ESS 202: Tips to Create Your Best Schedule
Now that you know which courses you want to take your first semester, it is time to create your best schedule. When creating a schedule there are many factors to think about as you pick your class times and days. ESS’s Sharon Mueller, Director of Advising and Policy, and Kathy Barrett, Associate Director of Advising, join us for Episode 202: Tips to Create Your Best Schedule. They are here to discuss reserve caps, waitlists, shopping/dropping classes, how many courses to take, and time between classes.
LAURA VOGT: Hello and welcome to The Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer, we are in the second episode of our second season and I never thought I would say that about anything I was doing.
SHARON MUELLER: We got renewed!
KATHY BARRETT: They really like us.
LV: I’m so excited that we’re bringing new content to our new students. I’m your host, Laura Vogt, the Communications and Events Manager for Engineering Student Services and today I’ve been invited back, Engineering Student Services Director of Advising and Policy, Sharon Mueller and the Associate Director of Advising, Kathy Barrett. Welcome to the podcast!
SM: And we have to promise the students that we’re not going to be the same people every week. They will get to hear from other people.
LV: Today we’re going over scheduling and what a great schedule might look like. And I know not everyone’s great schedule is going to be the same. I like doing early morning classes and I know there’s a lot of people who don’t. But I think there’s some key factors that everyone should think about when doing their schedules. So let’s start off with during GBA, we’ve asked all of our students to do backup courses that we want them to have some backups. Why are we asking them for backups?
SM: Yeah it’s actually really important because on the day of enrollment all transfer students are enrolling the same day. And for freshmen all freshmen on campus are enrolling in the same day. So that means that space in classes is going to be changing really quickly. And so it’s going to be really important for students to have backup classes. That could mean- OK I want Math 1B from 11 to 12, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. But my backup is going to be 8-9, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. And students really need to be prepared to take that option. So the reason we want them to really make sure they have multiple schedules that work for them is so that on the fly they can switch things around because it’s going to be a really kind of dynamic day with spaces and courses changing constantly and students need to be prepared so they don’t panic that day.
LV: During the day that they’re registering, they can go to classes.berkeley.edu and they’ll be able to get real time updates of what’s available, what the waitlist is looking like, what the class count is looking like.
SM: Yeah. And what’s really helpful in classes.berkeley.edu is most classes have either a discussion section or perhaps even a lab associated with them and you can see how many spaces are available in particular discussion sections or particular lab. So if you have a class that’s what we would call it a three component class, let’s say it has a lecture, the discussion, and the lab, you have to get into all three components in order to be in the class. So it’s really helpful to look and see. Oh okay that discussion works in my schedule and I actually have space in it so I’m going to flip over to that discussion. So it’s important to have a lot of different options available for yourself so that if any one of the components that you had kind of had your mindset on is full you have a backup plan.
KB: I just wanted to mention one more thing. And this is especially true for the freshman schedules, less so for transfers you have a little bit limited options in terms of alternate courses but we did really try and provide as part of GBA, when students got their recommended course less as much as possible to provide them alternate courses that we know based on their responses, they’re ready to take, they have the prerequisites. When we did a little focus group with some students after GBA last year students said they felt like they’d gotten the recommended course list and they felt like that was exactly what they had to get into. And if they didn’t get into Math 53 you know Physics 7. Those exact courses they were in trouble and things like oh for a lot of students you could do 53 or 54. Those are if you don’t have to do those in order. So we wanted students to know there were other courses that they could take besides their recommended course list that would still meet requirements for their major and keep progressing in their degrees. So that’s one thing we’ve really focused on when we we did GBA for our freshmen this year was to really give them what are other options you can take. If for some reason your class totally fills up
SM: It’s like Kathy, mentioned we did go to the trouble of really finding alternate courses that freshmen could have. And I just want to reassure the freshmen that those are completely based upon their responses. So any alternate courses that we have recommended for them they are prepared for. We wouldn’t that put them there if they weren’t prepared for them, so some students might come out with a list of three or four recommended courses and then 10 backup courses. So those students will have all sorts of options on the day of enrollment. It’s just really good to prepare ahead of time for using some of those alternate courses. If your first choice courses are full with a fairly long waitlist.
LV: The courses, you can find out more about what the courses and what the subject matter is covering if it’s one that you don’t know about is classes.berkeley.edu is the best place to get info.
SM: Yeah, so the course description is on there and that’s part of the Berkeley Academic Guide, which is a pretty all inclusive guide with course descriptions, curriculum for all majors on campus, and so students can get more information about the courses. We’ve included the title of course, but yes, if they want to actually see what the course is, they can go to guide.berkeley.edu which is the Berkeley Academic Guide and look at the longer description.
