We've covered the curriculum and the kinds of courses that might comprise your Autumn schedule. Here are some common questions that arise for first-years when planning a schedule that you may want to consider before you have your meeting with your Assigned Academic Adviser.
These are questions your Assigned Academic Adviser will also be happy to discuss with you during your meeting. Make sure to schedule that meeting between Monday, June 28 and Friday, August 13. You will receive an email in June that will provide instructions on how to schedule this appointment.
Taking Three vs. Four Courses
Active student status requires enrollment in three or four courses (300 or 400 units of credit). Completing six quarters with four courses each and six quarters with three courses each will technically give you enough credits to graduate. Most students end up taking more classes than are required, but we mention it to make clear that most students do have the flexibility to take three classes in their first quarter, if they so choose. Your Autumn Quarter schedule will likely be heavily influenced by your particular interests and style of learning, as well as the needs or requirements of your planned major or course of study.
It's very common for students to take three courses in their first quarter so they have time to settle in to UChicago, try out student organizations, and adjust to college life. Students with a significant time commitment in their schedule (in-season athletics, labs, on-campus job, etc.) often opt for three in their first quarter as well. Also, if you are taking an honors course (and especially if you're planning to take more than one honors course), consider leaving time for the demands of those courses by enrolling in three.
If you feel comfortable with your study habits and confident that the adjustment to college life will be a relatively smooth one, go ahead and plan for four courses. It may also be the case that the requirements of your prospective major compel you to take four, or at least strongly suggest it. This is most often true of the Physical and Biological sciences.
It can also be useful to consider the kinds of courses you'll be taking. There are math courses with problem sets, Humanities courses with reading/writing assignments, science courses with labs. In general, it's best to have a mix of course styles. So even if you like reading/writing-based courses, we still suggest you limit yourself to no more than two of them in your first quarter as you adjust to the expectations of a college-level course. In particular, we do not recommend registering for Humanities, Social Sciences, and Civilization Studies simultaneously - the amount of reading you will have each week will keep you from doing much else!
If you're still unsure about three versus four courses, bear in mind that you have the first three weeks of the quarter to drop a course (it won’t show up on your transcript; it’ll be like it never happened). So it doesn't hurt to try four and see how it goes. That said, you should always talk with your Academic Adviser if you're thinking about dropping a class - you don't want to unknowingly drop something that will have long-term ramifications.
As part of the pre-registration process, you'll need to tell us how many courses you'd like to take. However, as requesting a course doesn't guarantee enrollment, you should request more than three or four courses and more than one section of each course. It may turn out that a particular course has more requests than seats or there’s a schedule conflict with another course that you need to take; having different options and alternatives gives you the best possible chance to get a schedule that works for you.
Navigating the Class Schedule & College Catalog
The next step in the registration process is picking out specific sections of the short-list of courses you discussed with your Academic Adviser, but before you can do that effectively, you need to understand what you're looking at. Below we give you some insight on how to best use the Class Schedule and the College Catalog this summer. Both of these are resources you'll use a lot throughout your time in the College. If you feel pretty comfortable with those sites, feel free to move on to Preparing for Pre-Registration below and refer back to this section as questions arise! If you haven't already done so, we also recommend that you watch the above video with advice on building a course schedule.
- Term - This generally defaults to the current academic quarter, not the one you're planning for, so be sure you're looking at the correct term (in this case, Autumn 2021).
- Refine Search - This allows you to filter your class search in a number of ways, including department and day of the week. Also useful is the "Attribute" drop-down menu. Under that, you can select "College Core Requirement" and then narrow by requirement type to see course offerings that fulfill specific general education requirements.
- Search Results - The results show you each class section that matches your search criteria. So a single course - like CHEM 11100, shown here - may appear multiple times. You'll see an overview of each class section in your search results, but if you click on it, you'll get some additional details, as you see below.
- Course name
- Course number/Section number (ex. CHEM 11100/1) - This is important information to note when you're researching schedule options because you'll need it when submitting your course requests. It's not enough to say that you'd like to take HUMA 11000; you'd need to specify that you were interested in, for example, section 12 first, then sections 8 and 7.
