Several parents have messaged me about not only the planner and time management concerns for their students, but also about course selection, electronic registration, online learning platforms and other things that simply didn't exist when we went to college. I thought it might be helpful to provide some tips, although it can vary from school to school, so always ask the institution directly.
1. Registration. The days of looking through a booklet of tiny print listing courses are long gone and now you look at a screen of tiny printed courses, lol. Typically, your student will register for classes at a summer orientation. Here's the catch: college students register in reverse order, where existing students with the most credits (closest to graduation) get their first choices. Obviously, this is so they can finish their degree. The last students to register are incoming freshmen.
What this means is that occasionally some classes are closed at the time that your child will register but thankfully many institutions plan for this and have sections and seats available. Usually the ones closest to graduation are not even looking to take the same classes as freshmen. The problem, however, may be a "wonky" first semester schedule for your student. Early mornings, evening classes, fully online classes, and big breaks during the day. It's all part of the process and if they are living on campus, "big" breaks are not a "big" deal.
But there are some options if you run into some snags.
Here is what I suggest:
1. First, register for the full time load (15 credits, usually) regardless of the times so that your student has a concrete schedule locked in.
2. Once that is done, you can take the time to dig a little bit and perhaps make changes.
3. Don't be afraid of the "drop/add" option going into the freshman year. Unless you are told something different, your student can rearrange their schedule, often into the first week of the semester.
4. To do this easily, there is an app called COURSICLE that my own students told me about and it is AMAZING. I believe it is around $3.00 but it was created by students at UNC Chapel Hill and I recommend every student get it.
Here is how COURSICLE works:
1. When you register, take note of other classes that might be closed but that you would prefer.
2. Go into Coursicle, find your institution, and you can usually locate every section being offered at the college. They will use some sort of identifying course number and section number but it varies by college.
3. Tap on the class YOU WANT but COULD NOT GET. Make sure notifications are set up.
4. WHEN A SEAT OPENS UP IN THE CLASS, THE APP WILL NOTIFY YOUR STUDENT WHO CAN IMMEDIATELY GO INTO THEIR PORTAL AND TRY TO ADD THE CLASS. It is how my late-registering son ended up with a great, compact schedule. My daughter has all her preferred classes for next fall at Villanova loaded in the app and is hoping to get into those classes.
Will seats open up? Generally YES. Things happen all summer long so students are shifting constantly. It is definitely worth doing.
ONLINE COURSES: My personal opinion is that the higher ed push for online courses where they claim they are "exactly like" or "as good as" face to face instruction is the BIG LIE of undergraduate education. I know how they are done, I know that there isn't a lot of oversight, I know that they are considered financially advantageous to the institution, not the students, and you are paying tuition for face to face instruction. Online courses are for a very niche group of students and if COVID has proven anything, it is that this is not the ideal way to learn for most students. YOUR STUDENT SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A FACE TO FACE OPTION FOR EVERY COURSE. BEWARE ANY SCHEDULE THAT DOESN'T PROVIDE A CHOICE AND THEREFORE "FORCES" STUDENTS INTO ONLINE COURSES. Not having that choice raises serious ethical questions.
PROFESSOR SELECTION: When I returned to full time teaching in 2008 there was a new phenomenon called ratemyprofessors.com. Unlike more formal course reviews, this is a site that allows students to anonymously "review" their teachers at the college level.
My advice: use with caution and ignore the numerical ratings.
1. First, students often use the wrong number to rate a professor, so for instance they are rushing and they loved the teacher and choose #1, but on the scale, that actually is the worst rating with #5 being the best. So the site averages for any given professor aren't typically accurate.
2. Ignore those and READ THE REVIEWS CAREFULLY and with a HUGE GRAIN OF SALT. Why? There are always cranky students, who often did not do well, who seek revenge with a negative review. You have to read all the posts and note the dates of the posts to get a true sense of the teacher.
3. GO WITH FAIR Teachers AND DO NOT AVOID CHALLENGING TEACHERS. They are often the best ones. The most accurate posts will tell you about the course work, the availability and general demeanor of the professor, and what their experience was like. Any post that says "Horrible, do not take" deserves further research.
4. Don't be alarmed if a teacher does not have a lot of ratings. I have only about 50 total, over the past 13 years but that is because I don't really have any issues with my students. If a teacher is fair and effective, they often won't have a ton of ratings. If a teacher is life changing, they will have a bunch of ratings or, sometimes sadly, if they are very easy graders. The site doesn't control who posts what, and in fact I have a little nasty one from a colleague, believe it or not, who poses as a student once a semester to give me a jab, lol.
THEIR SCHEDULE: Use a template that shows their schedule visually. Often you can select "View my schedule as a week" and see things blocked out Monday-Friday which is an easier way to "visualize" what their week will look like. If not, you can make your own using this template - just go in and change the times if they don't match how your school does it.
You can also write in the other classes they HOPE to get in pencil, and switch this around if they are able to drop/add when they get a notification from the app.
Hope this helps! I'll be live-streaming more on time management and the ins and outs of navigating these aspects of college life in August so subscribe on the website to get email notifications of these events and in put your student's school email if they also want to be notified. You can do all that here: www.thecenteredstudentplanner.com