Here is # 2 of Kate’s Top Secret University Tips:
2. Make your classes work for you. The classes you take are VERY important- you spend a lot of your time attending, taking notes, doing coursework, working hard to get good grades…
Here are my tips for getting the most out of your course choices.
a. Think ahead. I would really recommend looking at the overall picture of requirements for your degree (and for multiple potential directions if that might apply to you). If possible, it might help to take courses that fulfill the prerequisites for ANY major you might choose in upper years. For example, if you might want to do an Honors Specialization in Psychology at Brescia, take first year math! As you get into your upper years, look ahead to the required courses for your degree and try and get them out of the way early, maximizing on the courses that are only offered at certain times. For example, if a really interesting course is being offered while you’re in third year, TAKE IT- don’t run the risk that it will be gone the next year! This kind of advance planning could save you a lot of grief. Talk to an academic advisor and get their help, or check out the Brescia website (click on the area you are interested in and then on potential modules).
b. Creep potential profs. If you use Facebook you know what I mean by “creep”. Did you know that students in all classes do “course evaluations” that are available for all students to view? Once you have a student ID and password, you can log in and read Brescia’s or the ones for Main Campus courses. I also sometimes admit to looking at ratemyprofessors.com– but you have to take these ratings with a grain of salt! The comments sometimes give you a decent idea of what you’re getting into, but I don’t really trust the ones that are really vague like “He’s soooooo terrible”, it sometimes helps to pay attention to what course people are commenting on.
c. Get the dirt on courses. Ask other students what courses they recommend. (For example, I wholeheartedly recommend Feminist Spirituality- I’m a psych student but it was one of the most interesting and life-changing classes I ever took). Also, ask professors you like what courses they recommend. If they know your interests and they are the type of prof you want, they can probably help you pick other courses you would like.
d. Tailor your courses to YOU. If you’re thinking ahead, creeping your profs, getting the dirt on good courses, and reading course descriptions to see which classes sound interesting, you are probably going to find some classes will be great. But it’s not only PICKING the right classes, it’s also making your actual coursework worthwhile. In many classes, especially in the arts and social sciences, you will have many choices for essay topics and projects. THINK ABOUT WHAT INTERESTS YOU AND DO THAT. There is nothing worse than writing a paper thinking “this is so boring and a total waste of time”. Also, the stuff that you write essays on may become very important later. For example, even though I took diverse courses, a LOT of the coursework I did centered around education and social inequality, because both of these were really interesting to me and I thought they might be relevant to my future careers. This is one of the things that helped me get into grad school!
In general, I found that a little advance planning can really enhanced my academic experience!! Hopefully these tips are helpful for you too.