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Q & A: How Many Courses Should I Take?

From the reader mailbag:

You gave the advice, “Drop classes every semester,” to avoid bad classes. How do you decide what is an ambitious schedule versus what an insane schedule is? What is the difference between dropping a class because you are being a pussy or because you honestly can’t (don’t have time, or whatever) complete the class satisfactorily?

Cal responds:

Unless there are extenuating circumstances, take the normal number of courses for your college. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on extra courses just to look impressive. In reality, this simply makes you look like a robot. A boring robot. Similarly, don’t take less than a normal course load, even if you have the extra credits to get away with it. This does make you look like a wuss.

The key to the “Drop a Class Every Semester” advice (which is from How to Win at College), is to start each term by signing up for one or two extra courses beyond the normal load for your school. You can then drop the courses you like least to bring you back down to a normal course load. Nothing about this makes you a “pussy,” you’re still taking a reasonable amount of credit hours — you’ve just ensured that time you do spend in the classroom will be as non-horrible as possible.

What happens if even after you drop some courses there are still some you hate? Suck it up. Deploy every study skill in your arsenal to make it more reasonable, and look forward to summer.

2 thoughts on “Q & A: How Many Courses Should I Take?”

  1. Doesn’t dropping classes really hurt your GPA, not mentioning your transcript if you want to transfer from college to university?

    This is a crucial clarification. Most colleges have a “drop date.” If you drop a class by this date, it just disapears as if you never signed up for it. Another way of looking at it is that it’s a university sanctioned experiment period. You can try a class on for size, and, so long as you don’t go past the drop date, say “no thanks” if it’s not a good fit. In HOW TO WIN, I advice that students sign up for one or two more classes then they plan on sticking with, then dropping their least favorites — it’s insurance against getting stuck with a dud.


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