By: Sherpa Marisa Borreggine
Campus Sherpa Staff Writer, University of Washington
If there is one feeling I remember going into my freshman year of college, it is confusion. It’s one of those rites of passage that you don’t even get a pat on the back for, or really any reward for, but you still feel like you’re being hazed as you try to navigate every new set of responsibilities thrown upon you. What’s the day-to-day like of living in a dorm? How do I eat? What’s the meal plan going to be like? How do I pay for anything? And, of course, the reason you’re even going through all of this trouble—what are my classes going to be like?
Since it’s 2016 and the internet is a thing, most every school you go to will have an online course catalog available. Now, here is where you decide if this is going to be stressful, fun, or a little bit of both. I personally strive under fun stress, so Step One for me was to find the college I’d most likely end up in. I don’t mean your university, I mean the college within your school, such as College of Arts and Sciences, College of Education, or, in my case, the College of the Environment. I found the general education graduation requirements for my college and flew from there. Usually, the requirements are set up by credit hour requirements, for example: I need 5 credit hours of a writing-based class to fulfill the writing requirement. I took to the online course catalog, which luckily denotes which general education requirement each class fulfills, and filtered it for writing-based classes in fall quarter, and chose a few that seemed interesting.
After I did this for other requirements I felt comfortable fulfilling that first quarter, I chose classes based off non-overlapping time offerings. If you don’t already have your major picked out like I didn’t, it’s best to stick to general education classes. I also needed a ‘Natural World’ class (amongst many other requirements, but I chose to start off with the environment because it would help me decide on a major), so I signed up for an Oceanography 101 course. 101 classes will be your best friend in your first quarter or semester freshman year—they really help you decide if something is ‘for’ you. I also always recommend a ‘buffer’ class—do this as long as you can! I’m even taking a buffer class right now, two years into my major. Take a class that you think would be fun, interesting, or, to be quite honest, easy, so you don’t overdo it every quarter. I ended up picking up a history minor along the way because I kept using them as ‘buffer’ classes!
However, all this fun and systematic choosing of classes can only go on for so long. When you get a few quarters or semesters into your education, it is time to start considering what major you’ll choose. Once you have somewhat of an idea, it’s best to visit a general advisor for the college you find yourself taking most of your classes in. You can tell them what you’re interested in and what requirements you have to fulfill (they can also pull this up on your student profile) and they will help you choose classes every semester or quarter! I visit my advisor every quarter, just to be safe and make sure all is going well with my degree progress. My advisor is specifically for Oceanography students, and you too will have a major-specific advisor once you’ve declared. Even when I’m terrified and think I won’t graduate on time because every class I need is offered at the same time the same quarter, my advisor works her magic and makes it all okay. They are invaluable resources that will make this whole process so much less scary. Every time they print out your degree progress report or help you sign up for next quarter or semester’s classes, you feel a little pat on your back for navigating the confusion of freshman year and realize it’s all worth it.
More advice on how to get through that crazy schedule? Read 5 Ways to Make your Day-to- Day Schedule Less Painful to learn how to get through those rough days!