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 taken college placement tests?
  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?

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 Spanish 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, it 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. A counselor or advisor can help you with this decision. Be sure to include classes that interest you as well as required classes.

Something to think about:

Employment Obligations Suggested Load
40 + hours/week 3 – 4 credit hours (1 course)
30 – 40 hours/week 3 – 6 credit hours (1-2 courses)
20 – 30 hours/week 6 – 9 credit hours (2-3 courses)
20 hours/week or less 12-15 credit hours (4-5 courses)

 Where is class information located?

The college catalog will have descriptions of specific classes and the college schedule for each term will be the place to find the offering. 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 Lane Community College, courses also have a 5 digit CRN (Course Registration Number) that identifies specific sections of the class being offered. You will 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 Retail Management One-Year Certificate program at Lane Community College has requirements that must be met before a student can enroll in the certificate program. A student must place into Writing 121 or 122; Math 065; and take BT 108 (Business Proof Reading) before starting the program. The program takes a student 4 terms or about 15 months to complete. 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
CS 120 Concepts of Computing Information Processing 4 credits
MTH 060 Beginning Algebra or higher 4 credits
Choice of:
COMM 100
COMM 111
COMM 130
Basic Communication
Fundamentals of Public Speaking
Business and Professional Speech
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 may 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.

Examples of key dates to know for a college:

  • When does the term/semester 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 make changes to your schedule?
  • When is the last day to drop a class?
  • When is the last day to change grading options?
  • When is finals week and what it the schedule like during that week?

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

Using technology to stay organized

Many student use smartphones and tablets in their daily lives. There are several websites that can be very helpful to students.

The US News article 5 Apps That Can Help Students Mange College Life includes suggestions about apps for students that can help with daily planning, capturing information in class, creating to-do lists to help with procrastination, making study flash cards, and other organizational issues. This list is just a place to start you thinking about ways you can simplify tasks and maximize productive study time.

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 link:

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

Video link:

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

Video link:


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A Different Road To College Copyright © 2016 by Alise Lamoreaux is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.