Registering for courses for the first time is nerve-wracking. Heck, I’m headed into my fourth year, and I still feel the rush when I sign up for my classes. You have to learn to use a brand-new system, you feel like you’re competing with everyone else for the same classes, and you’re scared that your entire degree depends on making the right choices, right now. I’m here to tell you: don’t panic. Course registration is important, but it’s not permanent. Here are some of the things I wish I knew before registering for courses for the first time. (And make sure you check out the Register on Track program to help you out with the process of actually registering.)
How to graduate in four years (or not)
The standard bachelor’s degree program is 120 hours. This means that if you want to graduate in the standard four years, you’ll need to take five courses per semester (a.k.a. a full course load). However, there are other options if you’re willing to be flexible. I only took four courses in my first term at university, because I wasn’t aware how many credit hours my program required. This ended up being the right choice for me, since I had a hard time with the transition to university. If you feel the same, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to make up those credit hours.
Some students take courses over the summer, which in a normal year can be done in person or online. When travel restrictions are lifted, there are even options to complete an international summer course or do a summer study abroad! You’re allowed a maximum of 15 credit hours (3 courses) per summer term. If you want to keep your summers free, you can also request permission to take six courses in a semester. And of course, you aren’t obligated to complete your degree in four years, either. Plenty of students spread it over five years or more.
Don't freak out if you don’t get your first choice
If you apply for a course that’s full, and there’s space on the waitlist, you’ll be given the option to join the waitlist. While this may be disappointing, you’d be surprised how quickly things can change. Many people readjust their schedules over the course of the summer, so a space may open up for you to join. Plus, once the term begins and students get their syllabi for all their courses, there’s another rush of course changes when people realize their classes aren’t what they expected. One professor once told us that he doesn’t even bother counting attendance at the start of term, because he’s had up to 100 changes in his class list during the first few weeks. If it’s absolutely essential that you take this course, you may decide to email the prof and politely ask if there’s a way they can take on an additional student. Just keep in mind that they don’t have to agree.
Pay attention to your degree requirements
Very few things about your degree are set in stone, but degree requirements definitely are. These are the credit hours you will need to complete in order to graduate. You can find them in your program’s academic calendar. It’s totally normal if you find them a bit confusing—even now, I still have to double-check things. That’s why it’s great to get in contact with Dal’s academic advisors. There are also course-planning worksheets to help you create your schedule. While you need to fulfill all of your degree requirements, you don’t have to do it all in your first year. For example, many people choose to save their language course requirements for later in their degree. Your elective spaces may be better spent getting prerequisites for upper-year courses outside of your degree that interest you.
Now’s the time to experiment!
I’ll start this with a big caveat: some programs have very specific requirements without much flexibility, so always follow your degree requirements first. But if you’re lucky enough to have elective options, I recommend you take advantage of them. Look through all of the course options on the Academic Timetable, not just the ones in your major. If a course seems interesting and fits in your schedule, take it! You’ll never know what you’ll enjoy, and you could even find another major or minor that you want to add to your degree.
By taking these courses in your first year, you give yourself time to incorporate these interest areas into your degree. I took a course in Art History last year because I needed a last-minute elective, and I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. I wish I could have taken it in first year, because I might have chosen to complete an Art History certificate. And while you’re exploring your options, don’t forget that you can register for King’s courses the same way you register for Dal courses!