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A course schedule that works for you

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I realize by this point that most of you reading this will have already chosen courses for the winter semester, but even so, I think it may be a good time to share some of the lessons I’ve learned in my two years at UFV, and to offer some helpful tips on how to construct a course schedule that will work with your circumstances and personal learning style.

First of all, if you haven’t already registered for classes, and intend to take some this winter, you should do so immediately. Seats fill up faster than you think, and if you put things off for too long, that course you really needed or wanted could be full. I made this mistake the first couple of times, but I’ve at least broken that bad habit, if not others. Missing out on a course can mean more than mere disappointment. Most courses, except for a few mainstays, like English 105, are not offered every semester. Missing a core, required course in your program could force you to wait a whole year before it becomes available again, and this will also set you back for any courses that it’s a prerequisite for.

While we’re on the subject of missed courses, do not assume that once you have registered everything is done and dusted until classes begin. This semester I registered for a course that ended up being cancelled due to lack of interest, and because I didn’t check my notifications, I ended up having to find a replacement at the last minute. Check your student information and email regularly, in case something unexpected comes up.

With regard to the number of courses you should take per semester, I find that the ideal number is three or four. Four is best if you have no other commitments. However, if you are working a job, or you are participating in clubs or associations, then three is best since your other commitments will add the equivalent of another course load. I originally used a four-course schedule, but since I started work at The Cascade, I’ve moved to three courses per semester. You might be able to get away with five or six if you are a high-energy type with a strong work ethic, or you are in a hurry to get your degree or certificate, but even then, I would strongly recommend against this. Taking fewer courses per semester might make things take longer, and add to your costs through living expenses, but I feel that a slower pace and lighter workload is better for your physical and mental health, not to mention your GPA.

As for the courses that you choose, that depends on your program requirements, and your own personal interests. I recommend at least one program-related course, and at least one elective each semester. The rest is up to you, but I find it best to balance fulfilling your academic requirements with something you enjoy. Electives can be purely for enjoyment, but it is best to choose ones that have some relevance to your chosen career path. For example, I am taking digital photography next year, which should help with my intended journalism track.

Lastly, I would like to comment on online vs. in-class. Personally, I have found that I lack the discipline for online courses. In theory, it works great with your schedule, since you can do it any time before the deadlines. Unfortunately, in my case that means that I end up putting it off indefinitely. It’s a lot easier to blow off work when you don’t have to face your professor and fellow students every week. Plus, part of why I am attending university is for the social experience, and you don’t get that with online courses. But that’s just me, perhaps online would suit you better, especially if you have a job outside of school, or if you live far away from campus. I used to have a system where I would take one online course and the rest would be in-person, but from now on, I will be taking only in-class courses whenever possible. We’ll see how it works out. Choose whatever mixture works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment if you find that you are struggling.

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