LV: I think in GBA we might have actually linked it.
SM: Yeah, I think we did try to link to that, try is the keyword don’t hold us do it, for most of the courses we tried to link to that to make it really easy for students.
LV: So let’s talk a little bit more about reserve caps. We’ve mentioned it a couple of times in the last podcast and we definitely mentioned it in GBA and our videos. Why do students need to be so aware of what the reserve caps are.
SM: Well last year during enrollment for freshmen, it was like this year where they all enrolled in one day. The number one error message that freshmen got, I think it was over 8500 error messages that day, was because the student didn’t meet their reserve caps for their course. And so that’s why we talk about it so much because it’s the most common error message that students get when they try to add a class and so reserve caps are when courses are reserved for certain students and some courses are some courses aren’t. But it’s important to know if the courses that you’re trying to enroll in have any kind of restrictions on them, any kind of reservations on them, for certain groups of students, so that you know do I fit any of those categories. Am I going to get into the course? Am I just going to go straight onto the wait list because I don’t meet any of those categories? So it’ll give a student an opportunity to see ahead of time what their chances are of getting into the course and in some cases it might be that the reserve cap stays on the course all the way through the adjustment period. In some courses, students who don’t meet that reserve count are never going to get in and in other courses the department might loosen the reserve caps say at the adjustment period. So if let’s say the course was reserve for all EECS Juniors or something, if the course isn’t full by the time the adjustment period hits, the department might choose to remove that reserve cap and then students on the waitlist will start moving in to the class, if they didn’t get them because of their reserve cap. So it’s just important for students to just pay attention to that. It’s in classes.berkeley.edu and Laura’s wonderful video in GBA will show students exactly where to see that and how to understand what that means for them.
LV: And the second thing that I was kind of interested a little bit more about Kathy had mentioned in last week’s podcast about shopping and dropping. What exactly is shopping and dropping?
KB: So the idea being that, I think for most students they’re used to in high school pretty much choosing a schedule, and that’s their schedule. And I think our transfer students probably are a bit more used to the idea of maybe trying out some classes and finding the right fit. But the idea being that a student would kind of intentionally overenroll and enroll in more classes than they know they want to take to allow them to go to the class for the first two or three weeks to really figure out what feels like the right class for them because they haven’t taken any classes here. They don’t know what professors are like. They don’t know teaching styles. It’s great to be able to go and when possible try something out and then decide – Does it feel like the right fit for me? Is just the kind of class I want to take? And then by the fourth week of the semester for most classes they can drop them, Wednesday in the fourth week. There are a few early drop deadline classes and will include that link on our website. And there’s not very many of them but those have really have a two week drop deadline. So does that means you have a much shorter time to figure out. And the reason most of his classes have an early drop deadline is they’re super impacted classes and they want students who don’t want the class to get out as quickly as possible so students on the waitlist can get in. I would say that in terms of the shopping and dropping, if you go to a class on day one you realize you don’t like it, just as a courtesy to other students drop that class right away. Also saves you some money the sooner you drop before I think the second week you don’t have to pay any money. So that’s another thing to keep in mind you can add up a little bit of a bill if you’re adding and dropping lots of things so. But we would like you to try things out so we might suggest when we respond back to you your adviser might have said – hey why don’t you get another fund humanities social science kind of give yourself 16 or 18 units or we can jump to 17 in this enrollment time. But get yourself up to more units and you want to take 12 being the minimum to technical courses for your major. So you have some room to play around with that.
SM: You see students use this a lot especially with humanities and social sciences. If there are a couple of courses they’re interested in and they’re just not sure which one they’re going to stick with it is really helpful to go and kind of sit in on it and see what you think about you know do you so interest is as a dynamic class. What you can’t do is say oh I’m going to add two different lectures of Math 54 and then decide which instructor I like because the system won’t actually let you add two different lectures of Math 54 because it knows you’re already 54 why do you want to add again? So it’s you can’t really do it to compare professors for the same course but you can certainly do it if you have multiple options for technical courses or for humanities social sciences and it can be really helpful for students to have those options to be able to drop down units once they’ve decided what their final schedule should be.
LV: We talked a little bit about the adjustment period. What does a year adjustment period mean. I guess my question even more so than that is so you have an appointment for when you get to register. That is a list of the near CalCentral. How long does that appointment last for. Are you only allowed to register just on the day?
