Jul 13, 2009

Choosing the Right Teachers and Classes

It happens several times each and every academic year- new schedules, new classes, and of course, new teachers. Although the first week of a new semester or trimester may seem like a brief respite from the overwhelming workload of finals, there’s a reason universities give students some leeway before launching fully into the curriculum- this is the time set aside to allow you to pick the right teachers and classes for you.

There are many things to consider before building your new schedule. Some people like to plan out every class they will take until graduation, while others wait until the last minute to fill up their roster. Do your best not to be part of the latter group- while it’s tempting to settle for whatever is immediately available, it’s possible you’ll pay for it in the end with an incongruous schedule or unnecessary credit.

Once you know what courses to take, do some research into what options fulfill each requirement. Find out what time slots are offered- when do you learn the best? Are you most attentive first thing in the morning, or is the late afternoon more your style? Make sure to leave enough time for snack breaks- learning on an empty stomach rarely happens. Also, check where each class will be held. Lugging tons of textbooks from one side of campus to the other can be a painful exercise for anyone without a spare forklift.

Next, check up on your teachers. Sites like RateMyProfessors.com are popular and may seem quite useful, but it’s important to use these merely as a preamble to forming your own opinions. It’s you, and not some random poster on the Internet, who will be synching your unique learning style to their teaching style. One recent graduate tells a story of how she found her favorite teacher based on negative comments posted on RateMyProfessors.com. “I could tell the people who posted bad comments clashed with his personality, and would probably clash with mine. I ended up taking four of his classes.”

Spend an extra five minutes after the introductory session to talk to your potential new teacher and get a better understanding how you will be spending class time. Will you have to write a lot of papers? Group projects? Lectures? Know what works best for you and search for the perfect fit.

Any extra effort you put into finding the right class and teacher combo will be returned to you ten-fold. You’ll get better grades, work less hard, and learn a whole lot more. Just don’t take Calculus at 8 AM – unless you’re into that sort of thing.

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