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Some tips on registering for college classes

The college process isn't over when you get the "big envelope." While acceptance seems to be the end of a long journey, it's really just the beginning.

During the summer before college, students find themselves scrambling to get ready for this huge change in their lives: they have to pack, say goodbye to friends and family -- and they must register for courses.

Registering for college classes is very different from high school. Students are much more independent. Depending on the school, there may be core requirements for a specific major that you must take first semester. You may have exempted out of some basic classes with a high score on an AP exam. It may be impossible to take a class, because it conflicts with another one. A schedule can be overwhelming to a freshman, who is also trying to find a niche in a new environment.

"Don't cover everything at once," said Donald McGuire, director of advisement at the University at Buffalo. "I'd go easy my first semester and be sure to have time to relax."

"Now is your time to explore!" the Johns Hopkins freshman advising Web site says. "Register for a course which has a special topic of interest to you."

When you aren't technically in college yet, what can you do to ensure a smooth first semester? "Different universities have different ways to investigate classes," said McGuire. While students may prefer, there are some official ways to get acquainted with your college. First, an adviser can always be contacted. For example, you want to know what math class to take, but you haven't gotten your Calculus AP score back yet. "Let your adviser know what score you think you probably got on the exam," said future UB freshman Felicia Cao. "This will help them place you more appropriately." Sometimes colleges have blogs or networks where you can get in touch with current students. Or ask your high school teachers. They should know you well enough to advise you.

You're finally ready to register, and find out the classes you want are already full! What do you do? Since in most schools, freshmen register after the rest of the college students, this is probable. "We find [freshmen] seats," said McGuire, who explained how "the first week of classes change like the stock market." Maybe there's another time that the class is offered. If not, take a different one and save the other class for second semester. You have four years at your college, and the basic classes that you absolutely need won't be hard to get into.

McGuire had five pieces of advice: show up, keep up, speak up, follow up and lighten up.

"And if you screw up," he said, "talk to somebody." You will have time to drop and add classes in the first few weeks of classes. With good time management now, college freshmen will have all the time they need to learn.

Natalie Berkman will be a freshman at Johns Hopkins University this fall.

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