The right course

With all the planning and pressure of getting into college, it’s easy to forget about the academic challenges that lie ahead. To get off to a strong start, select a mix of courses you’ll find rewarding but not academically overwhelming. Here’s how to plan a schedule that’s right for you.

Take care of requirements: Most colleges require students to take certain courses in order to graduate. While specific requirements vary by college, the goal is to ensure that all students are well-rounded and have solid skills for the workplace.

Research the courses: Don’t sign up for a class based on its title alone. Read the course descriptions carefully in the school catalogue or online. Try to get first-hand opinions from students who have taken courses that sound interesting. You might also want to seek advice from your academic counsellor.

Plan for study time: Remember that every course involves substantial work outside the classroom, and those hours will add up. Get a sense of how much time each class will require

you to spend reading, writing, or in the lab. Students should plan on studying an average of 25 to 30 hours a week.

Balance the difficult with the doable: While it’s admirable to challenge yourself in college by taking difficult courses, balancing your workload by combining challenging courses with those that come more easily to you can help bolster your academic confidence.

Try something completely different: From astronomy to zoology, college courses cover a diverse range of subjects. While finishing off your requirements is a priority, leave room to experiment. Try an elective, a course you take just because the subject interests you. Don’t become so goal-oriented that you don’t take time to enjoy the rich offerings of a university.

Work hard: If you find a particular course difficult at first, stick with it, spend a little extra time studying, join a study group, or talk to the professor about opportunities for extra help. On the other hand, if you feel that a particular class simply isn’t going to work out regardless of how hard you study, be sure you know the cut-off date for dropping or changing classes.

Master time management: Time management skills are the key difference between successful

students and struggling ones. Planning ahead, keeping a written calendar or personal scheduler, and visualising how you will use your time will help you get things done well and on time. Many college students bury themselves in too much work and end up stressing out, or worse, dropping out. Don’t let that happen to you. If you feel overwhelmed, try cutting back on work or classes to come up with a more manageable workload.

Create your dream schedule: Before registration day, prepare your ideal schedule of courses, along with a list of alternatives in case some of your first picks are full. Try to schedule your classes for when you are most alert, and keep in mind potential conflicts with job, sports, or other commitments. With a little planning, you can finish your studies with low stress, high grades, and the confidence to succeed in college and beyond.