Be Sure to Register for the Correct Courses!

A first time student picking out college classes may find the registration process to be confusing or intimidating. Even seasoned students may experience a bit of apprehension when selecting which classes to take when registration time rolls around. With all the information presented by the school, sorting through pamphlets (and these days, websites!)  filled with course names, course numbers and names of professors can feel a bit overwhelming.

It is a good idea to begin planning your schedule ahead of time so you know your options (and also any potential alternatives) in case your first choice isn't available. Once the window for registration opens, sign up for those classes as soon as possible so you don't miss out on the courses you want to take. If you wait until the last minute to decide what classes to take, you run the risk of a class either being filled to capacity class or canceled due to lack of enrollment. Having previously worked in a community college, I've seen this happen countless times. It has also happened to me when I was a student.

Rather than delay and potentially miss out on important courses, here are some tips to help you get acquainted with the registration process and some tips to help you pick your classes:

Know Your Major

When you register for college classes, it is important to understand the track you are on for your specific degree program. After you choose a major, take the time to understand the requirements and degree criteria. Just earning enough credits isn't enough to complete a degree—you'll have to fulfill requirements in a specialized area of study. This means you'll need to follow a pre-determined schedule of classes to meet the criteria that will enable you to graduate.

It is a good idea to pay careful attention to the courses you select each semester and be sure they fit in with your degree program. If you are lacking credits in any of the specialized areas of study aligned with your curriculum, this could delay your graduation. You don't want to spend time and money on credits that will not count towards your degree.

smartboard use in classroom with macbook
Credit: Ekaroleski/Creativ e Commons License-Attribution/Share Alike

What if You're Not Sure What Program You Want?

If you aren't sure what major to choose, initially this is not usually a problem. A percentage of any given student population is unsure what course of study to pursue early in their academic journey. If you fall into this statistic, that is OK; in many colleges you aren't required to select a major right away. One good course of action is to register for a liberal arts program that allows the flexibility to test the waters in different areas of study. This gives you a semester or two to figure out which direction you want to take your education because of the liberal arts' high flexibility for lots of electives—for instance you can focus on your required "gen-ed" courses.

Why You Should Take General Education Courses First

One of the biggest pitfalls many students fall into is jumping into a major gung-ho and taking all their degree requirements first. The problem with this is a percentage of students often decide the program is not for them after a couple of semesters. Then they run into the problem of losing credits and having to start over. The best way to avoid falling into this pitfall is to take all your general education requirements first. This way if you change your mind, your credits will more than likely fit into you're the new degree program you choose (as long as you haven't taken something too obscure). Most general education classes transfer easily, but degree specific courses may not, and if these classes no longer fit into your goals, your time and money will have been wasted. Education is expensive enough without having "do-overs" if things don't work out the way you'd hoped.

A Naval Support Activity Mid-South Sailor takes a moment to decide which credit card to useCredit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class LaTunya Howard / Public Domain

Talk to an Academic Counselor

If this is your first time going to college, be sure and talk at length with your guidance counselor at high school or a college admissions counselor. When you talk to a counselor who is knowledgeable about the registration process, he or she can help get you started on the right foot for the kind of degree you want to pursue.

Even if you are a returning student who has completed several semesters, it is still a good idea to touch base with an academic counselor prior to registration. This way you can stay aligned with your primary choices and have a back-up plan if a class is full or canceled and you need to select an alternative. It is also not a bad idea to double-check to ensure the classes you want to take do actually fit into your degree program.

Choose Areas of Interest

College is a lot of work, but it should also be fun. If your degree program is strictly specialized, chances are you have a high interest in all the required classes, however if you choose a degree curriculum that has degrees of flexibility, you may have a lot of room to take some electives. If you've already completed the general education requirements, with the degree specific and electives, it's usually a good idea to choose areas of interest to register for elective because this will help ensure your academic success. While you can succeed with boring, why not add a bit of fun to your study?

Registration Process

Your first primary consideration when registering for classes is to choose your classes carefully; the second will be to understand the registration process. This isn't hard and many counselors or admissions/registration staff can help you figure out what you need to do as you register.

The most important thing after you select your classes is to fill out your forms accurately. Fill any registration forms out in full, check course names and double check course registration numbers. Before you even leave the counter, check your printed schedule to ensure your courses are listed correctly. If you write the course number down wrong, or a registration clerk accidentally transposes a course number, this can mess your schedule up. If you don't realize until days or weeks later, you could be shut out from the actual course you intended to take. Additionally, some colleges may charge transfer frees to adjust a schedule.

Credit: Leigh Goessl

Registering for classes can feel awfully intimidating if it's your first time. If you feel this way, don't worry, you aren't alone, many other students experience similar feelings. Remember, college staff are there to help you and most will be happy to get you started, don't ever be afraid to ask for assistance.

While you may feel a bit overwhelmed registering for classes, it is an exciting time too. Registration is mostly a painless process and before you know it, classes will be starting and you'll be moving along your academic journey into a new semester.

Westchester Community College Science Building
Credit: Astrocog/Creative Commons License-Attribution/Share Alike