One very important task that each college student faces each semester is choosing their classes for the next semester. As parents of college students, we may feel that we should have some input.  Discussing your college student’s class choices is always a good thing.  It will help you to understand your student’s interests and goals, and it may help your student to clarify their thinking as you talk about important decisions.  However, it is important to remember that it is your college student who will be taking the classes and that they have, hopefully, made informed decisions in consultation with an Academic Advisor who understands college expectations and requirements.

Although you should be taking more of a back seat in the course selection process, it may be helpful for you to understand some of the considerations that your student should weigh as they choose their classes.  You may need to encourage them to think about some of these issues and/or discuss them with their advisor.

  • Your college student should consider any all-college requirements. Most schools require all students to take a set of core courses that span several areas. This set of courses may be called general education requirements, all-college requirements, liberal arts requirements, or something similar. Your student should work to take a few of these courses each semester.
  • If your student has chosen a major, they should look closely at the requirements to complete the major. Taking a course or two in the chosen major earlier in college makes sense so they will have an opportunity to feel as though they are getting started in a chosen area, and also to reassure themselves that this is the correct major for them.
  • Your student should consider carefully what the “normal” load of courses or credits per semester is. They will need to make sure they are taking enough credits to be making significant progress toward graduation, but also not taking on a load of courses that are going to be overwhelming.
  • Your student will need to look ahead to see whether certain courses have prerequisites or other courses that need to be completed prior to taking the courses they want.
  • Some students thrive on early morning classes and do their best thinking at that time of day. Some students find that they are at their best in the afternoon, or find that their energy is lagging by late afternoon. Some students prefer evening classes, while others can’t stay focused by evening. Some students prefer classes that meet several times each week, while others like classes that meet only once a week. It is important that your student consider their preferences for the timing of classes. However, they will still need to be flexible.
  • When your student thinks about the timing of their schedule, they should also consider how many classes they can comfortably take on a single day. While it may seem appealing to have all classes on one or two days, this will mean not only a lot of time spent sitting in class on those days but also that all assignments will be due on the same days.
  • Your student will also need to think carefully about external factors that may affect their schedule. Do they need to work around a sports practice schedule? Are they a commuter who needs to consider traffic issues? Do they have an off-campus job? Some of these factors will force your student to think about and reassess their priorities.
  • Not every class that your student takes will be of the same difficulty or interest to them. Students may want to consider the balance of their classes. One or two classes that may be a stretch per semester coupled with one or two classes in more comfortable subjects may make a lot of sense.

Putting together an appropriate schedule for a semester, a schedule that will allow your college student to succeed is a balance of many factors. The more knowledgeable that your student is about college requirements and norms, about their own interests and strengths, and the more closely they work with their advisor, the more successful your student will be.