Welcome to Macalester! We’re excited you’ll be joining us in Fall 2021. What follows is an overview of the course registration process as well as answers to FAQs that may be on your mind.
Registration Overview: Academic Programs and the Registrar’s Office work together on your Fall 2021 registration based on course preferences you submit. Most students take four 4-credit courses per semester, which keeps them on-track to graduate in four years. You may register for up to 18 credits per semester, which allows you to add 1 or 2 credit physical education or dance classes to your four 4-credit courses. You may also register for performance courses (i.e. ensembles, lessons) on top of your 18 credit schedule. Credits for performance courses are posted after two consecutive semesters of the same performance type are complete; they do not count in the 18 credit total. The Fall 2021 Schedule of Classes is now available for you to review.
One of your four courses will be a First Year Course. FYCs, as they are more commonly known, are required of all students in their first semester and they play an important role in our curriculum. The professor of the FYC serves as your initial academic advisor, a model we think works well as you’ll have regular contact with this person and your questions about courses, requirements, etc. can easily be addressed as they arise. Virtually every department offers FYCs and they meet a variety of requirements. We are confident you will be placed in a course that is a good fit for you. Because the FYC is tied to advising, housing and other aspects of orientation, once that assignment is made in mid-July it cannot be changed. The rest of your Fall 2021 schedule will be built around your FYC assignment. You will be free to make any necessary adjustments to the non-FYC portion of your schedule during orientation when you meet with your FYC professor for advising.
The following FAQs provide general guidance about course selection and requirements. If you have additional questions feel free to contact us.
Should my First-Year Course be in the department in which I plan to major? Not necessarily. The most important consideration in selecting your FYC is interest in the material. It is understandable that the courses which most excite you are those in departments where you might major, but you should not feel constrained by that future decision. Every year students discover through their First-Year Course a field of study they had not been aware of in high school. So be bold and adventurous in choosing your courses. Learning about new fields and broadening your horizons is at the heart of a liberal arts education.
I have no idea what I want to major in. How should I choose my courses? The beauty of a liberal arts degree is you are required to take courses in each of our divisions. Use this first semester to explore different departments that sound interesting. The most common way for incoming students to decide on a major is by taking courses. Since there are areas of study available in college that weren’t available in high school, being “undecided” is actually to your benefit. About one-third of incoming Macalester students are uncertain of a major, and another third change their minds after discovering all the possibilities. So be bold and adventurous in choosing your courses. It’s the best way to learn about yourself and our curriculum.
Do you have sample schedules I should consult? While most departments and programs provide recommendations for first-years interested in exploring their courses, in only a few cases, mainly the natural sciences, must these recommendations be acted upon in the first semester. Most majors require between nine and eleven courses, allowing plenty of room for exploration before declaring the major. If you have some majors in mind, consulting that the Academic Department and Program Information for Incoming First Year Students is a good idea. Most provide guidance on placement, course sequencing, and which courses are good ones to take in your first semester. Otherwise, taking courses from various departments you find interesting is the best way to pick your classes for your first semester. You do want to think about balancing types of courses, so you don’t have four courses that are heavy reading/writing courses, or four that are all quantitative, or four that have labs. Because you will need to take courses in all four of our divisions before you graduate, having a diverse course schedule also ensures you are making progress on degree requirements while you are exploring the curriculum.
Are there certain courses I must take in my first semester? You must take a First-Year Course. This course is designed to facilitate your transition to college by including instruction in writing and information fluency, and by having the instructor serve as your academic advisor.
You must also take a course designated argumentative writing (WA) or writing as craft (WC). Most students will meet this requirement through their First-Year Course.
What about a language or math course? To graduate, Macalester requires proficiency in a language other than English through the fourth semester. Accordingly, it is a good idea in your first semester to take a course in a second language, especially if you are going to continue with a language you studied in high school. As with language, math skills deteriorate over time. If you are going to continue on with math, it is also a good first semester choice, although our Quantitative Thinking requirement includes courses from a variety of subjects, not just those in the Math, Stats and Computer Science department.
Does Macalester have an English Composition requirement? Macalester’s Writing requirement expects three writing-designated courses by the time of graduation. Virtually every department offers some writing-designated courses. All students must take one course designated as argumentative writing (WA) or writing as craft (WC) in their first semester. For most students, the First-Year Course serves that purpose.
Are there other things I should keep in mind when selecting courses?
- Level of the course. 100 and 200-level courses are appropriate for incoming first years. Be sure to check if prior knowledge of a topic is required or suggested or if there are prerequisites. The exception to this rule is students with college credit or placement scores that require them to take a 300-level course (typically in a language).
- Balance. Taking courses from different disciplines with different methods of learning is wise. Not only will this expose you to Macalester’s liberal arts curriculum, but it may also help you avoid taking three reading/writing heavy courses or three lab intensive courses in the same semester. Variety and balance often go hand in hand.
- Course sequencing. Some disciplines are sequentially organized and it is important to take the appropriate level course early in your college career. Language courses are a good example. If you will be continuing in a language you studied in high school to meet Mac’s second language requirement, taking that course in the first semester is a wise move. The Sciences and Mathematics are also examples of subjects where course sequencing is critical.
- Prior college credit or placement. College credit is awarded to students who have received an appropriate score on the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Exams and for courses taken at a college or university prior to entering Macalester. College credit is awarded for “college in the high school” programs (i.e. PSEO) as long as the course wasn’t required for the h.s. diploma. Students who anticipate receiving college credit should not select a course that is equivalent to the course for which credit will be awarded. Similarly, students who are taking courses that have placement exams should take the test prior to selecting courses (Chemistry, Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish have such tests ) so that the course selected is appropriate. Schedule adjustments may also be necessary after consultation with the department chair or faculty member teaching the course.
- Graduation Requirements. The college has a set of requirements all students must meet regardless of major. These graduation requirements comprise approximately 1/3 of the credits for graduation. While students need not be overly concerned with these requirements in the first semester, they can help to guide students who are uncertain about what to take. In their first semester students must take a First-Year Course and they must take a course designated WA (argumentative writing) or WC (writing as craft). Students who complete a First-Year Course with a WA or WC designation will satisfy both of these requirements with that single course.