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How Do I Start To Build A Schedule?

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To start building a schedule, it’s helpful to think about each class as part of a strong foundation. You want your foundation to both support future work and incorporate breadth so that the structure you build feels more like a comfortable house than a grain silo. Consider your long range plans, and allow yourself opportunities to explore. In this way, you will develop a personally coherent, meaningful education out of the diverse courses that Stanford offers.

Tips For Building Your Schedule

  1. Figure out what fields, topics, approaches and faculty appeal to you personally. Don't rely solely on the experience of others. Is there a field of study that you currently think you might be interested in? An area that intrigues you? Consider taking classes to test that hypothesis. Taking a class in an interesting field can be a good way to find (or eliminate) a major path.
  2. Explore unfamiliar subjects. Not sure what a particular field is all about? Simply curious? Try taking a class or, at least, shopping a class in that area. Many of Stanford’s fields will be entirely new to you, but there's no need to restrict yourself to areas you've already experienced. Check out Frosh-Friendly Courses to find a good gateway course into an area you're interested in. You can learn about the options that are out there and perhaps fulfill a Ways requirement along the way.
  3. Understand that some paths (engineering in particular, but also the sciences and pre-med) will have a series of requirements that need to be addressed in a certain order. Use the Stanford Bulletin and the Engineering Handbook to see what those requirements are, and to incorporate them into your plans. Consider your current plans for a major or career path. Are there any classes that you need to take this quarter in order to make regular progress toward that goal? If so, make sure to take those classes.
  4. Recognize that there may be multiple pathways to the destination you have in mind. For example, you can choose many different majors and still go to medical school, and it may be possible to fulfill certain pre-med requirements in a later year, or even after you graduate from Stanford.
  5. Balance your workload. A mix of essays, exams, and projects is generally more sustainable than taking a full slate of classes that all demand the same sort of work. Too much of a good thing is still too much. Cognitive shifting between types of studying/working often shows a better result than focusing in on one kind of learning. Including some variety in your schedule may allow you to do more without burning out. 
  6. Have some fun with it! Pretty sure that this field is not going to be your major but are simply interested? Want to take a class with a friend or roommate? Just want to be the kind of person who knows about this sort of thing? Seeking to fulfill a Ways requirement or simply vary your schedule? Taking a class for fun can be a good way to curate your future self, complete requirements, network with your peers, or keep a personal passion alive.
  7. Talk to your Academic Advisor about your interests and the courses you've found so far. They may have tips and suggestions you haven't thought of!

Want more advice on picking classes and building a schedule?  Check out our guide to Choosing Courses!

You can also watch an Academic Advising Program on Planning Your Quarter (Recorded March 2022, Stanford Affiliates only)

See Also

Return to the Advising Student Handbook