7 Planning A College Schedule

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Planning a class schedule is an opportunity for students to take the lead in their educational experience. For some students it will be the first time planning a college schedule. The amount of freedom to choose classes can be exciting and frightening all at the same time!

Before beginning, there are some key factors to consider:

  1. Have you met with an academic advisor or counselor?
  2. Will you be going to school full-time or part-time?
  3. Have you completed placement assessment?
  4. Are there specific courses you are required to take?
  5. How many days a week do you want to be on campus? Will you be taking online classes?
  6. Do any of the classes you want to take have prerequisites or co-requisites?
  7. Do any of the classes have addition requirements such as labs or other components?
  8. How much time will you have to devote to school-related activities during the term?
  9. What are your learning styles and habits?
  10. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  11. Have you balanced required classes with less intensive electives?
  12. Do you need any special accommodations for the classes you have selected?
  13. Do you have alternative courses in mind in case the classes you want are not available?
  14. Have you met with an advisor to make sure the classes you register for will count toward your degree or program?

Balancing College, Work, and Life

Attending classes, studying, working, and finding time for family, friends, and yourself can be a hard schedule for college students to balance. How a student organizes their class load can affect their overall success when starting college. Class names may remind students of high school classes and how classes were scheduled in those years. College classes may only meet once a week or as many as 5 times a week. Not all classes are worth the same amount of credit or have the same attendance requirements. Some classes like Biology or Chemistry will probably have additional lab requirements, which means a student will need to spend additional time on campus for those labs. Writing classes will require time outside of class preparing, editing, and revising papers. Many teachers require electronic submission of papers/projects. A student may need to build in extra time for meeting submission deadlines.

As a new college student, sometimes is a good idea to take fewer classes in the beginning as you learn what college classes will mean to your daily life. Students who work full-time might want to start with 1 or 2 classes. You may find that you can handle more as you learn to manage your class time and work time. But you are not alone, an advisor or a counselor can help you with this decision. Be sure to include classes that interest you as well as required classes.

Some universities have some helpful suggested guidelines about employment/course loads. For example, University of Michigan suggests the following:

Employment Obligations Suggested Load
40 + hours/week 3 – 5 credit hours (1 course)
30 – 40 hours/week 3 – 6 credit hours (1-2 courses)
20 – 30 hours/week 6 – 12 credit hours (2-3 courses)
20 hours/week or less 12-18 credit hours (4-5 courses)

As a student, what would your estimated employment obligations be? Would you have other responsibilities besides work and study? An advisor or counselor can suggest some options on class loads to help you succeed academically.

Where is class information located?




The college catalog will have descriptions of specific classes and the class search in My.Chemeketa will be the place to find the class offerings each term. Not all classes are offered every term and some must be taken in sequence.


How to read the course numbering system

Courses are identified by a subject and a number. To search for courses when planning your class schedule, you will generally use the subject and number to identify the course rather than the course title.

WR 115 Introduction to College Writing
Subject Number Course Title

At Chemeketa  Community College, courses also have a 5 digit CRN (Course Registration Number) that identifies specific sections of the class being offered. You may use that number to register for your classes.

If you have selected a specific program of study, consult the college catalog for directions on the sequence of courses to take. For example, the Procurement Management Certificate program at Chemeketa Community College has requirements that must be met before a student can enroll in the certificate program. The program takes a student 3-4 terms to complete depending if student attends part-time, ¾ or time or full time to Chemeketa. The program requires the completion of 46 credits with a grade of “C” or better. The courses a student should take each term are listed.

Sample Fall Term:

Course Number Course Description Number of Credits
BA 101 Introduction to Business 4 credits
CIS 125E Excel-Workbooks 4 credits
MTH 105 Math in Society or higher 4 credits
Choice of:
PSY 101
PSY 201
PSY 204
Psychology of Human Relations
Psychology: Mind and Body or higher
The Sociological Perspective
4 credits
Total Credits: 16

Know key dates and deadlines!

Organization is an important part of being a successful college student. One important aspect of organization is knowing the important dates for your classes and the college in general. Academic deadlines matter! Deadlines in college many not be flexible. They can have consequences for financial aid and grading that cannot be undone. A student needs to be aware of key dates throughout the term. The responsibility for knowing important dates lies with the student. The course syllabus that you get for each class you take will have important dates for that specific class. The college will put important dates to know on an academic calendar for the school. The Chemeketa academic calendar can be found on the web, in the college catalog, or in the student handbook and planner. You can pick up a copy of a handbook/planner and a year catalog at various offices at Chemeketa. They are always available at the Advising  office at the Salem campus for example.

Examples of key dates to know for a college:

  • When does the term start and end?
  • Are there holidays or campus closures during the term?
  • When is the last day to drop a class with a complete refund?
  • When is the last day to drop a class with a W (Withdrawal)?
  • When is finals week and what it the schedule like during that week?

For an example of an academic calendar, see the Chemeketa Community College Academic Calendar.

Using technology to stay organized

Many student use smartphones and tablets in their daily lives. Several websites can be very helpful to students.

An article by Zappier.com, includes 20+ Productivity Apps for college students with app suggestions that can help students with setting daily tasks, weekly and year agendas, task and project management for individuals or groups, document sharing, memorization apps for studying, apps to optimize your time, give you breaks, set goals, block access to internet and even take better notes. The list of apps are just some apps suggestions that can help you optimize your time and find ways to help you in your daily life as a student.

College Info Geek has great videos for students on YouTube. Several recommended videos are below.

College Info Geek: 20 Useful Websites Every Student Should Know About

Video: https://youtu.be/p3O_Y5vb9Cg

College Info Geek: How I Organize My Notes, Homework, and School Files

Video: https://youtu.be/yoheFZaYvLU

College Info Geek: How to Start a New Semester or School Year the Right Way

Video: https://youtu.be/Ey-cAHDme2s 

Licenses and Attributions

Original chapter work is attributed to Alise Lamoreaux. Chapter editing and additional work on the chapter is attributed to Grecia Garcia and Ashley Duran.


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A Different Road To College: A Guide For Transitioning To College For Non-traditional Students by Alise Lamoreaux, Grecia Garcia and Ashley Duran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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