Planning College Classes, First Things First: Finding Your Major Requirements

Maze_1328372_57165107Woo-hoo! You are about to start college and you get to decide what classes you want to take! Oh, the freedom! You can take art classes, or bio classes, or econ classes, or sports classes, or language classes…theoretically speaking.

Before you get caught up in the whirlwind of freedom that comes with college life, remember that you cannot just take whatever you what, whenever you want, and graduate in four years with a diploma in awesomeness. As an undergraduate student you are obligated to take courses that fulfill at least two sets of requirements:

  1. Classes for your major(s) and/or minor(s), and
  2. Classes that are satisfy the schools’ general education requirement.

I can’t tell you how many emails I get from seniors stating they have to take my closed-class because they need to fulfill a requirement or they won’t graduate. Here’s the thing: it’s not my job to fulfill student requirements, it is only my job to teach. Students: you are on you own when it comes to planning. You have an advisor to help you along the way, but whether you listen to your advisor is up to you.

I personally don’t like surprises, and I can’t image that spending three and half years in college and suddenly finding out that you didn’t fulfill all the graduation requirements is a pleasant experience. Especially when you thought you were almost done…and there are no classes open to you to help you knock these requirements out so you can graduate.

What it comes down to is planning before you get there, and being willing to revise the plan once school is underway:

  1. Finding out what is required
  2. List the requirements
  3. Listing the options that appeal to you
  4. Making sure the classes fulfill the school’s general education requirements
  5. Taking the classes

This post will cover Step 1. Steps 2-5 will follow in subsequent posts. You can do each of these steps in roughly an hour or less, over five days.

Every college and university has a handbookonline and in print. Decide which one you are most comfortable working with, and become familiar with it. Whichever source you choose, you want to look up at least two things off the bat: the school’s general education requirements, and your major requirements (even if you haven’t decided yet, go to the department you think you may be interested in).

The object of this first step to choosing classes is simply to make a list of what you need to do. Decide how you want to keep track of everything, a spreadsheet, a Word doc, etc. Or you can use the Class Planning Worksheets here on AcademicRX (Coming soon!).

Step 1: Finding the requirements

Today, all you have find the list of requirements for a possible major and for the school’s general education requirements. Then either: print them out, cut and paste them into a Word doc, or (if you’re using a hard-copy) mark the pages with two post-its labeled “School” and “Major.” Get yourself a highlighter too.

Then set these things aside until you are ready to move to Step 2: Listing what’s required.


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