Picking your classes for freshman year can be one of the most exciting — and daunting — processes of the summer, and it starts now. If you haven’t already, you’ll soon receive a big packet of information on preregistration in the mail. These packets (links at the end of the article), which are different depending on your school, have tons of useful information on what classes best fit your academic program. But, while they are extremely helpful, the process can still be rather confusing. That’s where we come in. We’ve all been there, and now we’re here to pass our knowledge on to you. From the dates you need to know to frequently asked questions, here’s everything you need to know.
How to Preregister
Before you even think about doing the actual preregistration, you need to look into all your options. Start your search with the preregistration information mailed to you by your school (links below), which includes helpful tools like a sample schedule, explanations of required courses and information on AP/IB credit.
Find classes with the Class Schedule. This tool lets you search a variety of criteria like class name, meeting time and professor. Most of the search options are self-explanatory, but one helpful — yet underutilized — feature is the Attribute Type selection box. Here you can find classes that may be in different departments but fulfill a certain requirement, as well as classes for majors (such as Women’s and Gender Studies) that draw classes from across departments. For example, if you select the College/HALC option, the search turns up classes ranging from art history to Spanish to English that fulfill the Humainites: Arts, Literature and Cultures requirement for the College.
A secondary tool for browsing classes is the course descriptions site. You can narrow down your options by department and title and view the class information in a different format.
While you’re looking for classes another helpful resource is Rate My Professors. Search the professor’s name and see what turns up. Take everything you find with a grain of salt, though, as most reviews are either extremely positive or extremely negative — just think about what type of student takes the time to write a review. Also, just because one person had a bad experience with a professor, doesn’t mean you will.
Once you find a class that interests you, mark down the course number and the meeting time so you can easily find it again later and have the information for scheduling purposes. Assemble a list of a few options for classes that fulfill your requirements. Having options for each subject will be helpful later when you have to fill out your primary and alternate course requests.
As you compile your list of classes, start to map out a schedule. See which classes work together and which don’t. Be realistic about whether or not you want to be waking up at 8 a.m. every day. Most people opt for 9:30 a.m. classes as their earliest of the day, but you might want to start earlier or later depending on personal preference. Also take into account that most clubs meet during the evenings so taking a lot of night classes could limit your involvement in clubs.
Once you’ve assembled a working schedule, you’ll need to start prioritizing. Rank your courses according to how important they are to you and according to how difficult you think they’ll be to get into. The course capacity number (available when you search for classes) can be helpful here as you can see how many open spots there are in a given class. Keep in mind that only other freshmen are competing for spots at this point.
After you’ve come up with a good ranking order, go to MyAccess to fill out the preregistration form. Use the class search feature to find the classes you’ve chosen and input them into the form according to the ranking you’ve established. Here, you’ll see an option that says “Any section?” This feature can be particularly useful for classes with many sections (like Problem of God or certain languages) where you don’t necessarily care about the professor but would rather definitely be in the class. When the schedules are being worked out, the registrar will just fit in any section of the class that works with your schedule.
Take your time with preregistration — it’s not first-come, first-served. You can save your form and come back to it at any time, but be sure to submit before the end of the preregistration period, July 29.
Bonus tip: The Corp has relaunched their preregistration website, Classy, which provides a sleeker, more streamlined way to preregister. The site displays information such as course descriptions and evaluations, professor ratings and class meeting times, culled from MyAccess and Rate My Professors, among other sources, in an easy-to-understand interface. You can also see how your primary and alternate courses fit together on a schedule with just a few clicks. Find the site here.
June 23 – July 29: New Student Preregistration
Aug. 30: Registration Completion
This day during New Student Orientation is when you’ll receive your fall semester schedules and have the opportunity to fix any scheduling problems.
Sept. 1 – Sept. 11: Add/Drop Period
If, after going to the first class or two, you decide a class just isn’t for you, use this first week and a half to drop it and try out a new one.
Frequently Asked Questions
If I submit my preregistration earlier do I get priority?
Not at all. There’s no benefit to doing it early so take your time.
What’s a normal credit load?
You may be used to taking seven or eight classes in high school, but college is very, very different. Five classes is considered the normal amount for a semester. That equates to 15 credits if all your classes are the normal, three-credit amount, or fewer if you take an intensive language or a science class with labs. Generally, the best advice is to take it easy your first semester and don’t overload on credits. I took 14 credits (three normal classes, and a five-credit intensive language) my first semester, but this past year I was up to 19 credits with five classes, including an intensive language. Start slow and build up to more intense credit loads later in your college years.
How many classes is too many for one day?
It really varies from person to person. Some like to spread their classes evenly throughout the week, while others prefer having all their classes on two days, leaving the other days open for a job or internship. For an incoming freshman, I would recommend spreading classes throughout the week. Anything more than three or four classes in a given day will seem like a lot and will mean you’ll have a lot of work to do for that day.
What does R mean in the class meeting time listings?
R is Thursday. Don’t ask why it’s not Th — I have no clue.
What does the the question “any section?” mean?
The “Any section?” checkbox can be used to denote that you would like to be placed in a course regardless of section. For courses like Problem of God, some introductory languages or the sciences there are often multiple sections of the same course number taught by the same or different professors. By marking the “Any section?” option, you’re saying that you any of these sections are OK with you.
I don’t usually check the “Any section?” box on my primary requests, unless the professor is the same for all sections and the times don’t conflict with my other picks, because I choose my primaries specifically for the professors normally. For alternate picks, it’s a good idea to check the box as it’s better to get a different of the course than not to get into the course at all.
Who can I talk to if I have more questions?
If you’re in the College you’re assigned a peer advisor to help you through preregistration. Otherwise, the deans are available to help you with any questions you might have. (If you don’t know who your dean is, follow the links at the end of the article.)
About the author: Ian Tice is a rising senior in the College and formerly was The Hoya’s online editor.