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Registering for Classes

What to think about before arriving in Hanover and during Orientation:

  • Possible direction of your studies at Dartmouth. Your first year is a great time to experiment with subjects that you like—any classes that sound interesting to you.
  • Remember, even if you have pledged your undying devotion to a certain subject, that doesn’t mean you have to sign up for it first thing. Experiment a little, especially fall term. By the time the winter comes around, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to tackle it again. Or, you’ll have discovered something new!
  • Trying different classes. If you have absolutely no idea what direction you are going in, don’t worry. A lot of students think they know what they are doing, but will end up changing their minds, maybe even several times! The best thing to do, even if you think you are sure of your major, is to take classes in several areas that peak your interest. The distributive requirements (explanation of these coming up…) aren’t there for nothing; take a random class or two!

"Intro courses in the sciences and economics are competitive fall term because they're full of freshmen on the medical and business tracks.  Take those courses later on if you're just trying to explore the departments.”

“I would recommend not taking any classes that you intend to major in ...your first year should be about experimenting - taking those things that weren't offered in high school and expanding your horizons - you never know what might catch your interest.”

What kind of classes you might want to take:

  1. Large lecture-style classes—these classes usually have about 80-150 students. Most of the time these classes meet for lecture, occasionally breaking for smaller discussion groups or lab (for sciences). Many times, the only work for these classes is textbook reading, a midterm, and a final. Be careful though…with less homework, the final grades are usually lower than in smaller classes.
  2. Seminars—a good number of ‘11s will be taking their first-year seminar in the fall, but all first-years are required to take a seminar course before the year is over. Seminars are limited to 16 students (many being smaller than that) and usually require a lot of discussion during class and writing outside of class. One good piece of advice: try to get to know your seminar professor well, because it is a lot easier to connect with professors in a small class. Later on, when you need a recommendation from a professor for something, you’ll be glad you put in the effort.
  3. Most of the rest of classes are around 20-30 students (75% of classes are less than 30 students). Most professors expect class participation in classes of this size, so no falling asleep in the back. However, the small size also allows you to ask questions and get personal attention if you don’t understand something.

One of the best pieces of advice for choosing classes, especially for fall term of your first year, is to take classes that are different in the way they approach learning. For example, you don’t want to sign up for three science classes, nor do you want to sign up for three classes that will all be assigning an essay a week. You’ll get sick of writing very quickly! Instead, be intentional about varying the type of work you’ll be doing. Try taking one writing-intensive class, one reading-intensive class, and one math-intensive class. Or, take one lecture, one medium-sized class, and one small, discussion-based class. However you spice up your schedule, you’ll be glad you did.

“Picking classes is a lot like picking jellybeans.  DIVERSIFY.  When you devour a handful of jellybeans, it's a lot more flavorful if you down multiple flavors at once.”


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