Planning a class schedule is the backbone of your educational experience. It sets up your day to day timetable and can even help determine your future. It is best to think about your options from as many angles as possible before making a decision. Each educational level has unique challenges to choosing a balanced schedule:
High School Class Schedule Plan
Required courses take up most of the class schedule for the average high school student. In some high schools, this means there are few or no choices. In other high schools, students can choose between levels or “tracks” and sometimes even choose between classes taken to fulfill a given requirement.
For those who are college-bound, there is less flexibility. Colleges usually like to see a certain patterns of classes taken by all students in high school, typically including at least:
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of social studies
- 3 years of math
- 3 years of science
- 1 year of fine arts
- 0-2 years of a foreign language
These requirements do vary considerably by college. For example, the University of California college system requires only two years each of social science and laboratory science, but they do require two years of a foreign language and one year of another elective. Yale University has no specific admission requirements, but their admissions department states that they like to see students take courses in all of the above listed areas during every year of their high school career.
Although they are commonly considered advantageous, taking advanced courses including AP, IB, and Honors must be done judiciously. It is very important to consider if the boost your college application may receive justifies the amount of time and stress that a class may cause you. Advanced courses should correspond with subjects that you are comfortable in. Talk to a school counselor about your proposed timetable if it includes a lot of advanced courses.
High school students don’t usually get a lot of choice in terms of their teachers. However, if you feel that a teacher is not appropriate for you, talk to your guidance counselor. Explain in terms of how your learning style doesn’t work with his or her methods, or how you feel that you could benefit from being in a different class.
At some schools, the number of courses required to graduate is near or equal to a full course load each year. In most cases, at least some grades will have the option of taking fewer classes. Again, this is a balancing act between doing as much as possible and doing well. The more classes the better as far as most colleges are concerned. However, if taking one fewer class allows you to do better on the remaining ones, this is probably a better option.
College Class Schedule Plan
There is a great deal of freedom for students who are attending college in terms of class schedule. Especially during the first two years of an undergraduate education, students are free to take classes in a wide variety of subjects and are usually encouraged to do so. General education requirements can typically be fulfilled by a number of different options, which makes it easy to create a varied timetable.
Most college students can wait until their sophomore year or even later to choose their major. However, this may not be the case for certain majors. The sciences in particular are known for their long list of required pre-requisite courses that must be taken prior to starting coursework in the subject. Students who do not start major preparation for these subjects during their first year may have trouble graduating on time.
College courses take place across the day, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. Most students actively avoid early morning classes. However, if you are the kind of person who works best earlier in the day, consider having your classes start bright and early because then they will end early, too. Most college students will only actually be in class for three to five hours a day. Students are then expected to put in two hours of work outside class for every hour of class that is taught.
Grouping your classes together can compress your course time into a single block period each day. This can be especially helpful if you find it hard to resist the temptation to chat with friends instead of studying between classes. However, as you progress in your college career and your class schedule becomes more restricted, this will become more difficult to achieve.
College professors vary widely in their commitment to the teaching process. Unfortunately, some professors view teaching as an obligation that must be fulfilled in order to continue research at a certain institution. One way to discover what your fellow students think about certain professors is through online ratings sites. College advisers are another good source of information.
The registration process for most colleges has gone online. Students are typically given a date that they may begin to register, which is based on the number of credits they have completed. More advanced students get to choose their classes first.
A full course load for an undergraduate student is usually considered to be at least 12 credits per term. The average at most schools is 15 credits per term, and this is what is required to graduate on time in most cases. Students receiving financial aid are typically required to maintain full-time status. Taking substantially more than 15 credits is usually not advisable.
Graduate School Class Schedule Plan
The class schedule for a graduate student is often more restricted than that of an undergraduate. This is because graduate students are expected to take courses mostly within their subject and at higher levels. Depending on the subject, however, graduate students may spend considerably more time working independently than taking courses.
Most graduate students will have the opportunity to apply for a teaching assistant (TA) position. Some graduate programs actually require a certain number of hours working as a TA. However, this can be a considerable amount of work and students should consider their overall time commitment carefully.
In graduate school, students usually have one major professor who is their mentor. Some schools assign mentor professors based on interests and availability, while others allow students to choose for themselves. Current and previous students of professors that you are interested in working with are usually the best sources of information. Take one out to lunch and pick his or her brain about the professor before making a decision.
The definition of full-time study for a graduate student varies from school to school. Typically, it is around 9 credits, but the actual amount of work required varies considerably. Thus, advisers and other students are often the best source of information about how many credits to add to your timetable.