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I’m Nguyễn Hoàng Duy, junior at James Madison University, majoring in Finance, concentration Financial Analysis. Here I hope to share my experience at JMU of choosing classes.
Most of the time your biggest concern in choosing classes is major’s requirements, I recommend you choose your major as soon as your Freshman year, and stick with it. I can only speak for my school, and my major, with confidence, but they all probably require lower level courses from your major (can be ten, can be more or less) to be finished first before you can take any higher level, advanced classes (usually in your junior year). These classes may also need courses in other fields completed, such as calculus or statistic… to make sure you understand the basic. Some classes are interchangeable- that is, you can take one or the other to fulfill a requirement. Most major classes can only be re-taken once at the College of Business in JMU, where I am studying right now; fail more than that and you will be forced to change major. My advice: talk with your counselor at least at the beginning of semesters about your schedule, and how choosing classes at your college/university, especially for your major, works...
For GenEd (General Education) classes, again I can only speak for JMU but generally, there are categories that you will need to fulfill to graduate, such as Arts and Humanities, Natural sciences, Social and Cultural Processes… At JMU we call them “Clusters.” One of these, Cluster 1, we have to finish by the end of our first year at JMU, the rest whenever. We need only to take a few classes (around 2-3) to finish a Cluster, there’s a list of all possible classes you can take for them, and there are 5 Clusters in total. Some GenEd classes can fulfill both major requirements AND cluster requirements at JMU, so you may want to look into that at your school. JMU needs 120 credits to graduate, and each class- including major classes- gives, most commonly, 3 credits max assuming you got a good grade. Colleges/Universities usually have a lot of interesting classes, so don’t just choose the easy ones and use the opportunity to learn more about anything. Also, don’t just pack all major classes in one semester or you’ll get bored/burned out really quick, make sure to take a GenEd or two every semester.
Ratemyprofessor.com is a free and pretty good site to check the professors of the classes you’re signing up for, just search for their name and which school or which field do they teach. A bit of spyi… I mean asking around, helps too. 8 a.m. classes are not as terrible as people think (I’ve taken many), but each class (say MATH 101) has different combinations of time and professor, so choose wisely which best fits you (say Dr. Z teaches MATH 101 starting at 1pm every MWF, or 5pm every MWF, and Dr. X also teaches MATH 101 but only at 9am every Tues & Thurs). One last thing, know the date you can start enrolling classes, since at JMU, the best classes can be full very fast.