Choosing a Class Schedule

Like everyone who’s planning on going to TFC next semester, I’ve been getting my thoughts together about which classes I need to choose. I decided that instead of trying to guess my way through things, I would think up a process for determining which classes to choose. I shall now share this process, and I very much hope it is helpful to you.

I think the way most people do this is by simply imagining the ideal semester—a semester which helps them accomplish everything they need to within the constraints they are allowed, and in the most preferable manner, and then describing the way that would play out. So let’s do it like that.

Step One: Determine your Goals and Values

A choice of classes at TFC (or any college, really) can only be described as good or bad by how well it helps you meet your goals and values. So, the first thing that will be important is making a list of things that are important to you. For example, if you’re a Counseling Major, it is important to you to take classes which will help you obtain a Counseling major. Duh!  On a more practical note, if avoiding the horrible suffering of waking up before 8 AM is important to you, then you should probably make it a value that waking up before 8 AM is to be avoided. If you have a job, you’ll want to remember that actually making it to your job (and thus getting sleep) is a pretty important value to add to the list as well.  Another important thing to remember is that you should list your goals and values in the order of their importance. Clearly the necessity of obtaining your major is more important than not waking up before 8 AM, and for me, generally, having time to spend with friends is more important than having time to nap during the day. So remember which things are more important to you so you’re prepared to give up less important values when they conflict with themselves or circumstances (and they will).

Here’s an example list of my goals values:

Completing the Philosophy Major by next December.
Completing a Counseling Minor
Having time to spend time with friends
Having time to read the gargantuan amounts of reading that Dr. Elkins assigns/ other stuff
Having time to eat (yeah!)
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night
Not making my course load unnecessarily difficult
Generally taking Classes which will challenge me
Having time to nap during the day
Generally not waking up before 9:30 if possible…
Do a Student Ministry
Generally getting to spend time in Nature
Having time for trips with friends

Step Two: Take Circumstances into Account

You’ll never meet your goals if you don’t take into account potential obstacles or opportunities that lie in your path. For example, if you’re trying to major in Counseling, it would be important to keep it in mind if a certain counseling internship is available next semester, or if you’re planning on leading a certain ministry, it will be important to know if your work shifts overlap with it. To make it simple, take into account the details about next semester which are going to affect you.

An Example list of my Circumstances:                                                   

Higher level philosophy classes are generally only available in the afternoon.
Dinner is at five.
I live in the Terraces
I have a car
I have no reason to leave early on Fridays
None of my class-choice options conflict with one-another in regards to time.
Philosophy Classes require a lot of reading.

Step Three: create a course-load which best takes into account your goals, values, and circumstances. 

Now it’s time to take your priorities and circumstances for the semester and merge them together. Take your list of goals and values, and your list of relevant circumstances and start laying down a schedule which best fulfills your priorities in a realistic way.

For example, since I need to complete the Philosophy major, one of my priorities is to take whatever Philosophy classes I haven’t taken yet.  But a relevant circumstance is that only three philosophy classes are available next semester, and also, generally if you take more than three philosophy classes, you die.  Also, I need to complete my Philosophy practicum and my Senior Thesis. If I wasn’t aware of the relevant fact that doing both of these together with other classes probably implies death, I would sign up for both of them. But I won’t, because I know that it would violate my priority of spending time with friends, getting sleep, having time to read, and etc.

Once you’ve done this properly, you probably will have a good idea of what you need to sign up for next semester. As an upperclassman, I think I have enough experience to offer a few pointers that may help:

1)     Sleep really is important. Don’t neglect allowing time for it.

2)     Anticipate failure. We often plan our schedules like a superman/woman will take our place and triumph over all laziness and short-sightedness during the semester. It’s not going to happen. You’re going to fail, oversleep, not finish some homework, be tired, want to be alone, etc. Deal with it.

3)     Friends really are important. Learning isn’t limited to Scholarly studies—friends can teach you some of the most important things about life. Don’t neglect time for your friendships.

4)     Give yourself free time. You’re going to want time to literally do whatever you want, apart from a schedule. You must have this time, or stress will crush you.

5)     Adjust your schedule to your personality type if you can: If you can’t handle working on homework for long periods of time without any class interruptions, you should probably space your classes out in such a way that you get breaks. If you’re good at focusing, you should allow yourself long time periods to do work.