A greenhouse full of bright green plants.
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A tall tower in the woods at night. The tower and the trees around it are painted blue and magenta by splashes of light

With spring term fast approaching (seriously, how did 24W go by so fast?), I have been figuring out my courses for next term for the past few weeks. I am now enrolled in Chinese 3, Bio 16 (the foundational Ecology class), and Bio 26 (Global Change Biology) for the spring term. This blog post will be a reflection on course selection at Dartmouth and the resources available when picking classes. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Research

Course selection begins by burrowing through the massive Dartmouth course catalog. There are a lot of choices, so narrowing down by subject area and which prerequisites are required helps make the choice easier. Every student has an assigned advisor and undergraduate dean who can help you decide between courses when you're stuck. I've gone to my dean's office hours several times to help sort out my courses, understand prerequisite requirements, and even assess the difficulty of my course load for future terms. It's always a lot of help, and getting to know my dean and advisor has been a lot of fun.

Step 2: Initial Course Selection

Unlike other schools, Dartmouth doesn't (initially) make you scramble onto a website at a set time to fight over course slots with your peers. First, you are given a week to choose your top three courses for the term. Then, through a part-lottery, part-graduation requirements, part-mysterious-administration-magic-based process, you are placed into some or all of your courses. If you are like me for the past two terms, you get all three courses, and your journey stops here. For spring, however, I only got two of my courses (maybe next year, Soil Ecology), and it was time to move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Course Selection Part II

To fill up your remaining course slots, you engage in a course selection process like other schools. The morning after initial schedules come out, you wake up early and rush to the election website, joining whichever backup courses still have slots open. Many people will also email professors trying to get into their initial courses to see if they can expand the class by a few slots or add them to the waitlist. 

Step 4: Add-Drop

Finally, at the beginning of the term comes the add-drop period. For the first week, your schedule remains open, and you can drop out of classes that you aren't enjoying or add additional courses with open slots to your schedule. People use add-drop for lots of reasons. Don't like the first impressions of one of your classes? Drop it! Find out that someone else has done the same for a class you really want to take? Add yourself to it! Add-drop gives students lots of flexibility to switch around their schedule to find the best match for them every term and gives an extra chance to get into full classes that you're really interested in.

And that's it! Although my course selection journey for this term involved a lot more research and a few more tough decisions than last term, I'm so happy with my current schedule and can't wait to see where spring term takes me!

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