Shopping for Classes
The first two weeks of any term, school year, or semester is affectionately known by many students as “the shopping period.” With shiny new school supplies and sharpened pencils in hand, fresh-faced students venture out to class, ready to dive into new subject matter, explore new teachers and material, or continue with and explore more deeply the subject matter that they enjoy.
Before you select classes, do some preliminary research. First and foremost, think about whether the subject matter is interesting to you. Read the course description and find out if there is a sample syllabus available to look at—ask at the department office or go online to look. Check out the reading list to see if it looks interesting. You can even go to the bookstore to look over the books themselves.
To find out about a particular professor, ask around and talk to fellow students. Don’t assume that just because a professor is famous or has won awards, he is a good teacher; schools sometimes hire big-name professors for their academic reputations, not for their teaching abilities. You might even try sitting in on a professor’s class to see what he is like.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options to just a few, collect the syllabi from each and plan to do the work the first two weeks in as many classes as you can juggle. It may be hectic or a bit overwhelming but in the end it will be worth it since you can explore your possibilities more deeply than you can by just skimming a course description.
High School vs. College Shopping
In high school, a school college counselor or guidance counselor can help you find classes that are appropriate. If you’re a freshman or sophomore in high school, you may not have much choice in the classes you can take. You’re usually limited to choosing a class that is in either the regular college prep track, honors, or Advanced Placement (AP) level. Other than that, most courses in high school are simply basic requirements needing to be met.
As you move into your junior and senior years, however, you may be able to choose some electives that match your interests. For example, you may get to pick which foreign language or science class to take to fulfill the graduation requirement.
High school guidance counselors may know which courses are offered during each particular class period, so if you end up dropping a class, ask him or her to help you fill that time slot.
In college, on the other hand, you’ll have more of a say in what you take, and scheduling is much more flexible since traditional courses are sometimes offered only twice per week or in the evenings. Some college students choose to stack all of their classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, for example. Once you do choose which classes you want, you may find yourself very eager to sign up for them! Some college students sleep out (literally, camp out!) to sign up for a popular class or go online the moment registration begins to seek enrollment in a course they want.
Don’t feel concerned about dropping a college class two weeks in; it doesn’t mean you’re a quitter. Remember, you’re focusing on choosing a class that’s the right fit for you.
Regardless of what grade you’re in as you read this book, think of the first two weeks of any class as a time for you to gauge how a class will work for you. If the teacher is speaking at a pace that is way over your head or seems beyond the scope of what you have learned up to this point, chances are that class is not the right fit. If you’re in high school, talk to your guidance counselor about how to tackle the class (perhaps by seeing a tutor to catch up), or change it if possible (to find a class at a level more suited to your background). If you’re in college, consider dropping the class and finding another.