Strategically choosing your classes and professors is vital to your success as a student.
Here are some of our favorite tools, strategies, and considerations.
First, Check to See if Your School Offers Priority Registration for Veterans/ Active Duty.
Depending on your school, certain classes may be highly “impacted,” which means that there are more students trying to enroll in the course than there are spots available. This is particularly common at community colleges, and it can obviously be extremely frustrating.
Luckily, many schools offer priority registration to veterans and active service members. Priority registration refers to an incentive that colleges give to specific groups of students, awarding them the ability to enroll in their selected courses before the general population. Athletes, students with special needs, and veterans are students that often receive priority registration as a valuable benefit.
Now that you have this information, you must do two things. 1.) Research to see if your school offers priority registration to veterans. 2.) If they do, you must ensure that your school knows you’re a veteran and documents your status accordingly. They will likely require a copy of your DD-214 or something similar. Trust us, it’s worth it to find those documents.
Once you’ve acquired your priority registration status (depending on your school), you may select and enroll in your classes weeks, if not months, ahead of the general student population. Hint: try your best not to schedule Friday class.
“Rate My Professors”
Ratemyprofessors.com is a massive tool in your arsenal as a student. Consider it Yelp, but instead of consumers rating restaurants, students rate professors. One is able to anonymously leave reviews for their professors and rate them (1 through 5) on aspects such as overall quality and difficulty.
When it comes time to select your classes, there will likely be multiple professors who teach the same class. At this point, it is in your best interest to perform your due diligence by searching the professors’ names on Rate My Professors. Of course, take everything with a grain of salt, but typically, professors who have many years of experience will often have consistent ratings (high or low), informing you of how difficult students generally believe the professor to be.
Caution: Unfortunately, there are students who will fail a class due to their own shortcomings but then later rate the professor terribly and claim it to be all their fault. Much like reviews on Yelp or Amazon, the more ratings the better. Be vigilant in your research, and beware of misleading ratings. Also, make sure to rate your professors when you’re done with your classes! It will take five minutes, and it will help out future students for years to come.
Be Honest With Yourself. Don’t Take Early Morning Classes If You are not a Morning Person.
This one is pretty straight forward. Be honest with yourself. Being that class attendance is vital to your success (whether the professor takes attendance or not), the last thing you want to do is set yourself up for failure. If you have a hard time waking up early, schedule later classes.
Look, I (Jake) understand. The general population often regards “morning people” to be more responsible. If you don’t consider yourself to be a morning person at this point in time, don’t use an academic semester to jump into training to be one. If you want to lead up to that task, go for it, but unless you are fully prepared to be a competent, intellectual sponge at 7 or 8am, it’s not worth it. In fact, I would argue it’s more responsible to identify your strengths and weaknesses and plan accordingly than it is to simply wake up at a certain time that our society has traditionally determined to be mature.
Ensure that You Complete the Requirements for Transfer
Depending on where you intend to apply for transfer, your prospective university may require you to take specific classes. For example, in order to gain entrance to a university as a business major, some universities may require, or highly recommend, that you complete basic classes such as micro/macro economics, financial accounting, and other introductory business courses. You need to research the transfer requirements for your potential universities and select your classes accordingly. There will be wiggle room here as not every university has definitive requirements, but the ones that don’t have any do not want to see you taking the easiest courses. Regardless of explicit policy, university admissions teams want to see you enroll in a rigorous curriculum. Therefore, you can most likely hang up your dreams of taking History of Rock, American Film, and Dance 101 in the same term. For more information on taking the right courses, verify your class selection with your counselor (more detailed information below).
Ensure that You Complete the Requirements for Your Degree
There may or may not be requirements to transfer, but there will always be requirements for you to earn your degree. From general education classes to major-specific courses, there will be requirements to earn your degree at every institution—guaranteed. Schools often link these requirements as PDFs on their websites, but sometimes the information can be a bit overwhelming. Really sit yourself down and figure out how you want to tackle these requirements. Further, never be the only person to look your course selection over. Always speak to a counselor before the next term, double-checking that you are fulfilling your major/minor requirements. For more detailed information on how your counselor can help you, see below.
Verify Your Class Choices with Your Counselor
Never fail to double-check your prospective courses with your counselor. At many schools with a large veteran population, there will often be a veterans office, which may staff a counselor specifically for veterans. This is highly beneficial, because appointments with counselors for the average student are typically in high demand. It can take weeks to see a counselor, and often times they may not be the same counselor that you had last time, which means that half of your appointment with them will involve you repeating everything you said last time. If your school offers a counselor for veterans specifically, you’ll find them to be much more accessible, and they should have a pretty solid idea of what you have been up to (after a quick refresher, of course).
Regardless if your school has a specific counselor for veterans or not, you must make it a priority to verify with them that the classes you intend to take for the upcoming term are fulfilling your degree and/or transfer requirements. You don’t want to miss a piece of information and end up staying in school for another semester or year just because you failed to take a certain class. These counselors are experts—it’s their literal job to help you succeed as a student, and a large part of that is ensuring that you are taking the right courses.