SM: Let’s say my appointment time is at 12:20pm on July 18th. Once 12:20pm hits I can start registering. I don’t have to register at 12:20pm. It would be to my benefit to register as soon as possible but I actually have all the way until August 12th or August 13th. What will tell them what kind of phase 1 phase 2. It’s sort of technically Phase 2 for students but Yeah but they’ll have access to changing things so let’s say they enroll at 12 20 but then they decide later. Oh I actually at my friends are going to take this class for humanities I’m want to try that one so they can actually hopefully Kathy’s marking it up right now. But yeah it’s not a fixed appointment it’s not like oh you better get in there between 12:20 and 12:30 or you’re done. That’s your starting point. That’s your starting time and then you have I think several weeks to actually go in and register beneficial to the student to do it as soon as they can. But if for some reason they can’t they can still access the system later.
KB: Sorry Laura, breaking news. Phase 2 enrollment which is continuing students have already done their Phase One, they’re now waiting it generally for their Phase 2 to start, Phase 2 for them will start right after all of our new students register and then everyone there kind of phase that phase two of enrollment will end August 12th. So it does mean for all of our students you have your first day to register and then you have between then and August 12th to play around with your schedule in those 17 and a half units. So if you hear from a friend, like Sharon said – oh I’m going to take Anthro 3AC. That’s a great American culture Course. You want to say- oh great I’m going add that to the scheduled set of what I already had. You’re welcome to play around with your schedule while Phase 2 is still open. The adjustment period starts and then August 13th. And it means you can add up to 20 units. And again we wouldn’t want you ending up with 20 units that’s a lot of units but it does allow you to add more classes again for this shopping and dropping it and make any adjustments continue to make adjustments to your schedule adding and dropping and then. Adding and dropping goes all the way into the semester. So students are allowed to make changes to their schedule all the way until September 12th, that’s the deadline to add drop. So there is time to try things out.
LV: And when you’re making your schedule we talked about how you might have a class that’s got the lecture or the lab and a discussion. Does it matter if your lab ends up being before the lecture or if the discussion ends up being before the lecture in one week?
SM:No that doesn’t matter. We get that question a lot because students often you know the labs do sort of follow the same timeline as the lectures. But no students won’t be at any disadvantage if their lab happens to be for the lecture that week or if their discussion happens to be before the lecture that week.
LV:And then kind of in the same lines, we have quite a few of our freshmen students take chemistry 1A and 1AL. Those are two separate courses right?
SM:They are two separate courses. Students can’t enroll in 1AL unless they’re simultaneously in chem 1A or they have completed chem 1A. So they’ll definitely need to enroll if they’re taking both of those in chem 1A first and then enroll in chem 1AL. And the thing to think about there is, it’s a little bit confusing because chem 1A is the main lecture. And so that has lecture and discussion and then chem 1AL which is the lab component actually also has its own lecture. So I think it’s a one hour lecture so I don’t want students to get confused by that. There is a lecture for the lab and that’s kind of why it doesn’t matter where it gets first. If it’s lecture or lab because you’re going to get the information you need in order to be successful in that lab.
LV:And do we have it. What do you do if your classes seem like they’re going to be a time conflict.
SM:Right. So it’s up to the department and it’s actually up to the individual instructor of the course to decide whether or not he will allow students to enroll in his or her course if it creates a time conflict for the student. So whether or not students are allowed to enroll into courses at the same time. At least one of those instructors has to have allowed that for his or her course. And so students could conceivably enroll in courses that are offered at the same time. Generally we don’t want them to do this. We would not encourage this. There are some courses that that are webcast and perhaps, you know, really discipline students perhaps could be successful in that class just by watching the webcast version. But the other issue that could come up and this is most likely to come up is that those courses are probably going to have final exams at the exact same time and instructors are not obligated nor and some of them are not at all willing to reschedule the final exam for a student who has knowingly enrolled in a time conflict. And it’s really up to the student to make sure that their final exams do not conflict. And so, usually if there was a time conflict it does mean that the final exams are going to be at the same time and that can put the student in a pickle because the instructors may not be willing to give them a different final exam time.
LV:So it’s up to the student to either try to find a different solution or not take classes at the same time or hopefully if one of the instructors is willing to do it but it’s not something you want to do.
SM:No it’s not. And if it’s if it’s something that’s absolutely unavoidable. It’s a conversation the student would definitely want to have with both instructors before classes began. It’s, generally we don’t encourage it and we don’t want students to enroll in any courses at the same time. But just to let them know in some cases the system may allow it. It doesn’t mean that’s what we’re recommending.
LV:And so I had quite a few students when we used to do this on site and had students registering that were worried about taking classes back to back or taking multiple lectures in one day. What are the things to think about when you’re setting a schedule? How many classes you should have in a day or if you really want to take a bunch of things back to back?
