How to make the most of advising and class registration

Has anybody ever advised you to treat your college education like a full-time job? The Ohio Department of Higher Education recommends you spend at least two hours outside of class studying for every hour you spend in class. And that’s if you only want to get an average grade (or in other terms a “C”)! For a 15-hour courseload, that’s a total of 45 hours of class instruction and outside work each week. So how do you make the most of your college experience? Let’s start with advising and class registration.

Graduation requirements and helpful tools

The academic catalog is your friend! Every college has requirements which must be met before a student can graduate. However, these requirements vary widely from one college to another. Learn more about your school’s requirements by searching for the academic catalog on their website. Look through this document and familiarize yourself with the total credit hours you need to graduate, as well as the requirements for both general education coursework and your majors/minors.

Other helpful tools typically available:

  • Four-year plans which provide a suggested outline for the classes you can take each semester (based on your program of study)
  • Unofficial transcripts which detail your academic record and history
  •  Graduation plans which list the steps you have completed and the steps you still need to take before you can graduate

That’s a lot of documents! To best navigate the system, talk to the people who understand it best. Schedule an appointment with your academic advisor or an official in the registrar’s office. These higher education professionals want you to graduate and succeed!

Tips for incoming students

Incoming students will likely sign up for classes at orientation. So, in addition to connecting with future classmates and getting your student ID, you’ll meet with an academic advisor. Do you know your major? Great! Tell your advisor. Some majors, such as chemistry or mathematics, require classes to be taken in a very specific sequence because the courses build on each other. Do you have College Credit Plus or AP credit? Let your advisor know! That way, they won’t schedule you for Intro to Psychology when you’ve already earned college credit for that class. 

Ahead of orientation, make sure your college has your transcripts from high school and any college where you’ve taken classes. If you believe you have enough credit to graduate early, share this information. Your advisor will work to adjust your schedule accordingly.

If you haven’t settled on a major, that’s okay! Share your interests and your advisor will build your schedule with flexibility in mind.

Tips for current students

So, you’ve already taken some classes and you want to ensure you are on track for graduation. Schedule a meeting with your advisor and come with questions prepared. Want to graduate early? Ask what it will take to make that a possibility. Want to study abroad? Let them know as early as possible so you can work together to plan ahead. Know what you want to do following graduation? Share about your dream job. Your advisor may know of a class or opportunity that will make your resume shine. Headed to graduate school? Work together to ensure your coursework aligns with the requirements of the programs you are interested in.  

Watch out for credit hours. To be considered a full-time student, you typically need to take 12 credit hours per semester. Fall below that number at registration or by dropping classes, and you’ll be considered part-time which effects your financial aid. Take too many hours and you may be stretched too thin while having to pay extra fees.  

Beware of following the recommendations of other students. They may have bad information, or they may be following a different graduation plan than you. Set up an official meeting.

Also, watch out for holds. Many colleges won’t open registration to you until all holds are cleared. Holds may be placed for reasons ranging from not returning library resources to having unpaid bills or fines.

Bottom line, it’s better to be overprepared than underprepared. While there are a lot of great resources available to you, you are ultimately responsible for your own education. Ask questions and seek trusted help early and often.

At Bluffton…

Since 1899, our faculty and staff have dedicated themselves to helping students like you find your talents, your passions and, ultimately, your way. At Bluffton University, a professor in your academic discipline will serve as your advisor. Each semester, they’ll get to know you better and will be able to suggest classes, internship experiences or research opportunities to fit your education and career goals.

Written by Tricia Bell with input from Iris Neufeld, a higher education and registration professional with more than 20 years of experience.