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Tips on Picking your Classes

Sep 24, 2015, 8:00:00 PM by Bryanna Davis

Whether you're currently an international student inside the US or will be in the future, you need tips on picking classes. Choosing which classes to take can be stressful as not every class you need will be available, you must often take classes in a specific order and you want to ensure you choose a professor that you can understand! Watch our hangout with guest Darlene Schmurr-Stewart for tips on these items and more.


Thank you for joining our hangout today for great tips on making the process of choosing your college classes less stressful- I’m Bryanna Davis with International Student, you can find us at I’m joined today by a very special guest: Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, the Dean of International Student Services at Troy University. We are very excited to have her here today- thank you for joining us Darlene.

At the end of our hangout Darlene will be answering your questions that you send in, so if you have any questions on our Hangout topic today, please make sure you send those in through the hangout Q&A feature.

When you study in the US, each semester you will need to choose your classes and ensure that you’re picking ones that fit your lifestyle and interests- and into your degree timeline. This can get rather tricky for a number of reasons, and if you’re already in the US as an international student and have gone through this process you know exactly what I mean. Whether you’re watching this to help you with your first semester in the US or your last- these tips will come in handy. So lets go ahead and get started on providing you with tips for choosing your classes next semester!

First, not every class is offered every semester. It’s nice to be able to look at a list of certain classes you need to take and plan a schedule that allows you to take each one in a specific order. Your school more than likely even has a 4 year sample plan of classes to take each semester, but sometimes that’s not possible. Some classes are not offered each semester, which might require you to make a few adjustments as you go along. Not having a specific class offered each semester is also going to put it in high demand when it is offered- so you need to jump on it fast when it is offered. How will you know if a class isn’t offered each semester? Depending on the school, when you sign up for your classes you can typically see what classes will be offered in the upcoming semester or two- so check those out. Also, you can of course always ask your advisor and they should be able to let you know.

Second, strategically choose when to take difficult classes. Once again, not every class will be offered each semester or during a time that will fit with your other classes, but if you’re able to, strategically choose when to take a class that you know you will struggle with. Not always, but many times, night classes and summer session classes are usually smaller, so this often means you might be able to receive more one on time from your professors and can ask more questions during class. As a warning, keep in mind that with it being a smaller class, this also means you will have a higher chance of being called upon in class to answer a question or give input on a topic.

Third, get feedback from others. If you attend a large school then you’ll see that for many classes, especially general education classes, there will be the same class offered multiple times during a semester, but taught by different professors. Of course you want to find a professor that you can easily understand, can go to with questions and is just in general, a wealth of knowledge. Unless it’s a professor’s first semester at your college or university there will be a lot of other students who have had that professor in class. This means that you need to speak with your friend who took a class you’re considering right away! Come up with a list of questions then sit down with your friend and ask! Here are just a few questions you might want to consider:

  • From an ESL prospective, how difficult is the professor to understand?
  • Does the professor take questions during class and then take time to further explain topics that student might not be grasping?
  • What was the primary structure of the class? Did the professor mainly lecture, were there numerous in-class projects, did the professor provide slides during class to notate key items?
  • Is the professors easy to access outside of class, such as during office hours?

On top of these, sit down and think about what matters to you most, then craft your own questions. Keep in mind that everyone will have a different experience, so you might want to try to ask a few friends for their feedback on a professor if possible. Also, while feedback from friends is great, it shouldn’t be your only determining point when choosing classes. If you’re about to embark on your first semester at your US college or university then you likely won’t know anyone yet to ask their opinion. In this case you might want to ask your international student advisor if they would be able to connect you with a student who has been at the school for a few semester and is pursuing the same degree as you.

Fourth, be realistic about the time your class is offered. If the classes you need are offered at various times, choose the ones that fit into your schedule. If you’re not a morning person then now is not the time to choose an 8am class when you have the option of taking it at 10am. Or, if you plan on participating in campus activities that often happen during evening hours- such as intramural sports, don’t choose night classes.

Also, don’t forget to factor in travel time from one building to the next, this is especially important if you have a large campus or one that is spread-out throughout a city.

Fifth, find balance! Don’t try to pack one semester full of difficult classes in an attempt to get them all over with at once. Make sure that you balance out each semester to include a couple of difficult classes and a few that aren’t as bad. This will ensure that you have enough time to study and do the projects you need to do, not become exhausted, and hopefully still have a social life!

Now I’m going to turn it over to Darlene who will give you a few more great tips. We will then answer any questions that you have sent in!

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