Picking Courses Strategically

First I want to say that I am one of those people who will pick all the courses that they want to take even BEFORE the whole program starts. Before I started my undergraduate, I had already known what classes I wanted to take and at which semesters to do it at. I chose them because they were interesting. I also like to take classes that may not be directly in my field. This then would take me an extra semester or two to make sure I take all the prerequisites for it. I still graduated on time, don’t worry. I am starting my Masters in September, so you can bet I will be planning my course calendar in a few weeks. So how would this post help you pick courses? If you are unsure about classes, there’s only a few reasons why you would even debate which classes to take.

  • If it’s interesting
  • If the Proff is cool
  • If your friends are taking it
  • If you need it
  • If you need one more credit to meet a pre-req

All of these reasons are important to consider when picking classes. But this post will cover which classes would help you strategically in your career. This is not to say “you shouldn’t take “fun” classes”. I have totally taken those before.

So how would YOU choose your courses? There’s a lot of soul searching in my posts. And this is yet another one. You can only really pick courses strategically to meet a goal if you know where you want to be. Let’s break it down by narrowing your list.

  1. What do you want out of it?

This is your guiding reason to pick courses. Pick a vague enough goal. I’m not asking about a reason for EACH class, but overall. For me, I knew that I wanted to work in industry after graduation. I therefor only chose courses that helped in that. In my BSc, I majored in Microbiology and had interest in industry. I took a minor in Biotechnology and picked as many Food Science courses as I could fit while meeting all the prerequisites. If you would like to work in academia or have hoped for a post-grad, taking a research course will be your priority. If you narrow a field of interest, it will help plan your courses. During your first set of interviews after graduation, you can use this information to let your interviewers know. “I knew from the beginning that I would like to work in industry/academia/etc., so I planned my courses to reflect my interest.”

2. If you’re not sure what end goal to have

If you don’t have any idea what you want out of it, diversify. Take one from everything. Take a research course, take business, take engineering, anything that isn’t too difficult to get from your major. This will help you highlight what you like and don’t like. I would caution about taking a mis-mush of courses throughout your entire undergraduate though. It could come off as “without direction” if anyone looked closely at your classes. Once you’ve played around with a few classes in your under years, use your upper years to narrow down towards that interest.

3. Electives

Once you’ve identified the skeleton courses you want to take, how would you choose electives? There’s a lot of reasons that could lead you to pick these. For me, I chose ones that taught a skill or if its fun. If the class was hands-on and lab based, I will take it. If the class is with a proff that makes really engaging and passionate lectures, I’ll take it.

So if you’re not really convinced this post helped you make a decision, read it again. You probably got here since you have a few you are picking from and not necessarily starting from scratch. Debate each course in your list against the reasons I’ve listed above. I hope that it will highlight the pros and cons of each and how that might help you.

If you are still unsure, schools have a program councilor, or career advisor you can talk to. You can always comment below and we can talk about it. Goodluck!

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