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How do I Choose the Best University Courses?

B. Miller
B. Miller

To choose the best university courses, you will need to consider the courses you need to take in order to obtain your degree. In many cases, the courses you take will be chosen for you; nearly all universities have a core requirement of courses that need to be taken in order to receive a degree. When you are selecting elective or required university courses, you may want to consider aspects of the class like the instructor who is teaching it, the times the class meets, and its applicability to your major.

Of course, the most important university courses to choose are the ones that will help you get your degree. It is best to plan the next few years of college out as early as possible, so you can be sure to get all your required classes completed in a specified amount of time. When choosing your core classes, consider if there is a particular instructor you want to work with, or if you have a specific interest within your field. Many colleges allow you to pursue specific disciplines within certain degree programs, or to choose a minor to go along with your major.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

When you are choosing elective university courses, you are free to choose courses that interest you. It might be a good idea to take a few courses in an area in which you do not have much experience, to give your university transcript more variety. You should also consider the type of career you want to pursue, and try to take classes that will be beneficial. For instance, if you are getting a degree in journalism, but know you want to write about politics, you might take a number of political science or history courses as your electives.

When you are choosing university courses, it may be a good idea to ask students who have taken classes in the past for recommendations. Former students will be able to share information about the topics covered in the class as well as the teaching style of the professor, and if they feel it was beneficial to their degree program. Most universities also assign students to an academic advisor, and it is important to meet with your advisor regularly. This person will be invaluable in helping you choose classes and to plan your academic schedule each semester, as well as helping you pursue any additional opportunities such as internships.

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Discussion Comments


The college I attend has a degree audit program that you can complete to make sure you on are track. It works best if you know what your specific degree is going to be.

It is easy to go online and input the classes you have already taken, and it will show you exactly what classes are left for you to graduate.

I have used this several times a year, but don't rely on it completely. I still meet with my adviser to make sure I am taking all the right classes.

I also take one online university course a semester and I make sure these are easier courses that I wouldn't really need classroom instruction with. I never take anything like a math class online because I know this is an area where I need all the help I can get.


Once you have chosen what your college degree is going to be it doesn't seem like you have a whole lot of options in choosing your university education courses.

I didn't know for sure what I wanted to major in, so during my first two years of college I took general education studies that would satisfy my core requirements.

It wasn't until halfway through my second year that I decided for sure what my major was going to be. The last two years of classes were definitely more interesting, but there still weren't that many electives to choose from.

Unless you know for sure what you want to do, I think it is OK to wait a year or so before declaring a major. Then you will be taking the courses that you are most interested in and will help you satisfy the credit requirements for your degree.


No matter what your field of study, I think it’s wise to take at least one website design class. You never know what it could prepare you for, and I ended up with a higher paying job because of my education.

Though I studied accounting, I took a few courses in website construction. The first one taught me how to make one from scratch, as well as by using other programs. The second course focused on what should always be included to make a good website, and the third concentrated on the appearance and design elements.

I got a job as an accountant, but once I heard the boss was looking to hire someone to build and maintain the company’s website, I chimed in with my qualifications. He hired me for that job as well, and I ended up making twice what I originally made.


@wavy58 - I agree with your friend. I was majoring in art, and I tried to take a couple of art classes my first semester, but they happened to be full. Even though I didn’t voluntarily choose all basic courses at first, I’m glad that’s what I ended up with.

I took history, math, biology, and psychology for starters. Most of the classes started with information I already knew from high school. The professors built on this knowledge and encouraged us to think.

Critical thinking was a huge thing at college. All the professors talked about it. They wanted students to question everything and come up with new ideas instead of relying on preconceived knowledge.

Learning this method of thinking helped me once I did get to take those art courses. I knew what the professors expected of me, and I was able to go beyond the ordinary and create something unique. They set me free to imagine.


During your first year of college, is it better to go ahead and take courses relating to your major or get some of the basics like math and history out of the way? My friend told me that it’s better to take classes like I had in high school first, because what I learned then is still fresh on my brain. She also said it’s good to get used to the things that college professors expect before delving into my field of study.

I will be enrolling next season, and I’m still unsure of which courses to take first. Does anyone have any advice?


Before I started my first semester at a university, my cousin advised me to take no more than four courses at once until I got used to it. I took her advice, and I am so glad that I did!

I was not accustomed to such a workload. If I had taken on any more than I did, I would have been so stressed out. College courses require a lot more reading and writing than high school classes.

