Coming into college, I had a tentative plan but at the same time, I had no idea what I was going to study. I was interested in biology . . . which is why I took exactly zero biology classes that year! To be honest, I was a little wayward and uncertain yet excited. I had just emerged from high school, where I did have more choice with my schedule in my senior year but it was still restricted to your typical high school classes. Even at a “small” college like Oberlin, college was like an entirely different universe with so many different subjects I had never taken classes in before.
I chose my classes before meeting with my advisor, but it's good to keep an open mind since your advisor can sometimes have some helpful tips and recommendations.
MATH 134 - Calculus II
I took calculus, because I had enjoyed it in high school and was considering studying math in college. At the same time, calculus was useful for any STEM subject I was also considering and for a quantitative social science, such as economics. I wanted to take it sooner rather than later, because I was worried about losing those skills I had spent years in high school learning. This class ended up being fun and relaxed in comparison to some of my other classes, so it was a good choice for me.
CHEM 101 - Structure and Reactivity
I took chemistry, because I was interested in biology, and chemistry is a requirement to study biology here at Oberlin, in addition to being a requirement for many pre-health professions. I had not taken chemistry since tenth grade, so I was definitely a little nervous considering the course’s reputation. It was certainly challenging in a remote format and I sincerely hope that I still remember the key concepts I need for other classes, but it was not the tough weed-out class that I had been anticipating.
ECON 101 - Introduction to Economics
Economics ended up as the last class on my list, basically in the place of biology. I had taken an economics class in high school, which had focused more on economic history, but I had really enjoyed the class (especially because many of my friends were in it). Economics rounded out my schedule as intensely quantitative, but I had always gravitated towards quantitative subjects, so I was not too daunted by my course load. I ended up enjoying it (and learning about the difficulty of college-level classes), and I was seriously considering the economics major coming out of my first semester.
FYSP 194 - The Sixth Extinction
I would highly recommend that first-year students consider taking a first-year seminar. Not only does it satisfy part of the writing requirement, but it may very well be one of the smaller classes you will end up taking your first year. Being in a small discussion-based class and receiving feedback from the professor as a first-year student is an unparalleled opportunity, which encourages your participation and preparation. This was also helpful when I decided to apply for a few programs the following summer and needed a couple professors as references.
LEAD 050 - Intro to Oberlin Life/Learning (PALS, 1 credit)
I believe students have the option of dropping this one-credit class, but I would honestly highly recommend that students keep it in their schedule if possible. It was helpful to reflect on your experiences and what you wanted out of the college experience, and you got to know fellow students on a more personal level. They were also the same people from my first-year seminar, so we became close.
Looking back, it was a fairly heavy schedule with a lot of quantitative material and maybe I should have lightened my (course) load with some more variety. Some of my friends raved about their music lessons and courses in area studies, geology, art history, dance, languages, and environmental studies, to name a few.
Consider these “guidelines” while picking your first-year classes:
A class in something that you might major in
Something that you have taken in high school, enjoyed and/or found success in
Look up the professors on Rate My Professor to get a sense of their instructional style and ask friends and older students for recommendations (which is admittedly hard to do in your first semester). In that case, maybe take to Instagram and ask around??
Take into consideration your sleep schedule and also when you are the most productive. For me, I avoided 9 am classes my first year but I generally like taking morning classes and using the afternoons for homework, labs, and hanging out. On the other hand, I know people who get up at noon and therefore like to schedule afternoon classes. Some people are even able to extend their weekend by taking classes mostly on the same days in the middle of the week. You will have a lot more free time, so it’s up to you (and the registration gods) to create an optimal schedule.
Check out Oberlin’s graduation requirements for Arts & Science students here and for other degree types and major programs here. I really appreciate that Oberlin doesn’t mandate which specific classes students have to take but instead the College encourages students to embrace the liberal arts curriculum and discover new interests.
Good luck with choosing your classes, and I hope that you enjoy your schedule and your first semester!