Learning from your mistakes is great. Learning from others’ mistakes is amazing. Now that my first year of university is over, I’ve had the time to look back at the mistakes I made throughout the year. Adapting myself to the university workload wasn’t much of an issue to many people’s surprise. My biggest struggle lied within creating a sustainable class schedule for myself, because I didn’t have much guidance at the time. Since course registration is opening soon, I thought I’d use my mistakes to give 5 essential tips in order to create your optimal university schedule and avoid the mistakes I committed.
Tip 1: Tailor your class schedule to your lifestyle
- This is probably the most important aspect of creating your university class schedule. Are you a Night Owl or an Early Riser? Do you have a job? These are the types of questions you should be ask yourself before engineering the best possible schedule for yourself
Tip 2: Know what classes you have to take in advance
- Check the course sequence and academic requirements for your program beforehand. There’s nothing more overwhelming than not understanding what classes you have to take for your specific program while trying to create your class schedule at the last minute…Trust me.
Tip 3: Create a template schedule BEFORE registration opens
- Classes tend to fill up at an alarming rate the moment registration opens. That’s why you need to have everything planned out in advance (like I always advocate). This will help reduce your stress dramatically, as on the day of registration you won’t have to worry about being on the waiting list of a mandatory class, or having to take a class at a time you don’t like. You can create your template schedule by using your school’s course timetable.Be careful though, class times are subject to change before registration date without notice, so be prepared and always have a backup plan!
These are my template schedules for Fall 2017 and Winter 2018. I identified what classes I absolutely HAD to take each semester, added my electives, and added two third year classes (ECO 3550: Probability/Statistics for Economists and ECO 3551: Introduction to Econometrics) to free up some space in my 2018-2019 academic year. I also imposed a strict rule of having no classes after 5:30pm. I am an Early Riser, so I prefer getting all of my work done throughout the day and relaxing in the evening, which means avoiding those 3 hour night classes at all cost. In order to obtain such precise schedules, I had to take some classes in English that I would’ve otherwise taken in French.
Tip 4: It’s YOUR schedule
- I can’t stress this enough. You’re in university, YOU control your schedule. The course sequence is only there to guide you, and is only a suggestion. If you feel like a specific semester would be too overwhelming if you followed the recommended course sequence, don’t be afraid to take classes in advance, or take them later in your university career. For example, if I follow the course sequence for my program, my third year would be insane! So, I decided I would take Probability and Statistics and Econometrics (the hardest economics undergraduate class) in second year, which would free up my third year, allowing me to take some very interesting and useful fourth year classes. However, if you’re going to take this approach, make sure you have all the necessary prerequisites and respect all the rules for your specific program. It would be very unfortunate to graduate late because you missed out on something crucial…Once again, check your academic requirements!
Tip 5: BALANCE is key
- There are 3 types of students:
- Type 1: Only takes easy classes, doesn’t learn a thing after 4 years of university, can’t find a job because he/she has no skills
- Type 2: Only takes super hard classes, has a low GPA or is very stressed throughout his/her university career
- Type 3: Balances his/her schedule to have a mix of hard and easier, but useful classes. Minimal stress, high GPA
- At the beginning of my freshman year, I thought that I had to take all the hard classes to be appealing to potential employers. I told myself that I could handle anything because I have efficient tactics to achieve top grades with minimal studying. I’ve since changed my perspective, and believe that it is better to strive for balanced semesters. There’s no reason to put yourself through crazy semesters, even if you think you can handle it. However, I don’t agree with only taking useless classes in order to have a high GPA. You’re only fooling yourself at the end of the day…and your pockets. Remember, these classes cost A LOT of money…
- This is a little harder if your program is very specific and most of your classes are already mapped out for you. The best thing to do here is to follow tip 4 and try to space out your harder classes as much as possible.
Bonus Tip: Don’t mess up your schedule to get a better professor
- Sure, it’s very rational to choose the best professor available for your class. However, if it creates an obstruction in your schedule, it’s simply not worth it (trust me on this one!). At the end of the day, it is important to realize that university is a self-learning environment. Regardless of which professor you have, it is up to YOU to learn the material. Simply having a good professor won’t guarantee you an A. He/she doesn’t have superpowers to help you learn the material at first sight, so keep that in mind if you’re considering switching instructors for a class because of negative reviews.
At the end of the day, make sure your class schedule is adapted to your personal needs. If you like having your evenings free, take your classes in the morning and afternoon. If you like sleeping in, take your classes later in the day and in the evening,…. Remember, you’re not in high school anymore. It’s YOUR schedule, and only yours!