It’s so students can take classes back to back because there’s at Berkeley there’s this thing called Berkeley time and classes even though it says they start at 9:00 a.m. They actually don’t start until 10 minutes after the hour. So there is a 10 minute passing period for students to get from one class to another. If your classes are across campus that’s a very brisk walk to get somewhere in ten minutes. That’s what I did as a student. I wasn’t thinking very well and I was often jogging from my class to class. I would say it’s probably a personal preference on whether or not students enroll in courses back to back. I think most often you might have final exams back to back then and maybe you’re going to end up with three final exams in one day. And I would caution against that. I think that’s probably not ideal for most students but understandably some students might have a work schedule that they need to accommodate. You know maybe they need to work every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and therefore that means they’re going to have a lot of classes on Monday Wednesday Friday. So certainly there might be circumstances where having a lot of back to back classes is unavoidable but do keep in mind you know check your final exam schedule because you might not be happy with yourself when it comes to final exams and you find you have three final exams on the same day. It’s just a lot you want to build and breaks. You want to make sure you’re eating, you want to make sure you’re taking a little bit of time out in your day. So generally it’s it’s nice to have those breaks in there. And if they watch your schedule planner video they can see how they can build those in when they’re building their schedule. Just another plug for the videos.
LV:So that’s above all the time that we have today. Is there any other points that we’re missing that we really wanted to talk about for schedule planning?
SM:Well one thing I wanted to say is I just want to make sure students know that when they do GBA, which hopefully students are doing now, that they are submitting their course to their adviser and they may have done that before they actually even went to schedule planner. And so, it might, they might find, oh wait there’s a time conflict between this course and that course, and so those are certainly conversations they can have with their advisor. And their schedule that they submit to us is not set in stone. So it’s okay for them to change that. And probably I would say advisable for them to talk to their advisor about different options
KB:And I’d definitely love to hear from students when they’re making a big change like oh I said I was going to do math 1B and I’ve decided I’m actually going to use my AP scores and take math 53 instead and they sent me a schedule. If they’re just changing their schedule like, Oh now that I’ve really realized all the you know I’m actually going to do the Tuesday Thursday section of math 1B lecture, not the Monday Wednesday Friday. So for them that’s a big change their schedule. But for me they’re still doing math 1b so when I’m looking at what they’re taking, I’m looking more at kind of the big course. “What courses are you taking” and not necessarily the time. So I’ve definitely had students submit 10 12 schedules and they’re really just moving around their discussion sections. It’s like I don’t necessarily need to do that. I just want to know from an advising perspective what are you taking. You’re making big course changes let me know. But if you’re just fiddling with the courses during the time that you’re taking the lecture discussion or labs. That isn’t necessary to resubmit a schedule or contact me about that. But if you certainly have questions about what my schedule looks like and “I’ve made a big change”, “I really decided I wanted to take a different Math”, “I’m going to not do physics this semester.”
SM:That definitely great conversation to have with your adviser and I would say one more thing is watch the waitlist you know watch watch the courses on the day of enrollment and even before that. But certainly the day of enrollment and check the list. I would say you know sometimes we get students and they all want to take the same professor and or they all want the class that’s not 8:00 a.m. And I would say it’s most important to get into the class. If you’re on a waitlist you just never know. You never know how much movement there is going to be in that class and certainly with a super popular professor or they may be very little movement. So we really encourage students, you know you don’t want to not make progress in your degree just because you were waiting for a particular professor. It’s really important to get into the class and maybe take the lecture that’s at a less popular time just so that students could get into the class. I would say it’s much more important to get into the class than just kind of sit on a waitlist and then they’re just kind of worrying all summer about whether or not they’re going to get into that class. And I would encourage them to just try to get their schedules settled as much as they can by taking whatever time is open.
LV:And we’ve got the week before we start to register we actually have a podcast about tips for registration. So we’ve been doing this a little while. So we’ve got some ideas of what can make things a little easier and things to keep in mind as you’re actually going in and using buying your shopping cart and filling your shopping cart.
LV:So thank you both so much for coming today. I really appreciate you coming in another week and talking to us a little bit more about the actual scheduling process.
KB & SM: Thanks. You’re welcome.
LV:And next week we’re going to have Tiffany Reardon, the Associate Director for Retention Programs and Engineering Student Services. And she’s going to be talking about what to do this summer to get ready to be a Berkeley Engineer. So she’s got some tips of some free courses that you could take a look at, things that maybe you could start planning ahead. I know a lot of our career fairs kick off right at the beginning. And so we’ve got some transfer students that should definitely be getting ready for those. And thank you so much I’m excited to have all of our new students joining us for the Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. And I look forward to bringing new content each week. So thank you for tuning in.