First Semester Course Selection FAQ

Should my First-Year Course be in the department in which I plan to major? Not necessarily. The most important consideration in selecting First-Year Courses is interest in the material. It is understandable the courses that most excite you are also those in departments where you might major but you should not feel constrained by that. 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.

When will I be notified about my First-Year Course assignment? In late July 2019 you will receive an email message with your First-Year Course assignment.

Can I change my First-Year Course? Once you are placed in a First-Year Course, changes cannot be accommodated. That is why we want you to be comfortable with any of the First-Year courses on your list.

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 as I construct my desired course list? 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 reviewing Department and Program Recommendations for First-Year Students is a good idea. 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.

How likely is it I will get the courses I want? Most students (close to 90%) will get their first or second First-Year Course choice. You also have a very good chance of getting the other courses on your list, although not necessarily at the times you wanted, when there are multiple sections of the same course.

What happens if you cannot complete my schedule with my initial course selections? We will contact you to discuss other options, in the rare circumstance we cannot complete your schedule with your initial selections. We will not put you in a course that is not on your list.

Can I make changes to my schedule? You will have the opportunity to make changes to your schedule once you are on campus. The only course that cannot be changed is your First-Year Course.

How is my schedule determined? First, Academic Programs and Advising will enroll you in a First-Year Course. The goal is to place as many students in their first and second choices as possible, while also ensuring the placement is appropriate given major plans and background.

Second, the Registrar’s Office will complete your schedule. The goal is to give each student their preferences, as space allows. Accordingly, round one involves placing each student in their first choice; round two places them in their second choices, etc. You will not be placed in any course not on your list.

What could change my schedule?  Changes may be necessary once scores become available from Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams or when transcripts are received for college courses completed prior to matriculation.  Accordingly, your schedule will be a bit in flux throughout the summer.

When will I receive my final course schedule? You will receive your final schedule from your advisor during Orientation.

When can I make changes to my course schedule?  At Orientation, you may make changes to your course schedule during your advising appointment. There is also a drop/add period at the beginning of each semester during which you can change your schedule.

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 language proficiency 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 Math, Stats and Computer Science.

Does Macalester have an English Composition requirement? Macalester’s Writing requirement expects three writing courses by the time of graduation.  Virtually every department offers some writing 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 will serve that purpose.

When do I find out my schedule? By the end of July 2019 you will be notified via email of your First-Year Course assignment. You will receive a copy of your complete schedule from your advisor during orientation.

When do I meet my advisor? Your academic advisor is the instructor of your First-Year Course. You will meet that person during the initial First-Year Course meeting on Friday August 30, 2019. You will also have a 30 minute advising appointment with your advisor on either Friday August 30 or Saturday August 31.

Who should I contact if I have questions before I arrive on campus?

Question topic Contact
General questions about courses, degree requirements, and the registration process Academic Programs and Advising: 651-696-6036; or Registrar’s Office: 651-696-6200;
First-Year Courses Academic Programs and Advising: 651-696-6036;
language placement Academic Programs and Advising: 651-696-6036;
course selection with regard to a major Academic Programs and Advising: 651-696-6036;
AP/IB scores Registrar’s Office: 651-696-6200;
transfer credits Registrar’s Office: 651-696-6200;
interpreting the class schedule Registrar’s Office: 651-696-6200;

When is the best time to call?

Call Academic Programs and Advising at 651-696-6036 or the Registrar’s Offices at 651-696-6200 during the following days and times:

  • Monday through Thursday: 7:45 AM to 5:00 PM Central Standard Time
  • Fridays: 7:45 AM to 12:30 PM Central Standard Time

We may be assisting other students when you call, so please leave a voicemail message and someone will call you back. In some cases, we may contact you the next business day.

Can I email Academic Programs and Advising or the Registrar’s Office?


Email Academic Programs and Advising at

Email Registrar’s Office at