- Course type - You might see "Seminar" here, or maybe "Lecture." In addition, you might also see "Activity." That indicates there's a lab, discussion section, screening, tutorial, etc. to supplement the lecture portion of the course. You should assume these are mandatory and need to be factored into your schedule, since the system won't register you for courses with any kind of overlap. When requesting courses, you may need to specify which section and which activity you're interested in. To see what activities are offered, you just need to scroll down. It'll look like this (and don't be confused by the fact that the number includes the word Section!):
- Enrollment limits - The number of students allowed in a single class section depends on the type or style of course as well as the physical size of the room. If you don't end up in a section you request, it's often because that section is already at capacity. (The fire marshal thanks you for understanding.)
- Course description - Provided by the instructor or department, this should give you a better sense of what to expect from the class.
- Prerequisites - If there's a class you must've taken or a level of placement you must attain before you're eligible to enroll in a course, it will be listed here, under "Additional Notes," though you'll occasionally see it appear at the end of the course description, instead. This summer, it will be particularly critical that you pay attention to Math, languages, and other courses that require a placement, as you will not be allowed to register for those courses at a level that doesn't match your placement without first consulting with the department.
- Instructor - Occasionally this may say, "Staff," which indicates that the department is still finalizing the teaching assignments.
- Day, Time, and Location - Note that this applies to the main class meeting only. If there are additional activities (labs, discussions, etc.), don't forget that you'll need to scroll down the page to see when and where they're offered.
- Link to instructor evaluations - It's tempting to give a lot of weight to the teaching evaluations, but bear in mind that teaching/learning styles are very subjective, and what you love, someone else might hate, and vice versa.
- Link to the bookstore - Your textbooks will be at one of our two campus bookstores: the Seminary Co-op for Humanities/Social Science books and Barnes & Noble for Math/Science/Econ/Language books. If the instructor has submitted a book list, you'll see it here. In some cases, your class won't have textbooks, but will instead have readings posted online through Canvas. Check back periodically to see if any books have been added as you get closer to the start of the quarter. If you plan to buy books elsewhere (such as Amazon Student or from upperclass students), make sure you are buying the correct edition!
Starting in late July, you can find the class schedule under Course Search in my.uchicago.edu (you’ll need to login with your CNet ID), or you can access the public schedule at coursesearch.uchicago.edu. (Please note: you will be submitting your Humanities requests prior to this as those courses will be scheduled separately. Don't worry about times for these sequences, as that will be accounted for when you request your other courses!).
The College Catalog outlines all Core and major/minor requirements. It also gives you information (descriptions, prerequisites, etc.) about courses scheduled for that academic year. It's worth familiarizing yourself with the whole thing, but there are a couple of particularly key sections you'll need to start using right away.
You'll probably use the sections highlighted above most regularly (The Curriculum - Core requirements; Programs of Study - major/minor requirements; Academic Regulations and Procedures - College policies; Examination Credit - AP/IB credit, placement tests). Under "The Curriculum," you'll find lists of courses eligible to satisfy each Core requirement. To know what courses will complete the Art requirement, for example, you need to check there. Under "Programs of Study," every academic program has its own page outlining requirements and policies. If you click on one of those program pages, you'll see that the information is divided into several sections. There are two you'll use most frequently this summer:
The "Summary of Requirements" section breaks down all the requirements for the major. Likewise, if the major requires you to complete any Core requirements in specific ways (e.g. taking Calculus for the Math requirement of Core), that will be included in the "Summary of Requirements." It would look something like this:
For a fuller description and explanation of the requirements, check the "Program Requirements" section.
The "Courses" section will give you a preview of the courses the department plans to offer in this academic year. Like the class schedule, this gives you the course number and name, the course description, the scheduled professor, and any course prequisites. The Catalog doesn't give you details such as days and times like the schedule does, but it projects courses through Spring quarter. That means you can use the Catalog to start planning for upcoming quarters and the class schedule to narrow down and further solidify your course preferences for the upcoming term.
Ok, that should get you started! Be in touch with your Academic Adviser this summer if you have any questions about what you're seeing.
Preparing for Pre-Registration
By now, through meeting with your Assigned Academic Adviser, you've narrowed down your Autumn course options and thought and thought about how many courses you'd like to take in Autumn. So, what next?
- Request alternative and back-up courses. Let's take Hum as an example of why this is important. It’s perfectly fine if Media Aesthetics is your first choice Hum sequence, but requesting only Media Aesthetics sections doesn't guarantee you'd be able to get into one, and then you have no say in which Humanities you get instead. We require you to request sections in your second and third choice sequences because it increases the odds that you end up in something you asked for. You should apply this mindset to all your course requests.
