We’ve all heard this saying: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” It’s a total cliche, but it applies to pretty much every aspect of life, including college. College students typically have a lot of flexibility and independence when it comes to choosing their courses, which is exciting and fun. The process can also be stressful, though, and there’s a lot of room for error. Here are five common college course mistakes students make, along with some tried and true advice to help you avoid making them.
1) Utilizing Course Reviews Incorrectly
Almost every incoming and current college student has heard of course review sites like RateMyProfessor. These sites allow students to post ratings and reviews about professors they’ve had and classes they’ve taken. The problem with sites like these is they are completely subjective. What one student loves about a professor might be something that makes another student’s skin crawl. Some of the reviews are clearly written by students who have personal problems with a professor. Some of them just don’t have enough information about the course to help you make an informed decision on whether or not you should take it.
Course review sites are usually good for giving you a general idea of what certain classes and professors might be like, but you really shouldn’t choose your courses based solely on online reviews. In addition to checking out course review sites, make sure you’re utilizing other resources such as:
- Your advisor
- Students who currently attend your school
- Course catalogs
2) Declaring A Major Based On Income Vs. Interest In Courses
Most people want to be successful and able to support themselves with a decent income. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it’s smart to plan for your financial future. However, choosing your major based solely on projected earning potential is a huge mistake. For one thing, the economy is constantly evolving and changing, so there’s really no way to tell which majors are definitely going to be the most lucrative in the long term. Additionally, it’s really not worth it to suffer through four (or more) years of courses you hate just for the chance to make a little more money once you graduate. Here are a few easy questions to ask yourself before declaring a major:
- Is this a field I am genuinely interested in learning more about and pursuing?
- Are there jobs available in this field I think I will really enjoy once I graduate?
- Am I interested in this major because I actually love the field or because I’m being pressured into it by family, friends, etc.?
It’s important to really analyze the major you’re interested in and check out the required courses to determine whether or not it’s a good fit for you before settling. Also, keep in mind that declaring a major does not mean you are stuck with that major until the end of eternity. It might take some extra time and money, but you can absolutely switch majors and choose something else that makes you happy if you need to.
3) Skipping the Course Syllabus
Ignoring the syllabus is one of the biggest college course mistakes you can make. Your course syllabus is essentially a Bible and how-to guide for the course. Your syllabus is incredibly important and should not be skipped over. You’ll typically be given a syllabus for each of your courses during the first week of class. This is also known as “syllabus week.” Each course syllabus will contain information such as:
- Professor’s contact info and office hours
- Books you’ll need for the class
- Assignment deadlines
- Exam dates
- Grading and attendance policies
- Helpful resources
As soon as you get the syllabus, copy down all of the dates in your planner. Make sure to highlight the most important information. Keep the syllabus somewhere safe so you can reference it during the semester. Here’s some more info about what you need to do during syllabus week.
Reading your course syllabus on the first day of class is an excellent way to help determine whether or not the course is right for you or if it will work with your schedule, which leads to our next college course mistake.
4) Forgetting Course Drop Deadlines
One cool thing about college is that you can drop courses within the first few weeks of the semester. You can make these drops if you’re really unhappy with them or if they just aren’t working out with your schedule. Dropping a class within the deadline means you’ll be refunded for the class. The class will not negatively affect your GPA or transcript. If you don’t drop the class by the deadline, you’ll either be stuck taking it or you’ll have to drop it without receiving a refund. Plus, it might show up as a bad mark on your transcript depending on your school’s policies. Make sure to write down all course drop deadlines in your planner during syllabus week to avoid running into problems down the road.
5) Not Taking Enough Upper-Division Level Courses
It can be really tempting to take as many easy, lower-level courses as possible to boost your GPA and keep yourself from having to work too hard during your first few semesters in college. Don’t make that mistake, though. If you spend your first year or two taking only lower division level courses, you’ll be stuck taking all of your required upper-division courses at once. College senioritis is a real thing. You don't want to be stuck taking all of your hardest courses during senior year. Aside from the required courses, taking upper-division level electives also looks pretty good on your transcript.
Conclusion: You Don't Have To Make These College Course Mistakes
Choosing your college courses is always exciting, but it’s a process that shouldn’t be taken too lightly. Your choices are going to affect your college career. You don’t want to end up kicking yourself later for picking the wrong courses. As long as you make a note of the mistakes outlined here and make a conscious effort to avoid making them, choosing your classes will be a breeze. Need a little more guidance? Check out this post: 16 Tips For Navigating The College Classroom Part 1.