How to Choose the Best Classes for Freshman Year
Find your sweet spot.
Don't just take the minimum amount of credits to achieve full-time student status (usually 12). However, loading up on more than you can handle in your first year — say 18 credits -- isn't the best idea. The sweet spot for staying on track without feeling overwhelmed is typically 15 credits, or five 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. Work with your adviser who can help you create a graduation road map that fits your goals and work habits.
Mix it up.
Think of your first semester as a college student as if it were a tasting menu. You want to sample different subject areas by taking introductory core curriculum classes (those that are required) and one major course if you've declared. Save the "fun" elective classes for after you've gotten the bulk of your core and major credits out of the way. At the tail end of your college career, you'll be glad you did.
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. When possible, schedule classes later in the morning so you can enjoy sleeping in once in a while, too. 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 do 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 him or her. 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.
Your first semester of college should be an exciting experience, so don't stress about it by overthinking it too much. You might not get the exact schedule you want or a class of interest might be closed out, but that's okay. As long as you take a good mix of classes that will count toward your degree and you work hard, then your first semester will be a success.