How you decide to schedule your college classes as well as what type of classes you choose can make a huge difference in your academic success. When you are most alert, what times of day you work best, and whether you can handle back-to-back classes or need a break in between, can all determine how you build your college schedule. It is also important to consider such aspects as the number of course credits you are taking, who is teaching a particular class, your high school curriculum background, as well as what to do if a class isn’t available when building your schedule.

Personal scheduling preferences
One of the most important factors in deciding how to create your course schedule is your personal preferences and work habits. This doesn’t mean you will always get the times you want, but you can at least try to schedule toward your strengths. If you aren’t a morning person, you might try to avoid 8am classes. Similarly, if you’d prefer to get your work out of the way in order to have the rest of the day open, you may want to stack your courses toward the morning and early afternoon.

It is also important to remember that you will need time to get from one class to another, so distance and travel time may play an important part of your decision making process. Depending on the size of your campus and available transportation, leaving yourself 15-minutes to get from one class to another might be cutting it too close. You must also leave time to eat at some point during the day, and while you might want to get your classes done with quickly to leave yourself with free days or large gaps of time available during the week, packing all your classes into one or two days can leave you exhausted, and decrease your learning effectiveness.

Credits and coursework
When planning for your semester workload, you have to find the balance between taking enough credits to keep yourself busy and meet your coursework requirements, and not overdoing it. The average number of credits for most students during a typical semester ranges between 12 and 16. Since most classes are three credit hours, many students will take five classes for a total of 15. However, if you are taking a class that might not require much study time, such as bowling or archery, 16 or 17 credits might be feasible.

To help you determine the complexity and time requirements of particular courses it can helpful to read the course descriptions ahead of time. However, this isn’t always enough. It can also be beneficial to talk to classmates, roommates, and friends if they have taken a course you’re interested in, to find out their thoughts as well as any helpful information regarding various professors who have taught the class.

Finally, when it comes to planning how many credits you’ll want to undertake in a given semester, it can be helpful to know whether you have any credits transferring from high school. High school AP courses will often count toward college credit or at least allow you to exempt out of certain course requirements. Carrying these credits over into college can put you ahead of the game and may allow you to take a fewer number of courses during certain semesters. Sometimes college entrance exams will also allow you to skip certain introductory courses, but you must be careful since these tests will sometimes place you in courses that might be beyond your skill level.

Have a backup plan
In the case of college course scheduling, it is always a good idea to have a backup plan in the event that one or more of your courses is unavailable. You don’t want to restrict your schedule so that if or when you have to drop a class, you are left short on credits to graduate, don’t have the course requirements needed to fulfill your major, or have to overload an upcoming semester with more work than you feel comfortable taking on.

Be sure that when you prepare your schedule, you have several classes you can substitute in if one or more of the classes you are planning to take are not available. It is also a good idea to meet with your counselor ahead of your scheduling. This way you can ensure that you are on track for your graduation requirements, get their advice on what classes you should be taking and in what order, and discuss any problems you may foresee with your schedule.