Choosing your college classes

I’m Duy Nguyễn Hoàng, a third-year student at James Madison University, majoring in Finance, with a concentration in Financial Analysis. Here I’ll share with you guys some of my experience in choosing classes at JMU.

For me, the most important thing to consider when choosing classes is my major requirements; I would advice you to decide on your major the sooner the better (of course, only after you have given it some serious consideration). Most universities will require you to complete introductory courses (my major at JMU includes approximately 10 classes, including general mathematics, such as statistics, differentiation, and integration) before signing up for higher-leveled courses (usually in year-3). Several classes can satisfy the same requirements, so that if you have taken course A, you would not need to complete course B, and vice versa. Most of the classes in my major allow you to retake only once, so if you fail them twice, you will have to change your major. That is why you need to put some consideration into choosing your classes and try to pass all of them! My sincere advice to you is to discuss your study paths with your counselor at least once during the beginning of the semester; this is especially important if you are a freshman, as you need to arrange your schedule, resolve your concerns about choosing classes, especially in regard to the major you intend to pursue…

At JMU, General Education classes (GenEd) include those in different departments, which you need to complete in order to graduate. Examples of these different departments include Arts, Natural Sciences, Cultural,…and they are called “Clusters.” There are five clusters at my school, one of which must be completed within my first year, the rest can be done at any other time. Each cluster includes 2-3 classes, meaning there are 10-15 GenEd classes that you need to complete. JMU requires students to obtain 120 credits to graduate. Every class has credits, with a maximum of three credits if your grades are good enough. If your major includes classes that satisfy most of the credits, you will not have to take many GenEd classes ( besides those clusters that you are required to take). I also want to add that there are lots of GenEd classes in every field; there are those that you may not be interested in, but will turn out to be very relevant; so you should see this as the chance to learn more (don’t just choose the easy classes, they’re really boring!) In addition, your classes in a semester should not all go towards your major, but they should include GenEd classes as well. Otherwise it will get boring and you will be overloaded.

There is a page used by many students, including myself, called ratemyprofessor.com. This free website let you find more information about the professor of the classes you might take. In whatever school you are attending, just type the name of the professor and the school/major they teach in. Of course, it is not 100% reliable. There are times when I selected my classes relatively late and had to take courses with professors with low-ratings, but my grades turned out to be pretty nice. Sometimes the teachers get low-ratings not because of their teachings but because the classes themselves are very hard, sometimes the reviewers (the students) are just plain lazy, sometimes both. The most important part is too make sure you spend time studying. You can also get more information by asking past students of the course, or your counselors. Another thing is that 8AM classes are not as bad as many people think (I have taken many such classes myself) and each class (e.g. Math 101) has different combinations of professor and lecture times, so you should also take that into consideration. (For example Prof. Z teaches MATH101 on Mon Wed Fri at 3pm, or Mon Wed Fri 5pm, and Prof. X teaches on Tue Thu 9am). Furthermore, you should be sure to know what time and date does your course registration open, and check in advance to see if there you have anything pending that would prevent you from choosing classes (technical problems, late payments,…). This is because the “good classes” with “good professors” will run out of number very soon.

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