How to Choose Courses

After you have chosen your First Year Seminar, you normally have three other courses to select.  On this page, you will find advice on how to do that.

You will want to be aware of Middlebury College's Degree Requirements as you think about which courses to take, but often you do not need to worry about them a great deal at this early stage, as long as you pick a variety of courses, and you are willing to challenge yourself without trying to do the impossible.  The degree requirements are designed to help you achieve a liberal arts education that is both broad and deep, and if you have that principle in mind as you select courses during your first semester--if you follow the tips below--you will probably have little difficulty positioning yourself to fulfill the requirements by time you graduate.  Remember, you have four years and twelve terms!

Tips for Choosing Courses

*Thanks to Yonna McShane of Middlebury's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Research, who came up with the well-tested and successful tips described here.

Find a Balance of Interest and Type

First-year students should seek to balance their course loads by both interest and type. Different kinds of courses have different rhythms during the semester.  To find out the appropriate course, you may in some cases need to take a placement exam.  See the Placement Examination chart here for more information.

A valuable resource in course selection is also the First Year Seminar Registration Booklet, which features recommendations by all departments of courses appropriate for first-year students to take.

To have a balanced course load after your first-year seminar, you should select...

  • 1 course in your major (or possible major);

  • 1 course you enjoy or are good at, or to fulfill a distribution requirement;

  • 1 course to explore, to experiment with, to try something new;

Remember: during your first semester, you should avoid taking two courses in the same department.  The First Year Seminar Program is separate from all other departments and programs, so it is all right to take another course in the department to which your First Year Seminar instructor belongs.  But you should do so ONLY if you and your advisor determine a reasonable variety of courses will result.

Keep these categories in mind when choosing courses for a balanced course load...

Courses with dense reading, 1 – 4 papers and exams:

Art History, Literature (including English and American Literatures, Comparative Literature, and Literature in the various languages), History, Religion, Philosophy, Sociology-Anthropology, Geography, Political Science.  Also remember, your First Year Seminar is the only CW (College Writing) course you can take in your first semester.

Courses with daily homework, frequent quizzes and drills, presentations and tests:

Beginning and intermediate languages.  Remember, you cannot take two introductory language courses at the same time.

Courses with some reading, labs, quizzes, problem sets, exams:

Economics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences.  

Courses with time intensive, "hands-on" tests, some reading, presentations, group work, concerts/performances:

Music, Studio Art, Theatre, Dance, Film/Video

Keep in mind writing and math courses that offer extra help, if you think you may need it. 

See the following pages, and--if you think you may want or need extra help--consult with your advisor about the options they describe:

Math Options

Writing Program Options