Time management and calendaring is key. I always use Google calendar to set down important dates and alarms as reminder for classes. I started doing this sophomore year and I have not looked back since. – Jessica Yu, 2021

This section covers the on-campus academic experience at WashU. For information on study abroad, refer to the “Travel” section of our guide.

Classes

  • Students take an average of 15 credits per semester, which is around 4-5 classes. Talk to your advisor to get a sense of how many credits you should be taking.
  • Don’t overdo your course load 
    • Not all credits are created equal. For example, classes with labs can easily take up more than their fair share of time. If you decide that you’ve taken on too much, mark the add/drop and withdraw deadlines in your calendar. If you drop a class, there will be no record of it on your transcript. The add/drop deadline is typically in the first couple weeks of class. If you withdraw from a class it will show a W on your transcript. Before you decide to drop or withdraw from a class, talk to your advisor.
    • First day of classes: Monday, September 14
    • Last day to add/change/wait/drop without a ‘W’: Sunday, September 20th
    • Last day to change to P/F or C: Friday, December 4th
    • Academic year calendar
  • Students in ArtSci have the option to take one course per semester as Pass/Fail or Audit. Taking a class Pass/Fail suggests that you will get the credit for the course but will not affect your GPA. Taking a class Audit grants you access to course materials and a successful audit will be determined by the instructor, but does not count for credit. Any classes that count toward your major/minor as well as certain distribution requirements must be taken for a letter grade.
    • If you are unsure about whether to take a course for grade or Pass/Fail, it is recommended for you to set it for Pass/Fail, because you can change it back to grade a month before the semester ends (Note: you can only change a course from grade to Pass/Fail in the first couple weeks of the semester).
    • COVID-19: For Fall 2020, you can change the course to pass/fail and for credit later in the semester (Friday, December 4th).
  • Arts & Sciences undergraduate students can take 1 University College course per semester at no additional cost. They are usually classes that may not be offered in the day school.
  • Take the time in the beginning of the semester to go through the syllabus and gauge the structure of the class. The syllabus provides key information on exams, readings, and homework assignments. Use a calendar or planner to mark down exams, paper or assignment deadlines, and due dates for homework assignments. 

Time Management with Extracurriculars 

  • WashU offers a variety of organizations for students to get involved outside of the classroom (see Extracurricular Involvement section). 
  • Self care and sleep are important. 
    • Find out what self care means to you. Whether that be taking a walk around campus, calling your friends and family, listening to music in your bedroom, or exercising at the gym, know when you need a break and set aside time for yourself. 
    • Try to regulate your sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking around the same time every day will help regulate your day, and allow you to create a sense of normalcy throughout your college career. Ask for help when and if you need it!
  • Remember to take care of yourself and others. 

Time Management with Extracurriculars

  • WashU offers a variety of organizations for students to get involved outside of the classroom (see Extracurricular Involvement section). 
  • Self care and sleep are important. 
    • Find out what self care means to you. Whether that be taking a walk around campus, calling your friends and family, listening to music in your bedroom, or exercising at the gym, know when you need a break and set aside time for yourself. 
    • Try to regulate your sleep schedule. Going to sleep and waking around the same time every day will help regulate your day, and allow you to create a sense of normalcy throughout your college career. Ask for help when and if you need it!
  • Remember to take care of yourself and others. 

How to Study for Exams (One Method)

    • One of the biggest adjustments in college is learning how to study for exams. For many WashU students, high school exams required much less preparation than college exams. Exams are different for each class, but here are three tips for success for college exams. 
      • Know yourself and your courses.
        • Everybody studies differently and each course varies in structure. Therefore, students need to learn what works best for them and for the class. Ask yourself questions about your preferences in terms of studying: Do you like to study alone, with a study buddy, or in a group setting? Do you like to study in your room, study room, or the library? Do you like to study in a few long sessions or more short sessions? These are essential questions to ask yourself and can help you understand what works best for you. It is easy to compare your study habits with others, but realize that your personal study habits reflect your individual preferences and learning styles. 
      • Study in advance.
        • As mentioned in the Time Management section, mark on a calendar when your exams are scheduled. This will give an idea of your personal schedule and your study schedule. A general rule of thumb is to study in advance. Studying in advance means staying on top of material by attending lectures, maintaining a good schedule with readings, and completing assignments. It also means to plan to start studying for the exam before crunchtime. This will allow you to retain and build on your understanding of the material over time and present you with less stress and anxiety when it comes to the day of the exam. Don’t forget to use basic resources (Google, Youtube, Office Hours, RPMs, PLTL, GRCs). Some professors are willing to answer questions after class too!
      • Take practice exams.
        • Some professors release practice exams as a study guide to give students an idea of the type of questions, difficulty, emphasized material, and overall structure of each exam. Completing these practice exams will give you an idea of information that you understand and your strengths in approaching certain problems as well as knowledge gaps that may exist. If a professor doesn’t distribute practice exams to the class, it may still be worthwhile to email them individually to ask if it is possible to look over any old exams or practice problems that they could recommend. 

