Registering for courses for the first time is nerve-wracking. Heck, I’m in 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 an important part of the journey, but it's doable and not the end of the line. 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, and talk to an advisor if you have questions about your program requirements.)
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, and 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 (you can talk to an advisor to sort out the right options for you).
Some students take courses over the summer to spread out their workload, which can usually be done in person or online. After your first year there are even options to complete an international summer course or do a summer study abroad! If you want to keep your summers free, you can 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.
Pay attention to your degree requirements
Not everything about your degree is set in stone, but degree requirements definitely are. These are the specific credit hours you need to complete in order to graduate. You can find them listed under your program in the 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 who need a language course requirement choose to save it for later in their degree. Your elective spaces may be better spent getting prerequisites for upper-year courses 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 program requirements first. But if you’re lucky enough to have elective options, I recommend you take advantage of them. Look through all of the 1000-level course options on the Academic Timetable, not just the ones in your major. If a course seems interesting, has no prerequisites, 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!