What Classes Should I Take Next Semester?


We’re getting to that point in the year where you should be thinking about registering for classes for the upcoming semester. Today I’d like to share some things to consider when generating a list of courses to take next semester.

This is definitely, absolutely, unequivocally NOT meant to replace advising. I just want to get you to refocus on the progress you’ve been making toward finishing your degree to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the future.

Before meeting with your advisor, I highly recommend doing a little bit of research on the front end. Knowing what you want/need to take next semester and developing a mock schedule will allow you and your advisor to focus less on the nuts and bolts of registration and more on your career goals, professional readiness and what you want your life to look like. I call that the fun stuff!

Now depending on the technology that your school has in place, you may need to have gather a few pieces of information and put them together to make yourself a customized plan. My version is very manual and bare bones, but that actually gives you the opportunity to take control and responsibility for your progress.

What you’ll need:

  • Degree audit, unofficial transcript or coursework history (you should be able to access this from your student portal)
  • Access to the academic catalog for your catalog year (catalog year refers to the academic year in which you were admitted to your current school; may be physical or electronic)
  • Any sequence charts or flow charts provided to you by your advisor (not all majors will have these and not all departments use these; they may also be available on your major department’s website)

To know where you’re going, sometimes it’s best to take a look at where you’ve been. If your school has a place for you to access a degree audit, you can see the place where these two intersect. Using the legend on your degree audit, you can decipher requirements that you’ve met and also identify courses that you still need to take.

However, if your school doesn’t have a degree audit system, you can still get a very good idea of what you’ve completed and what you haven’t. You should at least have access to your unofficial transcript or coursework history. Pull up your academic catalog and find your major and its requirements. Cross reference what you’ve taken with the requirements for your major and that should give you a better idea of what you’ve taken versus what you still need to take.

Couple of things here:

  • If you’re a freshman/sophomore, you should typically be focusing on completing any general education requirements and fulfilling any prerequisites to your major. Make note of any courses in these areas that you need to complete.
  • Take care to investigate if there are any prerequisite or corequisite courses to the courses you want to take. Here’s a simplified example: To take Calc II, you need to take Calc I. However, there may be prerequisites you’re not expecting. For example, at some schools, in order to take General Chemistry, you need to have taken College Algebra. Also, a course may require you to be enrolled in the lab and lecture concurrently (i.e., you can’t take Chem I without being enrolled in the lab at the same time). At 12:00 midnight of registration day, you don’t want to get stuck with an unpleasant surprise of a prerequisite error! Make sure you research your courses to see if there are any prerequisite or corequisite requirements.
  • If you aren’t exactly sure as to the content of the course, make sure you check out the course description, which should also be available in the academic catalog. A quick search from your school homepage should work, too. If the course description leaves much to be desired, you could also search your school’s website to see if there are any syllabi from prior semesters are available. While the course you register for may differ slightly due to differences in professors, you’ll still have a better idea of the course content than going in cold.
  • Keep your list of courses to about 5-6 with a couple of alternates.

If you have any supplemental information about your program like a sequence chart or flow chart, it can help you determine what your next step should be. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of what you should be taking, provided that you take the courses in the order suggested in the flow chart. If you’re not on track with your flow chart, you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

Following these guidelines, you should be able to develop a list of courses to take for the upcoming term. Keep them somewhere safe because we’ll be referring to that list soon. In the next post, we’ll talk about making a mock schedule to try to fit those classes into a schedule that will work for your lifestyle.

Thanks for reading! Have a question or a post idea for me? I’m just a few clicks and keystrokes away!

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