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  • Create a schedule that works for you by balancing your course load. Don’t forget to factor in time for studying, work, and extracurriculars.
  • Try spacing out your week and varying your class types to avoid feeling overworked.
  • It’s important to register for classes ASAP in case spots fill up.

Creating your freshman year class schedule is an important task. For starters, you want your first semester to be awesome. But more importantly, you want to put yourself on the right academic path so you can graduate in four years or fewer. Freshman year is all about getting started on your introductory courses, getting used to a schedule that's completely different than the one you had in high school, and easing into the college experience.

Here are some strategies to consider when creating your first semester course schedule.

Find your sweet spot

Taking the minimum number of credits to achieve full-time student status (usually 12) may not be right for you. However, loading up on more than you can handle in your first year—say 18 credits—may not be the best idea either. The sweet spot for staying on track without feeling overwhelmed is typically 15 credits, or 5 courses per semester. The rule of thumb is that for every hour you're in class, you can expect to work/study for about two hours on your own. With 15 credit hours, that means you'll be working on your academics for at least 45 hours per week.

Understand the requirements

Freshman year is a great time to knock out some general education courses. If you’ve already chosen a major or have one in mind, review the school’s degree requirements for any prerequisites that you can add to your schedule. While you don’t need to map out your entire college career, familiarizing yourself with the mandatory curriculum can help you decide what to take freshman year. Meet with your academic advisor regularly to ensure you’re on track to satisfy the requirements.

Think beyond the classroom

Be careful about stacking too many heavy reading or writing courses or more than one class with a lab requirement into one semester. Give some thought to the types of assignments and additional work that each course might have beyond class times, and try to vary it so you don't feel overworked and burnt out.

Plan your week wisely

Try to give yourself big blocks of time for studying and downtime. Having three or more classes back to back can be tough. If you're a commuter student, you may have different considerations like trying to avoid rush hour travel. Keep in mind that your choices might be limited as a freshman, so be prepared to roll with it if you end up getting a week full of 8 a.m. classes.

Do some sleuthing

Spend time with the school's course catalog (usually available online) and read class descriptions to find ones that pique your interest. You may also be able to find out who the professor is so you can do some online research about them. If you know any upperclassmen, find out which courses and professors they loved as freshmen. Remember that people's opinions may differ from your own, so while it does help to have real student perspectives, keep an open mind.

Register as soon as you can

Most colleges assign students a registration time to sign up for classes. Set a reminder in your calendar so you don’t delay signing up. Classes may fill up quickly so make sure you have a list of alternative courses in case some of your first choices are no longer available. If you can’t get into a class, you may be able to join the waitlist or contact your academic advisor to help you create a backup plan.

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