Why I Love My First-Year Course Load

Choosing which classes I’d take my first semester in college was kinda scary, but I’m super happy with how my selection turned out. Here’s my course load:

1. PSY 101: Introduction to Psychology (4 credits)
2. BCS 111: Foundations of Cognitive Science (4 credits)
3. CAS 303: EcoReps: Introduction to Leadership and Sustainability (2 credits)
4. DAN 209: Qigong Way to Health (2 credits)
5. WRT 105: Human Happiness (4 credits)
6. CAS 142: Methods of Inquiry (1 credit)

giphy (1)

Now that I’ve got that under my belt, I have some advice for when you register for college courses for the first time.

Get prerequisites out of the way.
When I was researching how to choose first-year classes, a recurring piece of advice was to get prerequisites out of the way, so I did. Writing (WRT) 105 is the only course that all Rochester students have to take to graduate, so by taking it my first semester, I don’t have to worry about taking it later. Lots of students also elect to take it in the spring, which is an equally good option. By taking Psychology (PSY) 101, I’m fulfilling the only psychology major prerequisite course. Students have to take Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) 111 for a psych major as well, so this semester I’m fulfilling several requirements, which will give me more freedom to play and take whatever classes I want (within major/minor/cluster  guidelines) sooner. That’s the stage I’m really looking forward to.

Don’t take your hardest classes all at once.
Going into college, I knew that I had to be very careful with which classes I chose for my first semester. I realized that it would be a huge transitory time and maybe taking the four hardest prerequisite classes (all with labs) wouldn’t allow me to adapt well to all the new things college life and Rochester bring. It wouldn’t do me any good to burn out after one semester. That’s why I opted to take classes with different levels of difficulty. This is the primary reason I appreciate my course load this semester.

Find space to play!
One of the things I love about Rochester is the freedom to choose courses as part of the flexible curriculum. This semester, I’m branching out of my psychology major with qigong and EcoRep classes. (Qigong is an ancient Chinese holistic system of coordinated movement, breathing, and meditation, and EcoReps are Rochester’s team of first-year students dedicated to sustainability.) I think that exploring during your time at Rochester is important because it allows you to pursue the various things you’re interested in and perhaps discover new interests you didn’t know you had.

Time it wisely.
Last, timing is definitely something to consider before registering for classes. Here’s what my week looks like:


  • 2:00–3:15 pm     PSY 101
  • 3:25–4:40 pm     BCS 111


  • 12:30–1:45 pm   WRT 105
  • 2:00–3:15 pm     DAN 209
  • 6:30–7:30 pm     CAS 303


  • 12:30–1:45 pm   WRT 105
  • 2:00–3:15 pm     DAN 209
  • 4:50–6:05 pm     CAS 142
  • 6:30–7:30 pm     CAS 303


  • No classes

You have to find a schedule that will work for you. I’m not a morning person, but I do have the discipline to wake up before 10:00 and start my day, so it works out nicely that my earliest class is at 12:30 pm. I get a chance to ease into the day and have a moderately productive morning. For those of you who will sleep in until noon if given the opportunity, perhaps some morning classes would be good for you to get you out of bed.

For me, having classes back-to-back has been beneficial because it doesn’t allow me to go back to my dorm when there is only an hour between classes and take a nap or be otherwise unproductive. But maybe you would enjoy down time between classes to study/decompress/exercise/grab lunch/whatever. Also, not having classes on Friday is great for me. It’s very nice to have a completely open day that I can use for whatever I want (usually appointments, errands, and/or homework). That might work for you too!

Now when it comes time for you to register for classes, you’ll be better prepared!

About the author

Kayla Zilke

I'm a member of the Class of 2021 from Seattle, WA majoring in psychology with minors in business and environmental humanities. I'm involved with Quidditch, GreenSpace, EcoReps, intramural sports, the Student Association of Vegan and Vegetarian Youth, and Hatha Yoga.

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