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The Lazy Student’s Guide To Picking Electives For Next Semester

University gives us the freedom to pick and choose (mostly) what we want to do, and when to do it. Medieval basket weaving? Ukulele Performance Group? Creative writing? The options are endless!

Unfortunately, the electives for your actual degree are usually less fun. So how do you pick them? They’re going to determine your happiness for the next five months so the decision is a big one 

#1 Consider The Content And Lecturer

Arguably this should be the most important consideration. What is the unit actually about? Is it interesting? Does it compliment your major? Can you stand 13 weeks of the history of economics just because it sounds easy?

Don’t forget the lecturer — the mitochondria of the unit’s cell. Lecturers are fickle — opt for the knowledgeable, older professor and most likely they don’t know what PowerPoint is yet so you end up looking at printed off notes during a lecture *shudder*.

Or pick the chill, young lecturer and it turns out they usually try to compensate for their “coolness” with overly strict marking. What a minefield.

#2 Employability   

Employers look at your units. They will even ask you questions about them in interviews. Sorry if I’m the first person to tell you that.

There is something to be said for avoiding too many “throwaway units” – the units you only took because they looked easy at the time and filled up your schedule. Then when you look at your transcript, your core units provide a stark contrast and make them even more obvious – as if “Music Theory 101” wouldn’t stand out between “Law of Trusts” and “Constitutional Law”. Whoops.

#3 Timetabling  

The older I get, the more I’m convinced to pick units purely based on their timetabling. My first-year approach was: If you have unrecorded lectures on a Friday afternoon that is a big ol’ no from me. 8am tutorials? Boy, bye.

Six years later, I look at those options and think: a) how easy would it be to get parking for both of those classes and b) 8am tute? Damn I’m going to have a productive day after that! Don’t make lazy choices, make smart choices.

#4 Exam Vs No Exam

Another go-to method of picking units is going straight for the one without an exam. You may think non-examined units are great for reducing end-of-semester stress, or that “You’re better at assignments than exams”. Unfortunately, both of these things are never true.

Non-examined units usually compensate with double the assignments during semester, meaning that instead of an awful seven days of SWOTVAC and a two-hour exam, you have an awful 13 weeks of continuous research, tute participation, submissions, and assessments. Moral of the story: you are not any smarter for avoiding exams.

#5 Get Heaps of Advice

So you can’t decide on your own? A great idea would be to get the advice of an older student and get their recommendations (and even their notes/textbooks if you’re lucky). If you’re going to base your decision on their advice alone, maybe check in with a few others. Check online forums or Facebook groups for more perspectives.

People have different strengths and weaknesses — while others may hate rigid, traditionally structured units, others work best under clear structure and expectations. Know what works for you and make sure you ask exactly why a unit worked, or why a lecturer was good or bad.

(Lead image: Community/NBC)