Oberlin Blogs

The Dos and Don'ts of Choosing Courses

April 6, 2016

Teague Harvey ’19

I know, I know, it's been a while since I've posted a blog - and I apologize, Mum, I know you like reading them. I'm still editing and thinking about two other blogs, but in the meantime...

It's that time of year again, somehow. Registration for next semester begins mid-April, which means I need to know what classes I want to take.

This time, I think I've finally got it sorted out.

See, choosing classes can be incredibly difficult, and there are a few different strategies one can employ... to varying degrees of success. I definitely know people that have had stressful registration times, and even when you get everything that you want, it might not end up being what you wanted - so I've decided to compile everything I've learned so far (author's note: I'm only a first-year going into my second year, so take this with a grain of salt.) into a handy dandy post:

  • This semester, I took Intro to Cultural Anthropology out on a limb, mainly because it has a Cultural Diversity credit (you need three to graduate Oberlin, and I have none so far, but I have ALL of my science-related requirements already). It sounded vaguely interesting, and it definitely looked out of my comfort zone. So I thought, why not?

    Well, as it turns out, I don't really like the class that much, for a variety of reasons I won't go into - but it's basically just not stimulating me intellectually that much. I should have known, since it didn't really capture me during the Add/Drop period, but I decided to take it anyway for the CD credit.

    Bottom line:
    Don't worry about getting your requirements out of the way so fast, and only take classes you really want to take and are genuinely excited about.

    However, this is all different for Double Degree students, 3-2 Engineering Students, or Pre-Med students...

    My 3-2 friend has a spreadsheet (an actual spreadsheet!) in which she is trying to plan all the courses she needs to take for her requirements... and my Pre-Med friend is just in a constant state of woe.

    All of this being said, though:

  • Every rule has an exception: while I don't really like my Anthro class this semester, I LOVE my 100 Poems class.

    I took it for similar reasons too, it helps with my diversity requirements (it's an English class), and I also went out on a limb, since I don't really know much about poetry.

    But this time, it worked out really well. It turns out reading poetry balances all my science classes nicely, and gives me a great break from the rest of my work.

    And the professor is just fantastic; he's exactly what I thought an English professor would be like.

    Imagine Robin Williams from Dead Poets Society, add some more grandiose expressions
    and a spice of zesty language... and you have DeSales Harrison. Seriously, when he speaks, he doesn't just speak English - he makes love to the language.

    Sometimes, taking random classes really works out for the best. Last semester, I decided to take Intro to Computer Science - and now I plan on declaring Computer Science as my major! (as soon as I can be bothered to do the paperwork...)

    Bottom Line: Balancing out your schedule with different types of classes is a good idea. And sometimes, it's definitely worth it to go out on a limb and take a class you know nothing about - it might even change your major.

    I also think I know why my choice to take 100 Poems worked out better than my decision to take Anthro this semester:

  • When commencement rolls around this year, I'm going to write a gooey blog post about all the seniors and 5th-years that I've met who have made a serious impact on me.

    But the point is, seniors are your friends. No, seriously - this isn't high school anymore. Being a different year from someone doesn't mean much in terms of making friends, since people of all years might take the same classes, and your club/extracurricular of choice will definitely have more than just first-years in it.

    I have friends who are first-years, friends who are second-years, friends who are third-years, friends who are fourth-years, and friends who are fifth-years.

    See, the main reason I took 100 Poems is because I asked the seniors on the OSwing Board during Add/Drop what I should take. Several of them adamantly raved about Professor Harrison and 100 Poems.

    I didn't even read the description of the course (it's also pretty self-explanatory... we read 100 poems from throughout history). I just fought a space into that class during Add/Drop.

    And it turned out really well.

    Bottom Line: Seniors are awesome sources of wisdom, who can give you an honest opinion on professors and classes AND SO MUCH MORE.

    Speaking of raving about professors:

  • A professor can really make or break a class. Ask everyone you possibly can - cast your net as wide as possible, as some people may like a certain professor and others may not.

    This is basically the same as the last point, but I think it's important enough to get its own point.

    Bottom Line: Oberlin has a pretty amazing hit rate in terms of having amazing professors - but you won't love all of them. Pay attention to who people love, because you'll probably love them too.

    In all honesty, the professors may be one of the best things about Oberlin. I have yet to have a professor that didn't genuinely care about my education and my experience. And the best ones are truly something special.

    But in the end...

  • In this blog, I have laid out some general rules for how to make a decent schedule, based on my past mistakes and successes - but as you probably noticed, some of them are contradictory.

    Sometimes you may have your ideal schedule - then you'll get screwed during registration time, and you'll need to sacrifice a mountain goat to the Gods to find some other courses still open that you can take. Sometimes you'll have a schedule that makes sense in terms of your major or requirements, but you've just got to take that random class in Comparative Marine-Geo Marxist Pottery-Making (author's note: not a course offered at Oberlin). Sometimes you'll just decide to change your mind.

    That's what college is all about. You make mistakes, things don't work out, you get stuck in a class you didn't want, and you have to figure out something on the fly.

    And at the end of the day, it'll all work out.

    Because no matter what courses you take, you're still getting a pretty damn good education.

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