How to Schedule Your College Classes Effectively

Three Methods:Scheduling Classes for Your SemesterIntegrating Classes with Non-Academic Parts of Your LifePlanning Your Full College Career

As a college student, you’ll have the freedom to create your own class schedule every semester. Once you’ve chosen a major, you can decide how quickly to complete the required courses, which electives to take, how early to start your classes each day, and when to leave yourself time for your personal life. This freedom can be stressful or challenging, though, if required classes fill up before you register, or if your college’s course offerings don’t include courses for your degree program. However, by planning ahead and deciding how many courses you want to take ahead of time, you can successfully schedule your college classes every semester.

Method 1
Scheduling Classes for Your Semester

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    Look at the course schedule often and early. Familiarize yourself with the courses your college is offering each semester. The sooner you know what courses are being offered, the sooner you can register for those classes.[1]
    • It will be a hassle to enroll in a class that is already full. You may have to petition the professor or the department or, unfortunately, wait until a different semester or year to take the course.
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    Align similar courses so they’re next to each other in your schedule. Especially if you’re going from class to class three or four times in a row, it can be helpful to schedule similar classes (i.e. within the sciences or humanities) next to each other. This will give you easier transitions between classes. It would be difficult to switch from Biology to Political Science, then back to Chemistry.
    • For example, if you’re taking a lab-based course, try to schedule the class right before or after the coinciding lecture course.
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    Create a back-up plan. Since college classes (especially popular ones) can fill up quickly, you should have one or two courses to fall back on, if you first choices are full. Ideally, these back-ups should still be required courses for your degree, or at least Gen Eds, so that you’re not just taking multiple electives.
    • Since it can be more enjoyable to go to a class if you’re taking it with a friend, see if you can find a friend or two to take one of your back-up classes with you.
    • Working with a friend in class can motivate you to attend regularly, and gives you a study partner that you’ll work well with.
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    Schedule classes at times you’ll be more awake. Ask yourself: are you a morning person, or do you prefer to stay up late? If you’re not a morning person, you can schedule classes that begin around 10 or 11 am, or even noon.[2] Find class times that work well for you.
    • Some students also have trouble focusing during afternoon classes (especially right after lunch), or can’t stay awake during evening classes. Find what times work best for you.
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    Set aside study time. In addition to scheduling your in-class time, you’ll benefit from setting aside specific time in which you’ll study, review the class work from the day, and do your homework. Start out by following the 2:1 rule: two hours per week outside of the classroom for every hour in the classroom.[3]
    • So, if you’re taking 4 classes and spending roughly 12 hours per week in the classroom, start out by scheduling 24 hours (3 hours every night) of homework time.
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    Consider taking online classes. If you have a hard time finding an agreeable schedule, or can’t get into the in-seat classes that you want or that your degree requires, look into taking online classes. Some students enjoy online work more than others, but as more and more colleges increase their online course offerings, you should at least know they’re an option.[4]
    • Although online classes can ease your weekly schedule, they require as much work and discipline as in-seat classes.

Method 2
Integrating Classes with Non-Academic Parts of Your Life

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    Try to have some time off each day. You need some time to study, get help from teachers, make new friends, and just relax. It’s better to be moderately busy every day, than to have one or two days where you’re overwhelmed with classes.
    • This may mean deliberately leaving a class period empty, so you can have a long lunch. You could also get your classes out of the way in the morning, and give yourself the afternoon to unwind.
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    Schedule something fun during the week. This will give you an outlet during your week, and give you time to socialize and make new friends. During college, it can be easy to waste time, so it will help if you commit to a weekly social activity. This could include:
    • Going to a ball game or sports event.
    • Taking dancing lessons with your friends or partner.
    • Get a group of friends to see a movie on the same night every week.
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    Balance academic activities with your job. More and more students are working to help put themselves through college. If you’re working, your job will be an important part of your life, and may take up substantial time during your week. Try to find out your work schedule as early as possible, and schedule your classes around your work.[5]
    • Work with your supervisor. Let him or her know that you’re attending college as well as working, and ask if they can adjust your work schedule to accommodate your academic schedule.
    • If you’re looking for work, consider finding a job on campus. Check with your college’s Human Resources department, or check into Student Employment opportunities in your department.

Method 3
Planning Your Full College Career

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    Plan out how many courses you’ll take each semester. Most universities require students to take 12 credits (4 classes) in order to be considered “Full Time.”[6] That said, some semesters you may want to take more than four classes, for example, if a class you need is only offered once a year.
    • When you start Freshman year, make a rough schedule of which classes you’ll need to take during which of your eight college semesters.
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    Spread out classes for your major. Try to spread your major courses out over different semesters. Although it’s common (and encouraged) to complete your Gen Eds early in your college career and then focus on classes for your major, you should still take classes towards your major during that time.[7]
    • If a student were to take the majority of the courses for her major within the first two years of college, she would be left taking entry-level general-education classes (Gen Eds) during her last few semesters.
    • In the long run, the classes for your major will be most important to your education and your degree, and they’ll also be the most intellectually rewarding.
    • If you’re taking more than one major class in a semester, spread them out during the week.
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    Balance your required courses and your electives. Required courses include Gen Ed classes, and courses for your major. You can choose your electives from among many non-major courses. Focus on completing your required courses, but you can lighten your course load by mixing in an elective each semester.[8]
    • Plan to complete the Gen Ed courses early.[9] These classes are usually populated with underclassmen, and you’ll lose interest and motivation in taking intro-level courses as you move farther into your college career.
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    Aim to challenge yourself, but be realistic. It’s one thing to take a difficult course every semester, but don’t overwhelm yourself with upper-level courses and countless credit hours, especially in your first year.[10]
    • Plan to take a mix of challenging classes and easier classes every semester.[11] This way, you won’t switch between semesters that overwhelm you and semesters that don’t challenge you.


  • Try to get the advice of an older student (ideally a junior or a senior).[12] Ask them how they’d suggest scheduling their classes, and follow the tips they give you.
  • At some point every semester, you should visit the academic counselor that your university has assigned you.[13] Ask your counselor what courses they would recommend you take to complete your degree on time and to keep your schedule well balanced.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate