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Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.
  • after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

Main image courtesy of the Scholarly Teacher.

It’s the summer before your freshman year in college. You’re probably doing all you can to prepare for this new stage in your life such as discussing decor arrangements with your future roommate, getting all your dorm must-haves, hanging out with friends one last time, and catching up on some summer reading. You may also wonder about what move-in day is like, and whether you’ll meet people you like (hint: you will!). 

But most likely you’re also thinking about what classes you should take as a college freshman. Regardless if you know what you want to major in or not, setting up your freshman year class schedule is an important task. So where do you start? Luckily you’re not alone, as we’ve put together this article covering:

  • Why your freshman year class schedule is important
  • How college classes are structured
  • How many classes you should take as a freshman
  • What classes to take in college freshman year

Why your freshman year schedule is important

Set yourself up for success in college

college students attending class
Your first year schedule will lay the blueprint for your college career. Image courtesy of NATCOM.

Every college is different, so how your freshman year schedule is set up will be too. Some schools like to provide all incoming freshmen with a guide regarding the courses that all students are required to take, regardless of their major. Others may have you figure it out on your own, while still other schools could get you in touch with your academic advisor to help craft your first semester schedule. Depending on how your school handles freshmen year schedules, you may find yourself overwhelmed.

It’s important to note that your freshman year schedule is essential to setting yourself up for success in college. You may have heard that you won’t be taking any “good” classes your freshman year because you’ll need to focus on general education (gen ed) requirements. While it’s true schools require all freshmen to take certain courses (more on that later) it doesn’t mean that’s all you’ll be taking! There will still be room in your schedule to take courses that appeal to you, or perhaps are even in your major. 

Your school has most likely provided you with information on the requirements that all freshmen must complete. They do this to ensure each freshman is given a well-rounded start to their college education. Gen ed classes are designed to expose incoming freshmen to a variety of different subjects without delving too deep into the topic. If it sparks your interest, great! If they don't, that's okay too, because you’ll have plenty of time to take other classes. 

If you have some idea of what you’d like to study in college, that’s also a good place to start. Say you’re planning to major in chemistry, so you’ll want to choose a lower level chemistry class such as chemistry 101. If you still feel like that’s the path for you, you can continue down the chemistry route and build upon that first freshman year class.

If you don’t know what you want to major in, that’s okay. You’ll be exposed to gen eds and general electives your freshman year to help you figure out what you may want to study. 

How college classes are structured

Learn how college classes are structured before you create your schedule

college freshmen textbooks
College classes are structured differently, giving you more freedom to choose what works for you. Image courtesy of Forbes.

As you’ve probably gathered, college classes are also structured differently than high school classes. When you’re browsing through the courses, you’ll notice they’re written out in credit hours. You might see classes that are designated one, two, three, or four credit hours. Typically, one credit is the equivalent of one hour in the classroom. So if a course is listed as three credit hours, you can expect to be in the classroom for about three hours a week. The same is true for courses that are one, two, or four credit hours.

Not only are the way courses are designed different in college, you should also be aware that in addition to course credit hours, there will be the time you spend during the week working on homework and other assignments for that class. So when you’re trying to figure out what classes you should take, keep in mind the work you will be doing outside of the classroom as well.

Freshmen typically take anywhere between 12 and 14 course credits each semester. That is considered a full-time student course load, which will keep you busy throughout the week. As a freshman you don’t have a lot of choice when it comes to the times that your courses are offered, but that will change as you progress. Your schedule will probably only have three to four hours (or less) of formal classroom instruction per day, which is much different than the high school schedule. This is done to give you time to study and prepare for your classes, and give you a taste of adulthood!

What does a typical college freshman schedule look like?

What will your freshman year schedule look like?

college freshman going over her schedule
Crafting your freshman year schedule is an important first step! Image courtesy of Learn Launch Institute

As an incoming freshman, you’ll have course requirements that are dictated by your school. As we mentioned, these are designed to give you a broad exposure to college courses, and create the basis for a more well-rounded college education. If you took AP classes and passed the exam, you may be able to rest out of these general classes.

The type of courses you will take will depend on what you want to study. So if you know you already want to eventually major in English composition, you’ll want to find the lower level English courses such as English comp 101, or British literature 101. Alternatively, if you want to major in the sciences, try picking out a Bio 101 or Chemistry 101 and see where that takes you. If you’re unsure what you want your major to be, that's fine. You may end up changing your mind a few times anyway! 

You can always reach out to your college advisor for assistance if you’re stuck on what classes you should take. They can help you decide on a path that sounds good to you and advise what classes would be best to take your first year. Even if you decide to change to something different later, you’ll still have those credits under your belt.

The rest of your schedule will include general electives. These are what make up the well-rounded approach to your freshman year. While your school’s elective choice may vary, the courses listed below are pretty common to take your freshman year.

Math

Most schools require first year students to take a math class. If you’re going into a science major, this could be a class such as calculus, algebra, or probability. Because this type of major will involve more math, you may be required to take two semesters of a qualifying math course.

If you’re planning to follow a humanities-based major such as political science or economics, you’ll still need to take a math course. Typically you’ll want to take a business calculus, finite math, or statistics course to meet this requirement. Humanities majors do not require the higher level math courses that science or engineering need, so once you get them out of the way, you could be through with math after your first year.

Science/computer-science

Even though you’re planning to study Russian literature, as a freshman, you’re still going to need to take a science class. Typically incoming freshman in the humanities track will take a Bio 101 or a Chemistry 101 course that is split among the two semesters. You could also choose to take a computer science course to meet this requirement, depending on your school.

Of course science majors will also need to start somewhere, and that might be in a Bio or Chemistry 101 class as well. Unless you have tested out of these freshman level courses, all first year students can expect to meet a science requirement.

English/writing

English and writing is another common requirement for freshmen to take, regardless of what path of study they intend to pursue. English classes can vary depending on whether it’s the fall or spring semester, so take a glance at what’s offered and see what jumps out. Sometimes it will be English 101, but sometimes you may get a course that’s a  little more nuanced and still have it count towards your general requirements. 

See if there’s a specific type of English class offered—a literature survey such as American authors, or a creative writing course. As long as freshmen are allowed to sign up and it meets the English requirement, do it!

Social science

Social sciences such as psychology, anthropology, history, music appreciation, art, religious studies, or sociology are also necessary for freshmen to take. These types of courses may offer the most variety when it comes to meeting the requirements. If you’ve always been interested in the history of western civilization, here’s your chance to take this course! Alternatively, if you’ve always wanted to know a little more about psychology, this is where to sign up for it. All of these kinds of courses would qualify for the social science requirement.

Language

Many schools recognize the benefit that foreign languages have on students. Not only is it a good idea to know more than one language, it also offers the unique chance to get to know a new culture as well. If you studied Spanish or French in high school, here’s your chance to really dive deeper into speaking, writing, and understanding a different language.

These are generally what most schools require for freshmen students during their first year. Even though you don’t have as much of a choice on exactly what classes you take, you’re still going to find plenty that interests you!

How many classes should you take freshman year in college?

Learn what classes you have to take, then fill in the gaps

Depending on what type of path you’re looking to follow in college, such as science, languages, or writing, you can expect your schedule to vary. A science heavy course load may have lectures and labs, while if you’re planning to study in the humanities, you may not need as many science classes and have discussion groups instead. College schedules are very personalized, and once you get beyond your freshman year, you’ll have a little more say in how it looks.

When you’re planning out your first semester, take a look at what the gen ed requirements are. See what times they’re offered and on what days. This can help you craft your semester schedule and leave you time for additional electives you may be interested in. Keep a few electives in mind, because there is always the chance that the class you wanted to take will be full by the time you can sign up for classes. 

This is where it pays off to have a backup plan. Make sure you have a few options for your required classes (depending on the size of your school, the same required class may be offered multiple times throughout the week) and choose a few electives that sound interesting. You won’t be taking all of them, but you never know when one might be full. 

helpful college freshmen studying tools
Keep all the course options you want to register for organized in this handy Kate Spade Jotter Pouch. Take a look at the rest of our helpful college accessories too! Image courtesy of OCM.

When it’s your time to schedule classes, make sure you’re online and ready as soon as you can. Don’t wait, because even some of the gen ed classes you need to take could get full of other freshmen doing their own scheduling. You should try to stay within the 12-14 course credit amount, so if you can get into two of your gen ed requirements that are four credits each, you could fill the remainder of your schedule out with a three credit required course and a one credit elective. Or another combination that works for you!

Before your semester starts, make sure you have a plan and are aware of what your school’s requirements are. Reach out to your advisor if you get stuck. And remember, if your classes aren’t working out, you can still drop and rearrange your schedule within the first week of school. Now that you know what to expect, you can go out and enjoy your first year at college!