How Do I Build a Successful Class Schedule for my First Year in College?

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Answered by: Megan, An Expert in the Surviving Your First Year Category
In high school, you might have had some say about your class schedule, but you still had to go to school during normal hours, and you had to take a certain number of classes every day. When you get to freshman orientation, you’ll notice that college is different. Before you have any college experience, you are asked to create a class schedule for your first year in college. You will have to pick which classes you take, when you take them and who you take them with. It can be overwhelming, so here are some tips on designing class schedules that will lead to success in your first year.

Research the Professors: Because your first year is usually full of general education classes, you can often be fairly selective about your professors. Websites like and are great resources where you can read what real students are saying about the professors on your campus. You’ll learn a lot about teaching styles, grading difficulty, how much homework is assigned and much more from these sites. Pick professors whose teaching styles sound like something you can easily learn from and you’ll be much more comfortable in class!

Keep Your Schedule Tight: Now that you can choose what time you go to class, it’s tempting to space your classes out throughout the day. If you have two hours between your first and second class, that might be a good opportunity for a nap, right? Wrong! Freshman students learn quickly that it’s much easier to stay in bed than go to their next class, so avoid giving yourself long gaps during your first year. Save the midday naps for when you’re a more experienced and disciplined student.

Avoid 8 a.m. Classes: If you’re used to getting to school earlier that 8 a.m., then an early class might not seem like a big deal, but as soon as you start enjoying campus life, you’ll find that early classes are a good recipe for bad grades. Unless there is no other option, give yourself the chance to sleep in. You will be staying up late with your friends, and you’re much more likely to go to class if it starts later in the morning.

Don’t Overload Yourself: Some schools have limits on how many hours you can take in your freshman year, and for good reason. Even if you were a great student in high school, this is college, and it’s easy to overwhelm yourself in your first year. It’s better to get comfortable with college courses and build confidence with good grades than to struggle to keep up with an 18-hour course load. Take 12 or 15 hours in your first semester, give yourself time to socialize and make friends, and you’ll have a lot more success in your first year.

Make Your Schedule Your Own: Remember, this is your college education and nobody else’s. If you make decisions about your schedule to fit your job, please your parents or because you feel bullied by your advisor, then you won’t make good choices for yourself. Put school first and get a job which will assign hours around your class schedule (as all on-campus jobs and many employers in college towns will do). Tell your parents your reasoning behind the schedule you prepared and ask them to respect it. If your advisor won't listen to you, you can request another one, or respectfully ask to make your own schedule for their approval. If a class seems too intimidating, save it for next year. Your first year in college is about learning to be a successful student, so keep your needs and personality in mind as you build your class schedule!

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