to save money on parking and fuel.  These tactics can help you and your friends hold each other accountable as well.
Cons: Sticking to who/what you know is not always the best option you have. It limits your opportunities to meet new people and closes you off to potential networks you could find. Trying to change or accommodate your schedule to fit your friend’s can possibly do you more harm than good. Having a friend in the class might distract you from the course material and gear your focus more on the friend. Ever heard of the phrase “Separate business from personal?” Well, that can be applied in this instance as well. How you work and manage your time can be different from what your friends do. Doing group projects together can be frustrating and could end up putting strain on your friendship.

Levels of Difficulty

One of the first things you ask yourself when signing up for classes is how hard the course is going to be and how much of a time commitment it is going to take.  If you’re trying to choose general electives, it’s easy to take 100 or 200 level courses – mostly because we associate low numbers with an easy ‘A’. However, it’s important to ask your academic advisor whether or not the “easiest classes” are actually getting you closer to completing your major or certificate. It’s possible that classes you completed at your junior college will put you one step closer to your four year degree. Looking into classes that are equivalent to what you’ve already taken at your community college is something to keep in mind as you are choosing your class schedule.

Pros: While it is impossible to be dodging the upper level classes forever, you don’t have to hit the ground running with advanced courses. Doing a lower level class can be more enjoyable and worthwhile especially if you’re interested in the topic but don’t know much about it. This is a great opportunity for you to take a class with a friend who may not share the same major as you. A lot of electives and general education classes are in the same building such as DuSable – which hosts a ton of different areas of study. Friends who share the same major as you will have the same prerequisite requirements so working on a harder class together might work out in your favor.

Cons: Lower Level classes do not always guarantee an easy pass. Some courses have lower level classes that are significantly harder than the advanced classes. This is because the lower level classes cover a broad horizon of subtopics and provide thorough details on the basics of the subject. For example, you might get a very enthusiastic professor who teaches their 100 level course as if it is a 300 level course.  On the other hand, +300 level classes are rated as advanced for a reason; they generally require prior knowledge of the subject before a student can get the most out of the course. A little challenge every now and then is healthy and important for individual growth.


Overall, when choosing your classes think to yourself what you want to get out of the class. Some key questions to consider include:

  1. How is this professor rated?
  2. Will this class contribute to my major, minor or certificate?
  3. Have I taken any equivalent courses at a community college that can transfer over?

Looking for more help planning your class schedule? Check out our comparison of morning vs night classes here!



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