Whether you are an incoming freshman eager to enroll in courses, or a senior facing senioritis trying to speed up the graduation process, it is important to be aware of how busy you make your class schedule. A lot of students get overwhelmed during the semester because they realized they signed up for too many classes and then cannot handle the rigorous course load. The idea of wanting to burn through classes quickly can initially seem appealing, but in reality, it is definitely a lot of work and a huge time commitment. This isn't to say it can't be done, but it should be done with caution.
In today's post, I'll be sharing lessons and tips that I learned these past two years about making a balanced college schedule. I'm definitely an overachiever and try to push myself, but I've also been able to learn when to throttle back and make time for myself during the school year.
Take Listed Credit Numbers With A Grain Of Salt
What I mean by this is that colleges list credit numbers that each course is worth (typically ranging from 1 to 4). A lot of students fall into the trap of thinking that a 1-credit course will not be a ton of work. Yes, this can be true, but I've had several 1 credit courses take up 2-3 hours of homework in the evening time. Be sure to really research the classes you are taking before quickly stacking low credit courses. I found out the hard way that a course with a low credit number does not mean that the class will not be difficult. I found it best to either ask friends who have taken the course what it is like, or to reach out to your academic advisor for advice!
Try not to max out your credit limit (or go over it)
For most students who are not in a honors program, the max number of credits you can take is typically 18. Taking a full credit load is a huge time commitment, so realistically, you probably will not have much personal time after attending classes, doing homework, going to extracurriculars, or working if you have a job. I do my best to stay at 16 credits or less so be sure that I have time for myself and outside commitments from school. Last semester, I was daring and took 19 credits with my advisors permission without researching how difficult my classes were going to be. Coincidentally, last semester was also my worst grade wise, as I ended up getting A through D-'s on my final grades. Don't a hero, and definitely take your time getting classes done. Most colleges have 4 year plans that do not require students to take a full 18 credits each semester.
Consult Your Advisor
Your academic advisor is probably one of the most important resources you will have on campus. I was fortunate to get an amazing advisor, and she has helped me tremendously with making my schedule each semester. She tells me what courses are more time consuming, have a history of harsher grading, and other helpful information to assist me in making wise choices when registering for classes. Your advisor is also the person who can potentially help you get into closed class sections if you mess up when making your schedule. Definitely reach out to your advisor often, whether it be for class advice or just to talk to. They love helping students and will be honest with you regarding your class choices.
Make a mock schedule of your personal commitments outside of class first
I find this to be an extremely helpful piece of advice! I like to make a 24 hour daily schedule for a mock week, and fill out when I get up, have work, club meetings, go to the gym, and when I get ready for bed. By doing this, I am able to visualize how much of my day is already being blocked off without even having classes be scheduled yet. If you do this and find that you are having to erase a lot of your personal commitments and relaxation time in order to fit in homework and classes, you probably need to drop 1 or 2 courses. You will not do well in class if you cannot take time for yourself, so please be sure to make your personal life a priority as well when making schedules.
Hopefully these tips will help you make a strong and balanced college class schedule. It has taken me two years to figure out my limits when it comes to school, so don't expect to magically discover what's best for you in college. It takes time. However, you can speed up the process by careful planning and using your resources before registering for classes.