Planning College Classes, Step 3: Organizing Your List of Major Courses

In my first two Planning College Classes posts for Entering College First-Years, I outlined steps to help figure out what classes you’ll need to take to graduate on time:

  1. Find the list of course requirements for your major, and find the general education requirements for your college.
  2. List the course requirements for your major.

Now that we’ve listed what the course requirements, we can move on to Step 3: organizing this list of options into a clear chart that is easy to follow and that helps you get your class schedule done for the next four years.

**This is one of the longer steps, so if you want to do this over two days, feel free.**

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Working on the example of the history major at My University (MU), here is how to tackle step 3:



  • Look at the course titles and/or descriptions for the department’s intro courses.

While you only have to take 3, they may not always be offered every year. Rather than hope and pray that the 3 you like the most will be available to you when you want them, you have to be a little flexible if you want to graduate on time.

  • List them in the order in which they appeal to you from most interesting to no interest whatsoever.

For example, this is how I would organize the available intro courses at MU for myself:

  1. HIST1310 is Intro to American History (US history to 1876)
  2. HIST 1311 is Intro to American History (continuation of 1310, US History 1876-present)
  3. HIST 1120 is Women in Western Civilization
  4. HIST 1121 is War of Ideals in Eur/Internat’l Histoy
  5. HIST 1011 is World History, 1500-Present
  6. HIST1110 is European Civ in World Context

The top 3 courses are the ones I really want to take, BUT not every class is offered each semester or even every year. HIST 1120 might only be offered every other Fall, for example. Or, one of those 3 classes might be so popular that it is always full and really difficult to register for. We’ll talk about what to do about the popular courses in another post.

  • Now, list and rank the 2000-level and above required courses.

Remember: at MU, history majors need 8 courses at this level AND 1 of these courses has to be on history before 1750.

Start with courses before 1750: at MU, I would need only one of these courses, so I will select 3 that appeal to me.

Most interested:

  1. HIST 2803: Ancient Near East&Egypt-332BC
  2. HIST 3302: America before 1764
  3. HIST 3180: Russian to 1801
  4. HIST 3111: Topics in Ancient History (depends on what they are…)

Somewhat interested:

  1. HIST 2113: The Roman World to 337 AD
  2. HIST 2112: Early Aegean & Greek Civilization – 338 BC
  3. HIST 3510: African History to 1880
  4. HIST 3610: China to 1800
  5. HIST 3103: European Intellectual History I

Least interested:

  1. HIST 2804: History of Ancient Israel
  2. HIST 3118: Medieval History: Early Middle Ages
  3. HIST 3710: History of Latin America
  4. HIST 3150: Spain and its Empire , 1492-1700
  5. HIST 3130: History of England
  6. HIST 3132: Tudor England
  7. HIST 3134: Stuart England
  8. HIST 3140: History of France

 Now, the history requirements also tell us we have to take the Sophomore Seminar (2005W) . This may or may not count as one of the 8 courses you need at the 2000+ level. This is a question for your advisor or the chair of your department if your advisor doesn’t know. Because you will have a list of courses that go beyond 8, if a class like this does not count toward the 8-course requirement, you won’t have to worry–just move to the next class on your list.

  • In addition to the 1 class, you have to select 2 classes in each of 3 areas:
    • Europe
    • United States
    • Asia, Africa, Mid. East, Latin America

Follow the same process beginning with the first area/topic. List 4-5 courses for each area in ranked order.

 For this particular step, you will want to think about selecting courses that build off of the 3 intro courses. Yes, you want a broad knowledge, but you don’t want to be all over the place.

 My MU example would look like this:


  1. HIST 3180: Russia to 1801
  2. HIST 3181: Russia Since 1801
  3. HIST 3125: Europe in the 20th C.
  4. HIST 3145: The French Revolution
  5. HIST 3126: European Integration, A History


  1. HIST 3313: Civil War and Reconstruction
  2. HIST 3370: US Constitutional History
  3. HIST 3352: Women in the United States
  4. HIST 3356: Epidemics in American History
  5. HIST 3362: Black Women in US History

Asia, Africa, Mid. East, Latin America:

  1. HIST 3520: Africans/Making of the Atlantic World
  2. HIST 3530: Women in Africa
  3. HIST 3621: History of Modern Japan
  4. HIST 3811: Middle East in the 20th Cen.
  5. HIST 3615: History of Chinese Communism
  • Next, write down any MUST TAKE courses:

 You know that you have to take the Sophomore Seminar: 2005W or 2x05W (a writing intensive course).

At MU, 2005W is a general Sophomore seminar. 2x05W* includes topics in Europe and, US, African, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin America history. List at least 3 in ranked order:

  1. 2005W: general
  2. 2305W: U.S.
  3. 2505W: Africa
  4. 2105W: Europe

*the “x” in a number refers to a changeable numeral and indicates there is a variety of courses that satisfy this requirement.

And you also know that you have to write an undergrad research paper by taking the Thesis Seminar (HIST4098W) or, if you qualify for honors, HIST 4099.

  • And, finally: 2 semesters in a foreign language. The department may tell you what options you have, most departments are pretty open.

 I might take 2 semesters of Russian or French at MU.


Guess what: when you finish Step 3 (in one or two sessions) you have an easy reference outline of the courses you will take for your major for the next 4 years.

But wait…what if your school has general education requirements you have to fulfill?!? That is for next time….


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