- Request alternative sections. Requesting only one section of a class can also create problems (for some large courses with only one section - like PHSC 13400 Global Warming - this is fine, but if there are lots of sections to pick from - like MATH 15100 Calculus I - you need back-ups). You will have the ability to rank your preferred sections within each category, and the top-ranked sections will be given priority, so there's no reason not to pick out several section options when you're looking at the schedule.
- Remember your priorities and be adaptable. If your goal is to be an Economics major and you have a placement of MATH 13100, for example, it's absolutely essential that you take Calculus now. It may be that the section that fits best in your schedule is at 8:30am. Even if you’re not a morning person, you may need to be flexible if you want to pursue the major of your choice. And remember, you are only selecting courses for Autumn Quarter. In some – but not all – cases, you’ll have the chance to change things around in Winter and beyond.
- Request courses at a variety of times. The pre-registration system won't enroll you in two courses scheduled for the same time, so if your preferred sections in every category are at 11:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you already know that you won't get some of your top choices. If you’re a morning person, keep an eye out for 8:00 or 9:00 am sections. Those tend to draw fewer requests and may be easier to get into. The same is true of courses in the late afternoon or early evening and labs after 5:00 pm.
- Don't forget about placements. The system may not restrict you from requesting a Math, Physics, language, etc. course based on your placement, but it will block the actual enrollment. Even if you're hoping to change a placement once you arrive on campus, go ahead and request your current course placement in the meantime. If you're successful in changing your placement during Orientation Week, your College Adviser can help you adjust your schedule.
All students will submit their preferences for Humanities during the first pre-registration window, from June 21-25. You will request the rest of your courses through the pre-registration system during the second window, from August 16-20.
The pre-registration system allows you to rank subjects in order of their importance to you. When the system resolves everyone into their courses, that rank is taken into consideration.
Let's say you're a prospective Psychology major interested in completing pre-health requirements. Using the sample First Quarter Schedules and the Registration Planner, you've determined that in Autumn you must take: Humanities (preferably Reading Cultures, Philosophical Perspectives, or Readings in World Literature), Mathematical Sciences (Calculus, dependent on placement), Physical Sciences (General Chemistry I, dependent on placement). Possible fourth course options are a language course (depending on outcome of placement test) or Art course (preferably ARTV 10100).
You know you need to be in Humanities, which you will request during the first pre-registration window. So, for the second window, Calculus and General Chemistry I should be top priorities. But maybe you feel really strongly about when you have your Chemistry lecture and are more flexible about which Calculus course you take. In that case, you'd want to mark the Physical Sciences category as your number one priority instead of Math or an elective. You'll also be able to rank preferences for individual class offerings within each category.
You can find the class schedule if you log in to my.uchicago.edu or at coursesearch.uchicago.edu, available in July. (Need help making sense of the schedule? View the Navigating the Class Schedule & College Catalog section above!) As you start to search through it, you'll notice many courses you're looking at have more than one class offering (or "section") during the Autumn quarter. The pre-registration system won't let you just say, "I want to be SOSC 12400 Self, Culture, and Society I, but I don't care which section." You will need to pick out specific sections and rank them in order of preference. As you get started on that, we recommend that you think about your big-picture priorities and be prepared to be adaptable. You should think of pre-registration as a lottery, not a guarantee. The more flexible you are, the more likely it is that you'll end up in a schedule you're happy with. Also be aware that some classes that currently are listed as closed or consent only (Econ 10000, All sections of SOSC, CMSC 15100) will have spaces made available for first years during pre-reg and can be requested.
Here are some tips:
This part is really important, so we'll repeat it one more time: It's absolutely critical that you submit backup options as part of your course requests. You may not need as many options as you’ll include, but you'd much rather have them unnecessarily than get stuck with a schedule that can't be resolved based on information you submitted.
During the second pre-registration window in August, take the list of sections that you've put together and submit them on my.uchicago.edu. Your schedule will be put together from the information you provide at that time, so don't forget to follow up and do this last step! Please see screenshots below for more details on how the Pre-Registration process works.
For now, focus on getting started on the prep work when the rest of the resources and placement tests start becoming available on May 14, and then review your selections with your Assigned Academic Adviser so all you need to do during your pre-registration window in August is submit your requests. If you're not going to be available during the pre-registration window, let your Academic Adviser know as soon as possible.