How to Choose Your College Courses

Posted by Chris Zhang

August 06, 2019 at 2:00 PM

College Courses Tips and Tricks

What Are Your Passions/What Are You Interested In?

We all go to college with the hopes that we can get a degree that will set us up for a future career, but what you study doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be pigeonholed into that area for the rest of your life. Obviously, if you’re hoping to become a doctor and you don’t study pre-med or some sort of Biology, your dream will be very hard, but I’ve found from finance talks and conferences, you don’t have to be an economics or business major to get into finance. So if you’re unsure which courses to enroll in, choose courses in subject areas that you liked in high school or you think might be interesting.

You’re a freshman. Most schools don’t require you to declare your major until the end of your sophomore year. Use this time to experiment and see which subject areas you are genuinely interested in. Do note that you should look ahead at requirements for majors to plan out and see which courses you will end up taking in the future.

Choose Courses that Fulfill Requirements Early

Most colleges have a variety of requirements in different subject areas that students must fulfill by the time they graduate, and if you ask any college student, most will say that they are not fond of these requirements. For the English majors, they don’t know why they have to take science classes. For the STEM majors, they don’t get why they need to take an art class.

Whether you end up enjoying these requirements or not, it’s best to take them as soon as possible for two reasons. First, you might end up enjoying one of your required courses and find that you want to pursue that subject area as a major. Because you took the class so early in your college career, you have the time to declare that subject area as your major and pursue learning that subject. Second, it’s best to get your requirements done early so you’re able to take more in-depth classes later in your college career. Most interesting courses across all majors are known in a category called electives, and in order to be eligible to enroll into electives, you must first take some required courses where you’ll learn about the fundamentals of that subject area. Taking some of your general requirements early will allow you to take more electives since by the time you’re able to enroll in these electives, you won’t have to worry about fulfilling your general requirements.

Note: This is also true for major requirements. Although, you might find some of the courses you are required to take for your major more interesting than the courses you have to take for your general requirements.

Choose Courses That You’ll Do Well In

This isn’t to say take all the “easy A” classes, but your grades in college do matter. Your grades show future employers and graduate schools whether or not you are able to learn and perform tasks. This tip is more to guide you in smaller decisions like if you need to fulfill a science requirement and you know you have no interest in science, should you take Biology, which you aced in high school, or Chemistry, which you struggled with in high school.

This tip can also expand into bigger decisions like what major you will choose. Most people enjoy subject areas that they excel in so if you had plans on becoming an economics major, but you’ve done well in your environmental science classes, then you should consider pursuing an environmental science major.

Use Add/Drop Week

Reading course descriptions can only get you so far. Reading course descriptions is like reading someone’s Tinder bio and then deciding that you want to date them for a semester. It can only tell you so much; you’re basically going in blind. If you were forced to make a semester-long commitment, wouldn’t you rather go on a date first?

Add/Drop week is that first date. Sure, that one week of classes might not accurately portray how the semester will go, especially since it’s syllabus week, but at least you’ll be able to get a feel for the class environment, how the teacher is, and what specifically you’ll learn throughout the semester. This is crucial in deciding which courses to take because even if the course sounds like something you’ll be interested in, maybe the teaching style that semester doesn’t suit your learning needs. Small things like that can really make or break one’s learning experience so it’s best to test the waters before fully committing to something.

What’s Next?

College can be a stressful time for many students since although these are some of the 4 most free years of your life, they’re also the 4 years you’ll be judged on before you enter the “adult world.” It can be intimidating picking courses that might decide what you will be doing for the rest of your life, but when choosing your college courses, you just need to have the right approach.

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Posted by Chris Zhang

Chris scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT in high school and is currently studying Economics and Data Science at Colby College. Fun Fact: The only movie he ever cried in was Fast and Furious.