By Kenneth McGhee

Congratulations! You’ve completed high school and are busy planning for your first year in college.

Soon you will be attending freshman orientation, where you’ll learn how to get around campus and have the opportunity to select classes for your first semester of college.

Wondering how to approach the process? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Take Off the Pressure
It is more important to have a good first and second semester in college than to rush and take too many classes due to the pressure to graduate in four years. Research from shows that more students graduate in five years than do in four. College is not like high school and classes require more work. Taking 12 credit hours, which is the minimum full schedule at many schools, is less pressure than taking 15 or 16 credits hours for your first and second terms in college.

Research Math Requirements
Check to see what math classes are required for your potential academic major and make a plan. Experienced academic advisers will tell you that college math classes are challenging, and students who change their majors often cite math requirements as a reason for doing so. If your major does not require a lot of math, consider not taking a math class for your first semester. The goal is to get off to a good start in college. If your major requires a lot of math courses, properly balance out your schedule to allow enough time to do well.

Limit Definition- and Term-Heavy Courses
Some classes tend to have a significant number of definitions and terms you will be required to memorize. And often, the terms may be the same or similar, making it even more important that you commit them to memory. Such classes also tend to have a lot of reading to complete. Examples are introductory psychology and sociology courses. These two classes are not ideal to take during the same semester. It’s better to take one of these classes and balance out your schedule with other kinds of courses.

Consider General Education Classes
Many colleges require freshmen to complete specific types of classes (sometimes called general education courses) in their first year. Check with your school for specific details. And even if your college doesn’t have such requirements, consider taking the following types of courses, which usually count toward numerous academic majors:

— Introduction to College/college seminar — one course
— computer applications — one course
— English — two courses
— speech/public speaking — one or two courses
— social sciences — two or more courses
— humanities and/or literature — one or two courses
— math and science — courses vary depending upon your major

Kenneth McGhee is the director of the DC Tuition Assistance Grant Program (DCTAG) within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) in Washington, DC. OSSE is a NACAC member organization.