How to Find the "Right" Classes
Perhaps this is my junior-year self finally realizing that I only have three terms left at Dartmouth, but, this term, I found myself struggling to figure out which classes to take. In fact, my indecision reached a new high when I spent the first week of the term "shopping" SEVEN classes!
"Shopping" a class means that though you have registered for three courses already, you attend the first few days of other classes to see if you would prefer to switch. I typically shop classes to get a good sense of what courses I'd like to take in the future, but this term I had a difficult time trying to narrow down which classes I wanted to take.
Finally, however, I ended up selecting three classes to take this spring--and, now that we're a few weeks into the term, I can wholeheartedly say that I made the right decision. So, here's what I learned in the process of finding the "right" classes!
1. Balance really does matter!
After nearly three years at Dartmouth, I have probably experienced just about every course combination that exists. I've taken three time-intensive, group-project classes during one term, and three exam-based lecture classes another. However, I've learned that it is important to strike a balance both between the subject matter of your courses (taking a term of purely engineering and economics classes taught me that very quickly) and the structure of your courses. For me, I typically like to find three classes that balance each other out nicely, with at least one being a project-based class where I get to work with my peers often, another being lecture or exam-based as many of my economics and Chinese courses are, and the third being what I like to call my 'wildcard' class, something that is different from what I am used to taking at Dartmouth and will add the right amount of excitement and newness to my term. These 'wildcard' classes have ranged from "Public Speaking" and "The Impact of Poverty on Education" to "Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology" and "Morality and the Political Economy." While I wholeheartedly believe that each class I've taken at Dartmouth has taught me something new both about the subject as well as about myself and my own passions, I am purposeful in setting aside space in my schedule for 'wildcard' classes that allow me to take full advantage of the liberal arts education offered here at Dartmouth.
2. Take classes where homework doesn't feel like work
It may seem like a novel concept, but classes don't actually have to feel like work! Shocker, right?! All joking aside, college is a unique time when you get to dive into subject matter that interests you and really discover your passions. I admit that tests and papers can be rather tedious and stressful at times, but if you're truly interested in what you're studying, then reviewing the class notes or writing a research paper should have some element of enjoyment. This term, I am enrolled in "The Senior Design Challenge," a project-based course for seniors that is completely group project-based (check out my other blog if you're curious as to how I, a junior, ended up taking a course dedicated to seniors). Last week, my partner and I were up working on our project past midnight for five nights in a row, including a 12-hour chunk of time last Saturday, but we were enjoying our project so much that I honestly didn't feel like I was doing 'work.' To keep our energy and spirits up, we would take a break every so often to go for a walk around Occom Pond or have a pool-noodle fight (yes, we bought 97-cent pool noodles from Walmart just for this purpose), which made the project even more enjoyable than I ever thought it could be.
So, by finding classes that balance each other well and by looking for course material I was genuinely interested in, I was able to decide on three kick-ass classes to take this term! And I can't help but wonder what other classes I would have taken if I had followed this advice earlier in my Dartmouth career.