Academic Success

Tips for Choosing Classes

In addition to planning courses with your academic advisor on a regular basis, there are many resources available to help you confidently register for classes. Here are some tips for planning a schedule that is both interesting to you and that will keep you on your degree path:

  • Remember that you must fulfill the requirements for three separate components: major, degree, and general education. We recommend a well-rounded schedule that includes at least one course from each of these components every term. This strategy allows you to work towards satisfying all of the requirements until eventually you are able to focus on your remaining major requirements. If you plan to attend full-time, three 4-credit academic courses make up a full-time schedule.
  • Run a DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System) report before you register and after you register for classes. A DARS report will tell you which requirements you have and have not completed. You can run a DARS report for any major, second major, minor or certificate at PSU whether you have declared it or not. If you run a DARS report after registering, your report will show you how the courses you just signed up for apply toward your requirements. 
  • Use PSU's 4-year degree maps to make informed decisions about coursework. These degree maps are designed to help you finish your degree as smoothly and quickly as possible. 
  • Review course descriptions. Course descriptions are available in a variety of places (PSU Bulletin, Schedule Planner, online Schedule of Classes, and some department websites). It is important to pay attention to whether the course has any recommended or required pre-requisites or co-requisites to assure you are prepared for the course.
  • Choose courses that are appropriate for your current knowledge and class standing. Generally, freshmen and sophomores should be taking 100- and 200-level (lower division) courses. Lower division courses cover the content needed to prepare you for when you will be taking 300- and 400-level (upper division) courses as a junior and senior.
  • Plan ahead for future terms using the Course Projections Guide. This tool provides a tentative term-by-term list of the courses offered for three years. Although the guide does not give days and times, you can still make a list of courses you wish to take before the schedule for that term is available. The guide is also useful when you take into consideration that some courses are only offered in sequence and/or are only offered once a year. 

Planning a Schedule That Works For You

Planning a class schedule can be influenced by a number of factors. Some students work full- or part-time and must consider their work schedule when picking classes. Other students have family obligations that limit the days and times they are able to be on campus. You may be a student athlete and must consider your practice schedule when choosing courses.

Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself before finalizing your class schedule:

  • Are you a morning person or a night owl and how flexible is your preference? If you are late to bed, late to rise, how will that affect your attendance in your challenging 8 A.M. course? Or would it be difficult for you as an early riser to stay alert and focused in a class that runs until 9 P.M.?
  • Have you scheduled enough time between your classes? In some cases, 10 minutes between classes may be cutting it short if your next class is all the way across campus. You may also want to schedule yourself lunch breaks and study time between classes.
  • Does your credit load fit your lifestyle? How much time must you devote to your other commitments every week? If you are working or volunteering in addition to taking 12 or 16 credits this term, will your schedule allow you studying and personal time?
  • Are you taking online classes, remote instruction, or hybrid courses? Be sure you understand whether the class is synchronous (takes place in real time with set schedule) or asynchronous (you complete the work in your own time). Courses that are asynchronous typically require self-motivation and time management.
  • Generally, expect to be in class for one hour and study outside of class for 2-3 hours for every credit taken. For example, for 12 credits, you would typically spend 12 hours in the classroom with 24 or more hours of study time per week. If you are a full time student, your minimum commitment to classes would be 36 hours per week with potentially more studying time required for midterms and finals.

Being a student is essentially a full-time job! Be kind to yourself for your physical and mental health. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating well, setting aside some personal time, and do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it!

Your academic advisor can help you think through your options and offer suggestions if you find yourself struggling with your schedule.

What to do if you struggle academically