Monday, September 9, 2013

Some tips for fall term courses

First year trips are concluding, and orientation is about to begin. Some first year students (17s) have already met with me to talk about doing well at Dartmouth. Seems obvious, but a good start to your academic career begins with, besides being ready to use active learning strategies (notetaking, reading, time management), is choosing your first three courses carefully.

If you have been placed into Writing 5 or Writing 2 fall term, then you need to choose two other courses.

Whether you need to choose two or three courses, you might pay attention to the following guidelines:

1. Choose courses that you are interested in or think you'll be interested in. Interest will help sustain your focus throughout the term. Avoid choosing courses based on major (unless you have a really clear desire to be an engineer, for example). Many first year students who think they are interested in a discipline will graduate in a (very) different discipline or field of study.

2. Don't worry about fulfilling your distributive requirement. You have four years to complete it, and many courses that you might choose through interest will satisfy some distributive requirement. Too many students choose fall term courses to "get it out of the way."

3. Do be mindful of the foreign language requirement, though you have until the end of sophomore year to complete it. There are several ways to do that, so be sure to go to open houses, talk to your UGA and upperclass students, and discuss it with your faculty adviser.

4. Choose to take a math course fall term because you enjoy math or it's a pre-req for a course you intend to take winter or spring term. You do not need to take a math course to graduate from Dartmouth College, but there is a QDS requirement that can be fulfilled by taking math or a number of other courses in other disciplines.

5. As much as is possible, vary your courses in terms of size, discipline, and type of work.
Try for a mix of seminar style courses (e.g. Writing 5) and larger lecture courses (e.g. Psychology 1).
Avoid, if you can, three reading or writing intensive courses. Limit science courses to one, especially if it's a lab course.

Again, these are guidelines. You'll make good choices if you give it the time it deserves and to talk it out with your faculty adviser, undergraduate dean, UGA, and so on.