Unit 1: Launch

Chapter 6: Planning a College Schedule

Alise Lamoreaux and Norma Cárdenas

“The great majority of men are bundles of beginnings.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Planning your class schedule is an opportunity for you to make progress on your degree and arrange your schedule in a way that fits into your day-to-day obligations.  The amount of freedom to choose classes can be exciting and frightening all at the same time!

  1. Before beginning, there are some key factors to consider: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 in-person, hybrid, or online classes? How does your learning style fit with each of these class types?
  6. Do any of the classes you want to take have prerequisites or co-requisites?
  7. Do any of the classes have additional requirements such as labs or other components?
  8. How much time will you have to devote to school-related activities during the term?
  9. Are you a morning person or a night person?
  10. Have you balanced required classes with less intensive electives?
  11. Do you need any special accommodations for the classes you have selected?
  12. 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 challenging 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. Some teachers will contact students before the classes even start with homework assignments to complete before the first day! Many teachers require electronic submission of papers/projects. For classes with a lot of reading and writing, you 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.

Here is something to think about: The table below illustrates the recommended number of hours a student should study per week based on the number of units they are taking.


Table 6.1. Hourly Recommendations (per week)

Work Units Study Time Total
40 6 12 58
30 9 18 57
20 12 24 56

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 what modality (in person, hybrid, or online), days, times, and locations for classes. Not all classes are offered every term and some must be taken in sequence.  Many departments have developed programs for which classes to take in which order. It is always a good idea to check in with your academic advisor to see if your certificate or degree has a plan for the classes you need to take. This will help you map out your studies and make sure you are taking the right classes in the right order.

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 section number to identify the course rather than the course title.

WR 115 Introduction to College Writing
Subject Number Course Title

Many colleges utilize section numbers that identify specific sections of the class being offered.  These are called Course Reference Numbers (CRNs). CRNs are often used by students to register for their classes.

If you have selected a specific program of study, consult the college catalog for directions on the sequence of courses to take and/or look up the courses required for your program of study to see if they have prerequisites or co-requisites.

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 is the schedule like during that week?

Licenses and Attributions:

CC licensed content, Previously shared: Lamoreaux, Alise. A Different Road To College: A Guide For Transitioning To College For Non-traditional Students. Open Oregon Educational Resources, 2018. Located at: https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/collegetransition/chapter/chapter-5/  License: CC BY: Attribution.

Adaptions: Reformatted.  Replaced hours per week table.  Minor additions and deletions for accuracy and cultural relevancy.


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Blueprint for Success in College and Career Copyright © 2019 by Alise Lamoreaux and Norma Cárdenas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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