Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Student Side: Questions about Course Selection

Welcome to Rowan’s and Paige’s Registration Guide! We’ve collected your questions, done the research, and are here to impart wisdom from our knowledge of our collective 10-time registration experiences. Let’s go.

Before you register for classes, you need to know which classes you want to take. And guess who decides what classes you take? YOU.


Let’s go over some of your most asked questions about selecting courses.


Where can I find courses?
A seemingly basic, but very important question. There’s many different places to find courses. Hit up the Columbia Directory of Classes. Surf through the Barnard Course Catalog. Department websites are another great place if you’re interested in a specific major.

I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing; do you have any recommendations as far as what classes to take first semester?
Besides FYW, FYS, and PE, all other classes you take are up to you. When it comes to taking classes, you have a TON of options, which can be both exciting and a little overwhelming. If you’re interested in a certain major, take an intro class to see if you like it. Take a class just because it sounds really interesting. Start on that language requirement if you know you want to do a really immersive study abroad program.

What I (Paige) did my first semester was I chose classes that both sounded interesting and fulfilled Foundations requirements. I came into Barnard undecided with no clue about what I wanted to study. Thinking about majors stressed me out a little, so I focused on classes that I would be excited to go to. This enabled me to take classes that I was genuinely interested in and still feel productive because I was fulfilling Foundations requirements. You can take classes in any department that you want! Find courses that excite you and maybe fulfill some requirements along the way and go from there.

How many classes should I take my first semester?
It’s not really about how many classes you take your first semester, but how many credits you take. Most classes are about 3-4 credits. Many science lab and lecture classes are 4.5 credits. It’s recommended that for your first semester, you aim to take about 15 credits. The minimum number of credits you need to be enrolled in is 12, the maximum is 18 credits. To take more than 18 credits, you’ll need special approval from a Dean. You shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with classes your first semester; college can be a bit of an adjustment so cut yourself some slack.

How many classes would you recommend taking per day? And do you have classes every day?
That’s totally up to you! Having more more than three to four classes in a day might be overwhelming to some people, especially during your first year. There have been semesters where I (Rowan) have only had classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and some where I’ve had classes all five weekdays. It depends on what’s being offered. If you know you don’t work well at certain times of day you can make the decision to limit the classes you take at that time! If it’s really important to you to not have Friday classes then you can make that happen. Just be cautious of manipulating your schedule too much that you miss out on good classes because they don’t meet at a time you might want them to.

I took one language all throughout high school, but now I want to study a different language. Can I do this?
Of course! You aren’t obligated to continue with any course you took in high school. I (Paige) took Spanish all four years of high school and now I’m studying Hebrew. Elementary Language I classes are designed for people who have little to no exposure to a language. If you do want to continue with a language you began in high school, make sure you take the proper language placement so you can be placed into an appropriate level. Feel free to start as early as first-semester with your language requirement, especially if you’re planning to study abroad!

Is it better to take a math or science class in the first semester when the material from high school is fresh in your mind? Does this make a big difference?
It’s totally your call. If you’re taking an intro class they won’t assume you have any background knowledge in the course and will really take you through step by step. If it’s a more advanced class that requires background knowledge, especially if you’ll need that course for you planned major, it might be wise to start early and continue with your momentum from high school. But again. It’s ultimately entire up to you and there is really no wrong answer.

How do I know if I can take a course as a first-year?
If a course has a 1000 number in its code and has no pre-requisites, chances are you’re good to take that course. Depending on your background in a subject and AP/IB scores, you could be able to take higher level courses. Each department should have a list of appropriate courses for first-years on their website, but we’ve got you covered just in case. We’ve compiled a list of all courses being offered next semester that are appropriate for first-years. If you thought you couldn’t find an intro level course for a Barnard department, check again.

How do I know what course level is appropriate for me?
If you took AP/IB tests, those scores can help to indicate what level in a certain subject would be appropriate for you. However, AP/IB scores aren’t the definite indicator of placement. Most languages will have placement tests available prior to and during NSOP. Some departments, such as the Mathematics Department, will have open houses during NSOP where you can go and speak with professors about placement. During NSOP, you’ll also have the chance to meet with an advisor and they can help you decide on placement.

How are you supposed to choose classes to fulfill all of the Modes of Thinking requirements? Is there some way to find a list of classes that satisfy each requirement?
There IS a list of current courses satisfying general requirements. Keep in mind that not all courses listed will be offered every semester but this is a good overview of what you can expect.

There’s a course listed on a department website with a description, but it shows no instructor or time for this upcoming semester. What does that mean?
Most likely it means that the class isn’t being taught in the fall. This is often the case with many First Year Seminars because most are only taught one semester. If you find a class like this, check back later when Spring courses are posted. It might be offered then!

There’s a FYW course listed that has a time but no professor. What does this mean?
Professors for FYW won’t be listed prior to registration. When you register for FYW, you’ll be registering for a class without knowing who the professor is. When FYW professors are posted, it'll be after the registration for FYW has closed so you'll be unable to change courses. Don't worry too much about this though! All the FYW professors really try their best to help you and your writing skills. Choose your course based on the topic and time that it meets and whether that conflicts with other courses you’re hoping to take.

What if the professor listed for the course I want to take has bad reviews?
Don’t take everything in online reviews to heart; not all reviews are accurate and not all students have the same experiences with a professor. Remember, people who had a bad experience with a professor are more likely to post a review than people who had an average or great experience. Also, keep in mind that people learn differently and expect different things from a professor. A professor that's a bad match for someone else might be a good match for you and vice versa. If you still are wary, you have the option of registering for a different section of the course (if available) or dropping a course during shopping period.

How do you tell if a course is offered second semester? On course planning in my Barnard and the Columbia Directory it isn't clear.
When on the course directory you can select the semester you’re looking for, in this case, Spring 2018. Many of them have not been released, however, as departments will fluctuate and add/change the Spring courses they’re offering between now and the registration period. Don’t worry too much about your Spring plans for now as you’ll have ample time to meet with your advisor and plan things out accordingly.

What is the P.E. requirement? Where can I find P.E. classes? What classes fulfill the P.E. requirement?
All first-years need to take a P.E. class within their first year at Barnard (unless you’re a JTS/Barnard Double Degree student; then you have until the end of junior year). As aforementioned, while P.E. counts as a course, it is usually only 1 credit, so don’t worry too much about course total as opposed to credit total and try to stay somewhere between 12-18 credits for each semester. If you go to the Columbia Directory of Classes and select Physical Education @ Barnard under "Department", you can see all the courses that both the Barnard P.E. Department offers. 

You can take either a Barnard P.E. course, a dance class, or play a varsity sport to fulfill the P.E. requirement. During the summer registration process, you'll only be able to register for a Barnard P.E. course. If you would like to register for a dance class or a varsity sport, you'll be able to do so during the NSOP registration period. A limited number of spaces are available in Columbia P.E. courses for Barnard students. If you would like to take a Columbia P.E. course, you’ll have to go to the Columbia P.E. Department in person and request special permission to registered for a Columbia P.E. course. You cannot register for a Columbia P.E. course through the normal registration process on myBarnard.