Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Need a required course to graduate? Don’t worry: there are many alternatives.

It can be challenging to enroll in all of the classes you need each semester, especially with the recent budget cuts. With fewer courses available and rising enrollment rates, completing the classes you need for your major can be a challenge. Not only do you run the risk of having to take classes you don’t want or even need, but more importantly, you may not graduate in time. For you, this means an extra year at school (and surely you’d rather be traveling or beginning your career instead). For your parents, that extra year could cost them an extra $10,000 to $50,000 depending on where you attend school. After sitting on wait lists and standing behind long lines of students trying to get into the same class, you realize you just aren’t getting in-- so now what? You have a couple of options.

First, make an appointment with your college advisor. In some cases, they may find a class you have already completed, and use it to fulfill two requirements. They can also help you select courses for the future that will fulfill multiple requirements. I once worked with a student that took an upper-division class as a freshman—not only did she pass it, but she got an A. The advisor worked with her to make that class count for two graduation requirements rather than one. Your advisor wants you to succeed just as much as you do.

Second, layout your course plan for the entire four years. By understanding what general-ed classes you need to take and selecting your major and elective courses ahead of time, you'll be able to take full advantage of your college's opportunities. When it comes time to enroll in classes, you won't be frantically combing through the Schedule of Classes to decide what classes you need and what your schedule will look like.

Third, if you know that one of the classes on your list is going to be difficult to get into, meet with the professor ahead of time to discuss why you need and want to take their class. By making a connection with the professors, they will be more inclined to select you off the wait list when the time comes for registration. If a professor wants to add you to their course, they can and will.

Another option, if all else fails, is to take the class at a different college. Oftentimes a nearby community college will offer a course that satisfies your requirements. Most universities allow up to sixty community college units towards your degree. You can also take an online course, if your college accepts them. More colleges are accepting the fact that their students may need to take additional courses off campus in order to graduate on time. And don’t worry, there is no mention of it on your diploma.

Getting into the classes you need can be extremely stressful. Waiting an extra day, or even an extra hour past your enrollment time could mean the difference between a timely graduation and another year. Courses fill up in a matter of minutes, so be sure you know your enrollment time and set your alarm so you don't miss it!. If you are on top of it all, and you still can’t get in, don’t fear--there are usually other options out there. Last, and most importantly: don’t forget to carefully layout your entire four-year plan so selecting courses at your enrollment time slot is easy and not burdened with choosing classes.

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