New term, new courses

Christina Vietinghoff
January 8, 2015
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

Shopaholics celebrate Black Friday or Boxing Day as their favourite time of year, but my favourite kind of shopping is course shopping the week before the Drop and Add deadline on SOLAR.

It’s easy to be complacent about the quality of your education, you register for the required courses and a couple of easy electives and voilà, your schedule is complete with hopefully a four-day weekend and no 8:30s.

But is this experience really worth the thousands of dollars you pay in tuition and supplementary fees?

Picking courses should not be an arbitrary process; you should take control of your learning experience and create a schedule that takes advantage of the full breadth of courses McMaster has to offer. If you’re in engineering, take a gender studies course, or if you’re in social sciences consider a science elective. When else will you have the opportunity to learn from someone with expertise in a discipline outside your comfort zone?

Beyond the subject matter itself, the learning process is shaped by two factors—the professor and the syllabus.

You may have to go fishing in the department or even email the instructor to ask for the outline because they often aren’t provided until you enrol.

Although professors haven’t started crowd-sourcing outlines yet, this doesn’t mean you can’t provide input. As anyone that has read the policy blurb knows, Professors reserve the right to modify the syllabus, which means your ideas for what the course should cover can be implemented—don’t wait until the evaluations at the end of the term.

The instructors themselves can make a class an incredible learning experience or a total flop. The only way to evaluate this is by meeting them in person. Sites like ratemyprofessor.com are subject to intense polarization and feature irrelevant categories like “hotness.”

Another reason you should go in person is that an impressive biography of publications does not necessarily translate to effective teaching skills. Sessional instructors can be just as great, and sometimes even more enthusiastic than tenured faculty.

Finally, don’t let red tape get in the way of you pursuing your passion. Some departments have waiting lists for classes that are full, and others may be willing to add a seat depending on your circumstances. It is even possible to have pre-requisites waived if you can provide a sufficient justification.

Optimize your degree. Don’t ignore an interesting class because it’s at 8:30 a.m. or on a Friday afternoon. A post-secondary education at a university like McMaster is an incredible opportunity; don’t waste it.

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