Columns / Discourse / April 24, 2019

Better Than Your Horoscope: What’s the best way to pick classes for next term?

Welcome back to “Better Than Your Horoscope,” where you ask me questions and I answer them to the best of my ability. This week we have a question that I’m sure is on most Knox students’ mind in this pre-enrollment period:


What’s the best way to pick classes for next term? I always have some ideas but I’m never sure which classes would be best for me to take, especially if I don’t need them for my major, and sometimes it seems like my advisor doesn’t either.


Putting together a class schedule can be a very real, very specific science. It can make or break your term, or your plan for getting your major done, etc., etc.

Of course, the first thing you need to consider is if you’re on track for your major and minor. There are lots of classes that only run during certain terms. So whatever you need to get out of the way, or whatever’s next on your list of classes to take, fill those out first. Hopefully your advisor is in your major or minor and will know what you’re slated to take. Sometimes they won’t, which means you really need to read up on your requirements and make sure you know how far along you are with them.

And, of course, you need to complete those gen ed requirements (or whatever we call them at this school).

As far as electives and gen eds go, I think there’s a few different ways of going about this. One is to just take whatever sounds interesting. For whatever reason, this has always ended up terribly for me. If you pick a class blindly, without talking to anyone else who’s taken it or who knows the professor, you can end up doing something all term that you’re not interested in, or doing a ton more work than you thought you would. We all know that at Knox a 100-level elective can somehow end up being just as much work as your 300-level class for your major.

So if you want to, say, take sculpture because you think it’s going to be super fun and a good way to spice up your schedule, make sure you talk to somebody who’s taken the class before. Is it a ton of work? Are you going to get anything out of it? What will you learn? How does the professor grade? Is it going to be more trouble than it’s worth?

The second way is to take recommendations from your friends. A couple years ago, I had a free credit that I didn’t know what to do with, and my friend recommended I take “History of Gender” with Cate Denial, which he was also taking that term. I ended up loving the class and learned so much in it. Plus, it was helpful to have a friend in it, so we could discuss the readings and edit our papers together. It was a huge help, especially since my friend was a history major himself.

The third way is to really consider your schedule and try to work your way around it. I know that I work better with morning classes and open afternoons. I also know that taking more than three credits at a time is a huge mistake for me. Since I’ve been ahead on credits this year, I decided to take 2.5 credits for fall and spring terms. That led me to pick a half-credit class, and the only thing that sounded remotely interesting was contemporary dance. I’ve since taken dance every term during my senior year, and it has totally opened my mind.

It’s okay to take a class just because you need a half-credit and it works well in your schedule. Just make sure you’re not signing up for something that you hate.

But all that being said, make sure you really peruse the course catalog. You never know what taking an introductory class will do. You might end up finding a whole new passion!





If you want your question answered next week, submit anonymously at or drop me a line at!


Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  academic better than your horoscope classes

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