The following semester, I took five courses. I gradually built up to six per semester, just so I could finish my degree on time. After awhile, six courses didn’t seem so bad.


For me, class size was everything. I would not take a class that had more than 30 people. My freshman year I got into an intro chemistry class that was taught in a huge lecture hall with tons of students. Everyday we went and simply sat and watched the teachers power point play on a huge screen. I wondered why I didn't just get the textbook from the library and sit down and read it. I would have learned just as much. In a huge class like that the giant sum of money I was paying to attend school just didn't seem like it was worth it.

But in a smaller setting where you can raise your hand and speak and have an open discussion and maybe even develop a realtionship with your professor you end up leaning so much more. And you can really take advantage of the intellect around you. You are a participant in a discourse and not just a body in a seat. Class size is everything.


There are lots of ways to pick your university courses. Some are practical while others are more intuitive. Deciding how and why to pick particular courses depends a lot on who is doing the asking.

I was able to find a lot of my favorite classes and most enlightening professors by asking my friends who their favorite professors were. Obviously you will not be able to take just anything, but there may be more flexibility than you realize. If your friend loved a teacher and got a lot out of their class, consider signing up for it as well. It is often the teacher much more than the class or the subject that determines how much you will get out of a class.


I think other than subject of the course, the other very important points to consider are who's teaching the course and what the course requirements. Most required courses are made available in multiples and are taught by different professors. The truth is that every professor is not the same, some just teach better than others. Some refuse to give As, whereas others always do.

The best thing to do is to speak with your counselor, program director and other students in the department about who teaches a course the best. Also take a look at the professors' syllabus from previous years to see what the requirements of their course will be. Some students like to count how many assignments and quizzes will be given in a course. I prefer to look at what percentage of the grade each assignment and test makes up.

A course might have just one exam, but if it's fifty percent of your final grade and you do badly, your final grade will be low. On the other hand, if a course has five quizzes, each ten percent of the final grade, you will have the chance to prepare better and get a higher grade.

The same goes for reading requirements. If you hate reading, you probably shouldn't take a course with a professor who requires his/her students to finish three books in one week.


When I was in college, I always signed up for my degree's required courses first and then chose courses which I would enjoy and had interest in for electives. I tried to balance out each semester with several required courses and at least one elective course. I think this worked great because the electives, since I especially enjoyed them, seemed much easier and took off some of the pressure in terms of assignments and exams.

Even though I was studying Political Science, I took a couple of courses in Biology because I like Biology. The rest of my electives were about International Studies, which is my other interest. I ended up taking so many courses in International Studies that it became my double major, even though I had not intended it to be.


If you want to free up your schedule a bit in school it is a good idea to look into what university online courses are available. These have the exact same content as the on campus courses and if you usually have to commute, it can save you a lot of time and money.

I actually preferred online university courses because they were most individualized and I felt I had more time to actually interact with our professors. Plus, with the self-study modules there was less time stuck in boring lectures. Don't think the classes are easy though. They usually require way more time management and reading then regular classes.


There are some great sites out there that allow students to rate their professors. With so many university degree courses available, especially for electives, it is a good idea to do some research and see what you are getting into.

I remember seeing a few courses that looked interesting, but the reviews for the professors were terrible. While I understand not all courses are perfect, I think it takes a lot to get hundreds of students to complain online.

Those of course were extreme cases. Usually you just have to judge the pros and the cons listed in the reviews and choose from that.


@SailorJerry - It's funny that you mention Jane Austen, because I had a class on her that was one of the best classes I ever took. Those specialized classes can really help you pick up skills in your field.

One important thing I took away from that course was how to look at a film adaptation as an interpretation of a book. Different film versions of Pride and Prejudice, for instance, give different "readings" of characters like Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins.

And if your university offers distance learning courses, you might want to take one even if you do not need to. The familiarity with online tools could turn out to be invaluable!


Something else to consider is the mix of general classes and specific classes. Many universities these days have only very broad general requirements; they might require that you take history and/or a social science, but don't specify whether this must be a survey course.

It's particularly important to take survey courses in your major. If you're an English major, for instance, you might enjoy a course on Jane Austen, but you really ought to take a course on early novels as a whole. Otherwise, you may miss important topics in your field.

On the other hand, survey courses obviously just can't go into as much depth as specialized classes. Pick some topics to study in more depth--ideally, even outside your major.

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