Many students will go through their college career unaware of great learning opportunities available on their campus.
Auditing a class is an under-utilized option that can enrich the college experiences of students in a multitude of situations.
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As a college student, you’ll need to make decisions about your class schedule that may exclude you from certain interesting courses.
Research your university’s most beloved professors and most engaging courses. If those courses are not part of your major, they may fit into your schedule regardless.
If they don’t, however, resist the urge to push yourself to take an extra class. Though college should focus on education, you also need time for your initial courses, extra-curricular clubs, and social events.
Also, dropping a class can be arduous and time-consuming. There is often a small window to submit your decision, and missing this time period could mean considerable work and implications for your GPA.
Certain universities require a slew of classes to be dedicated to your major. You may have limited time to experiment with classes in other departments.
Consider why you chose your university. Is the school known for a certain department? This may be your chance to study a subject with some of its most important contributors.
Additionally, you may wish to take a class that you have little to no experience within, or one that has nothing to do with your major.
However, these classes are risky. You don’t want to risk your GPA with a class that you may or may not enjoy or readily excel at, so the best option could be to audit these courses.
As a side note, taking an “easy” course for the grade is rarely a good idea. Employers and graduate schools will often know when a class was only taken to fulfill a credit.
Professors will often know when a student has no interest in the course, and you may find that the class wasn’t as easily as you initially thought.
Alternatively, if your motivation for choosing a course is a genuine interest in the subject, you may still wish to audit the class if you’re worried that someone looking at your transcript will question your decision.
Auditing a Class
Each school has their own system for auditing courses. Speak to your counselor for the particulars.
In many schools, auditing a class will result in a grade that can either be pass or fail, useful when you feel unsure of taking an especially difficult course.
Unfortunately, the pass/fail system can be a missed opportunity if your grade in the course is high or a red flag if too many courses are taken pass/fail.
Another option is to speak to the professor directly. He or she can offer more insight into the course. Ask about how much work is assigned, how other students who audited felt about the course, and if they have any suggestions.
You may wish to present the rest of your responsibilities to the professor so that he or she can tell you if you will have enough time and energy for the class.
Emphasize why you would like to take the course so the professor knows that you’re serious about the subject.
If you cannot fit the course into your schedule even as an audited class, you can always try again another semester.
The Bottom Line
Overall, one course usually won’t make or break your college experience. Still, college is your time to learn about subjects that you’ll likely never see again.
Your grades and happiness should be the most important factors in these decisions. If you’re dying to take a course, even if the professor is tough, do all you can in order to take or audit the class.
On the other hand, if there’s simply no way to make it work, don’t push yourself into a schedule you can’t handle. You have the rest of your college career (and the rest of your life) to learn any subject and you’re not limited to this semester.