Between taking placement tests, determining which AP scores would be accepted for credit, and skimming course catalogues, I did everything I could to logistically prepare for my first course registration at NU. However, I had no idea how to select classes best suited for pursuing my academic goals. Overwhelmed by the numerous options and requirements to consider, I wished that I could just follow a model first-year schedule, with every recommended class laid out perfectly. Though this certainly would have been helpful, I came to realize that a “stereotypical” first year schedule would be unrealistic. With 100+ majors and minors and 4700+ courses to choose from, each student will ultimately follow their own unique path at Northwestern.
In some cases, a few of Northwestern’s six schools will require first-years to take specific classes. Some students in the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Communication, to give you an example, take seminars designed to acclimate students to Northwestern’s standards for reading, writing, and discussion. Other majors (biology and chemistry for example) might even require a sequence where you’d take a set of classes in a particular order. While some majors allow for more flexibility than others, there is no “right” schedule to follow. As a Communication Studies major, I had a lot of freedom to choose what I wanted to fill my schedule with, and so I dove straight into my major requirements during fall quarter of freshman year.
One of my required Comm Studies classes was Public Speaking, which I was apprehensive about taking during my first quarter. I was particularly nervous about speaking in front of the entire class when I hadn’t even had the chance to adjust to my new environment! From the very first day of class, our professor cultivated a supportive class culture through team-building activities and equipped us with public speaking tools through plenty of exercises and formal speeches. Two quarters later, I’m still using the skills I learned in Public Speaking whenever I speak up or give a presentation in classes and clubs.
I also enrolled in the Communications and Technology course, which fulfilled one of my major requirements and served as a perfect introduction to lectures, exams, and weekly writing assignments. The last class in my array of Communication Studies courses was my first year seminar, “Communication and the Good Life.” Not only did it relate to happiness and focus on lighthearted content, but it also consisted of my first discussions, group projects, and research paper. Finally, in Intermediate Spanish I began my year-long journey toward meeting the language requirement for my Communication Studies major.
In many ways, my schedule for my first quarter was balanced, with each class offering a sort of primer for skills I would use throughout my first year (and likely the next three years) at Northwestern. Though I took a variety of classes that were common for first years within my major, my schedule was ultimately unique to me, my interests, and my availability.
You can achieve a schedule that works for you by being honest with yourself about what interests you, being proactive about requirements and prerequisites, and asking for help (whether it’s from your Peer Adviser (PA), academic adviser, or an experienced student in your major) when you need it. During Wildcat Welcome, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with your advisor, and your PA will walk you and your PA group through the registration process at your designated time! Other resources that you’ll have access to include CTECs, which are course and teacher evaluations written each quarter by other Northwestern students, and Serif, which allows you to look at the timing and distribution of potential classes.
Of course, even with all these resources, your schedule may not unfold as you had hoped – and that’s okay! You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take the classes you want and need. You never know if that random class you signed up for will spark a new interest, or inspire you to pursue a double major or minor!