Getting Off to a Great Start

Are You Ready for a New School Year?

It’s back to school season, and for students entering their first year of college or those returning to school after a while, that can mean big changes and big decisions. Among the biggest decisions: Selecting classes and creating a schedule. As Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman, authors of The Secrets of College Success, put it, “For many students, the most striking difference between college and high school is that at college there’s no one there to stand over you and tell you what to do.” In other words, it’s up to you to determine your workload and create a schedule that’s manageable — for you.

We found several web sites offering advice and encouragement on how to go about this seemingly overwhelming task — without becoming overwhelmed! Here are some of the suggestions they offer:

1. Take your time. Carefully review the course catalog and determine which classes are part of the core requirements for your area of study. The College Board website recommends that you get required classes out of the way. Before you register, check to see if you may have already fulfilled core requirements; if, for example, you scored high on placement exams in high school, you may be exempt from some college classes.

2. Don’t overdo it. Be realistic about your time and commitments as you consider your class load. Will you be working part-time while you are in school? How much travel time do you need to allot each day? How much time should you leave for studying? Another consideration, particularly for science students, is the number of classes that will require laboratory sections, which mean an additional time requirement. Check out this article from suite101 for more ideas on carefully selecting your college workload.

3. Use available resources. Many colleges will assign you an academic adviser for your first year – don’t be shy about arranging a meeting with him or her to get input on your class selections. And, keep in mind, that advisers and other services are available throughout the school year to help you succeed.

4. Think ahead. College classes are more challenging than high school classes. As you make your course selections, it’s a good idea to take into consideration your overall schedule and your “studying style.” According to U.S. News & World Report (as part of its annual special issue on education), a typical course load of four or five classes translates into as much as 20 to 25 hours a week of studying time. Check out this article for advice from students on how they developed good study habits (and learn what pitfalls they encountered along the way). Other study tips can be found at as well.

5. Finally, don’t forget to pursue your passion. Lynn Jacobs and Jeremy Hyman remind new students to select at least one course each semester in a subject “that you’re good at and are really interested in.”

Good luck and have a fabulous new school year!

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