So… What Classes Do I Take?
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Probably the only thing you’ll do during Orientation that is more important than learning to play pong (note the sarcasm) will be picking your classes. As bright-eyed and bushy-tailed ’16s with your whole Dartmouth careers ahead of you, you might think, “12F course selection doesn’t matter — I’ve got 11 more terms after this one to get it right!” (Damn you with so much to live for.) “Click-click-click! Econ 1, Gov 5 and Psych 1. All set!”
Or, you might have been studying the ORC for months and carefully making spreadsheets filled with course descriptions and professor credentials. I hope you made it to prom.
Either way, don’t be a Careless Cathy when it comes to choosing your classes. Trust me as someone who’s been doing this for nine terms: Every term counts. Especially freshman fall, when you’re navigating everything else on campus for the first time. You don’t want your classes to be an added source of unnecessary stress. So here are some things to consider when you pick classes.
Don’t miss the Sept. 7 class sign-up deadline. The deadline is earlier for writing seminars, so put those two dates in your calendar now. If you don’t know how to sign up for classes on Banner Student, ask your UGA sooner rather than later.
Start fulfilling distributive requirements. Whoever said “take whatever you want and your distribs will be taken care of” is lying. If you’re lacking direction in your course selection, let distribs be your guide. Start working on your language requirement — there is nothing like the misery of morning drill to expedite bonding with your classmates. Take classes that knock out multiple distribs (see my course picks at the end of this article for examples) or use your first-year seminar as a way to get one. Seminars are generally offered by a range of departments, so choose strategically in order to get a distrib you know you probably won’t fulfill when you start working on your major.
Professors, professors, professors! Professors make or break a class. It doesn’t matter the subject — a good professor can make anything interesting. To get the lowdown on the best professors, ask your trip leaders, UGAs and teammates. You can also search names on Course Rank online, though many of the reviews are a few years old.
Test your interests. If you think you want to be pre-med, for example, or are certain that economics is the major for you, then start with a prerequisite for your potential course of study. These intro classes usually aren’t easy, so choosing one for the fall is probably enough. It’s wise to make sure you actually like what you think you do so that you’re not discovering you actually hate government classes sophomore year and have to scramble to declare a different major.
Don’t be afraid of high course numbers. If the class doesn’t have any prerequisites, it’s fair game. Most often the “001s” are the least interesting courses in a department.
Pay attention to scheduling. My freshman year roommate thought the “As” attached to 10As and 2As meant that they were better classes and got stuck with a 10A-2A schedule freshman fall. Check the “Weekly Schedule Diagram” to make sure you know what times the classes you’re picking actually meet.
Show up. If a class you want to take is full, go on the first day and talk to the professor about getting in, and keep showing up until you do. People change classes a lot in the first week, so don’t be discouraged if something you’re really interested in is already full.
Check median grades. If you’re curious about the difficulty of a class or professor, look up median grades from the previous term or year. It’s available under the “Transcripts” tab on the registrar’s website.
If you’re still stuck, I’ve compiled a list of some classes that might be enjoyable and interesting for freshman fall and help you get rid of some distributive requirements right away.
Lauren is a jaded senior. We hope she made it to prom, too.