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How I Chose My First Trimester of College Courses

Sherry explains her thought process behind choosing classes for her first term at Carleton.

Sherry explains her thought process behind choosing classes for her first term at Carleton.

To members of the Carleton Class of 2026: A late congratulations on your acceptance! After a tiring and stressful application season, everything is finally settling down. You must be very excited about your upcoming four years of college life at Carleton, just as I was a year ago.

There are a number of things you must attend to before arriving—course registration, housing, moving in, New Student Week, etc. Among them, course registration for your first fall term might take you the longest time. It requires so much decision-making. In my previous blog, I wrote a course registration guide and offered some tips on building your schedule. In this blog, I would like to go into detail about how I chose my classes for my first term at Carleton.

Two people have a conversation in an office
A&I seminars are typically taught by the professor who also serves as your liberal arts adviser for your first two years at Carleton.

A&I Seminar

The Argument and Inquiry (A&I) Seminar is designed for first-year students to help them adapt to a liberal arts education. Over summer break, the Registrar’s Office will send out a survey asking about your preferences for your seminar topic. Then, they will assign you to one of the five courses you choose.

I liked this type of uncertainty. I don’t remember my top five choices, but the one I was put into was “Growing up Cross-Culturally.” This seminar was a course in the Cross-Cultural Studies department. It centered on comparing the perspectives of American and international students. When I asked upperclassmen about the seminar during New Student Week, everyone had heard good things about the class. Because of the nature of this course, many of my peers were international students and people with intercultural backgrounds. This made the class particularly enjoyable for me!

If you change your mind or find the class not suitable for you after the term starts, it’s possible to switch to another A&I class. However, in general most first-year students enjoy their A&I seminar. The class size is pretty small (a maximum of 15 people) and everyone really gets to know their peers. In addition, all the A&I professors are super nice and approachable. They do a great job in helping you adapt smoothly to college. 

My favorite graphic memoir from my A&I seminar

Continuing with a language

Since you will be placed into an A&I seminar, you only need to add two more classes to your calendar. At Carleton, you have to fulfill a variety of liberal arts requirements to graduate. (Some of these include the Language Requirement, Arts Practice, Humanistic Inquiry, and Science with Lab.) The first term is a great time to start with a new language, because the typical language class sequence requires four classes in total. If you score high enough on an AP or IB test, you are not required to take a language class. Additionally, if you are already familiar/proficient in a language you can be placed into a class that matches your current level. This is determined based on the results of a diagnostic placement test.

As an international student who speaks another language at the native level, I don’t need to take any language class. However, I took French for two years in high school, and I thought it would be a huge pity if I gave it up. That’s why I decided to continue with French and take a French class in the fall. It turned out to be an excellent decision. The French department at Carleton is amazing, and I actually ended up taking French classes every term till now!

Language table on the Mini Bald Spot

Avoid forgetting what I learned in high school

Because I came to Carleton knowing that I might major in mathematics, I knew that there were certain math courses that I would have to take sooner or later. I did IB math HL in high school and was placed into Calc 3, namely Multivariable Calculus. Would you expect me to be capable of doing differentiation and integration without doing any math for six months? No way! That’s why I decided to keep up with math in the first term of college.

Above are my thought processes for selecting my first term of college courses. I hope this functions as a useful guide for you. Remember that everyone is facing a different situation, and there are no right or wrong courses to choose. While planning for fall term, never hesitate to ask upperclassmen about their experiences with different courses and professors. Hope everyone has a wonderful start at Carleton!

Sherry is a first-year student from Hangzhou, China, and holds a real passion for travel and food. She is thinking about majoring in Mathematics, but would also like to explore more in Economics, Computer Science, English, and French. Things she likes to do in her free time include hanging out with friends, taking photos, writing random stuff, and finding the funny in everyday life. She also got started with alpine skiing and is always ready for the trip to Welch Village every Friday! Meet the other bloggers!