Academic Planning

One of the most frequent questions an academic advisor hears is, "What classes should I take?" Posing this question regularly to an advisor as you work toward completing your degree will help you keep on track. However, being able to choose appropriate courses and schedules on your own is also important to your academic success.

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Tips for Choosing Classes

Planning a Schedule That Works For You

Tips for Choosing Classes

In addition to planning courses with your academic advisor on a regular basis, there are many resources available to help you confidently register for classes. Here are some tips for planning a schedule that is both interesting to you and that will keep you on your degree path:

  • Remember that in order to complete your bachelor's degree, you must fulfill the requirements for three separate components: majordegree, and general education.  We recommend a well-rounded schedule that includes at least one course from each of these components every term. Using this strategy allows you to work towards satisfying all of the requirements until eventually you are able to focus on your remaining major requirements as a junior or senior. If you plan to attend full-time, three 4-credit academic courses make up a full-time schedule.

  • Run a DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System) report before you register and after you register for classes. A DARS report will tell you which requirements you have and have not completed. You can run a DARS report for any major, second major, minor or certificate at PSU whether you have declared it or not. If you run a DARS report after registering, your report will show you how the courses you just signed up for apply toward your requirements. Doing so, you will notice if a course is not applying in the way you thought it would and you can proactively make a change in your schedule.

  • Use PSU's 4-year degree maps to help you make informed decisions about coursework. These degree maps are designed to help you finish your degree as smoothly and quickly as possible. The university is working on Interactive Degree Planners that will be available in the future.

  • Review course descriptions. Course descriptions are available in a variety of places (PSU Bulletin, Schedule Planner, online Schedule of Classes, and some department websites). It is important to pay attention to whether the course has any recommended or required pre-requisites or co-requisites, and to see if the course description sounds like something that interests you.

  • Plan ahead for future terms using the Course Projections Guide. This tool provides a tentative term-by-term list of the courses offered for three years. Although the guide does not give days and times, you can still make a list of courses you wish to take before the schedule for that term is available. The guide is also useful when you take into consideration the following points:

    • Some courses are only offered in sequence and/or are only offered once a year. If you are taking a course sequence (e.g., 101, 102, and 103) and break that sequence by skipping a term, you may have to wait until summer term or the following academic year to continue with the next course. Examples of courses that are usually taken in sequence include foreign languages, Freshman Inquiry, Biology and Chemistry courses. 

    • Make sure you are choosing courses that are appropriate based on your current knowledge and class standing. Generally, freshmen and sophomores should be taking 100- and 200-level (lower division) courses. Lower division courses provide introductory information to prepare you for your junior and senior years when you will be taking 300- and 400-level (upper division) courses. Always read the course description prior to registering so that you do not take a class that you are not prepared for.

Planning a Schedule That Works For You

Planning a class schedule can be influenced by a number of factors. Some students work full- or part-time so must consider their work schedule when picking classes. Other students have family obligations that limit the days and times they are able to be on campus. You may be a student athlete and must consider your practice schedule when choosing courses.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before finalizing your class schedule:

  • Are you a morning person or a night owl and how flexible is your preference? If you are late to bed, late to rise, how will that affect your attendance in your challenging 8 A.M. course? Or would it be difficult for you as an early riser to stay alert and focused in a class that runs until 9 P.M.?

  • Have you scheduled enough time between your classes? In some cases, 10 minutes between classes may be cutting it short if your next class is all the way across campus. You may also want to schedule yourself lunch breaks and study time between classes.

  • Does your credit load fit your lifestyle? How much time must you devote to your other commitments every week? If you are working or volunteering in addition to taking 12 or 16 credits this term, will your schedule allow you studying and personal time?

    Generally, expect to be in class for one hour and study outside of class for 2-3 hours for every credit taken. For example, for 12 credits, you would typically spend 12 hours in the classroom with 24 or more hours of study time per week. If you are a full time student, your minimum commitment to classes would be 36 hours per week with potentially more studying time required for midterms and finals.

Being a student is essentially a full time job! Be kind to yourself for your physical and mental health. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, setting aside some "fun" time, and do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it!