 

Course Selection

  • How to choose your courses
    • To narrow down your course options and to make sure that the classes you take are fulfilling requirements, you can use the “Attributes” field in the course listings search
    • Whether you’re trying to choose between different classes or just between different sections of a class, never underestimate the importance of the professor. A professor can make an otherwise dull class into one of your favorites or can make it less interesting. Different people have different preferences and learning styles. Just because someone else likes or dislikes a professor doesn’t mean you’ll have the same opinion. 

Resources

  • WashU encourages a culture of collaboration, so working with other students can be a good way to get through tough material. However, this is very dependent on which class you are in and who is in that class with you. Make sure to read the Academic Integrity section of each class’s syllabus to keep the collaboration within your professor’s bounds.
    • Deneb STARS HUBS is a way for Denebies to connect on coursework 
  • Teaching Assistants (TAs) and professors’ office hours are another good resource if you’re struggling on a concept. 
  • The Calculus Help Room, located in Lopata 323, is a good resource for any calculus class as well as differential equations. 
  • Students in the engineering school also have access to up to 4 hours per week of free tutoring. You can meet with a tutor weekly or just 1 or 2 times to prepare for a specific exam. Sign-ups open in the first 2 weeks of classes.
  • The Learning Center
    • Group learning which usually includes going through practice problem sets together are offered for the following courses:
      • All general chemistry, calculus, and physics 191/192 via Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL)
        • “I highly recommend taking advantage of PLTL and TA hours for gen chem/lab. The student mentors made gen chem enjoyable and actually motivated me to become a TA. I think one of the most intimidating things about online learning is asking questions in front of a group, so a few of my students started reaching out individually when we went online as they were more comfortable with that. I encourage you to ask whatever questions you have as we are always willing to help!” – Kathryn Xu, 2022
      • Principles of Biology I/II via Bio-Team Learning (BTL)
    • Residential Peer Mentors offer overview of material for all general chemistry and calculus courses inside dorms
    • Matched Academic Mentoring: Matched mentoring provides supplemental learning opportunities in a one-on-one or small group setting for select groups  of students in select courses.
  • Make an appointment at the Writing Center to have a trained student worker or staff sit down with you and your essay. The Writing Center in Mallinckrodt can be useful when you need another set of eyes for your essays. They cover more advanced classes, and will go over basically any written work including emails, articles, applications, and very long papers. 
  • The University Libraries have subject librarians that can help gather research and resources for papers.

Working with Professors

  • Office Hours
    • Make use of office hours! Visit professors during their first couple of office hours. Even if you don’t have specific questions, just going to introduce yourself and learn more about the class can put you a step ahead of the curve. For larger lecture classes this can be even more advantageous, by putting a face to the list of names that professors are given!
    • “I always make a point to go to office hours several days before I have an upcoming paper due. This not only forces me to have some sort of draft completed in advance, but also allows me to receive valuable feedback with time to adjust and rework the paper as necessary.” – Lily Grier
  • Connections through Deneb
    • Talk to Dr. Fields (email: hrfields@wustl.edu) if you need help getting in touch with a professor. He’ll give you tips or facilitate that connection.
  • How to send your professor an email
    • Make sure you know your professor’s title (i.e., Dr. vs. Professor) so you can address them properly. Professors are busy and don’t have time to decipher lengthy messages, so make sure you are concise, yet cordial. Always proofread your emails for proper grammar and spelling. Make sure to include a proper sign off and your name. For professors that teach several classes, you should include the course number or title in your email.
    • Good rule of thumb for a college email signature
      • Your Name
      • Washington University in St. Louis
      • Class of ___
        • How to create Outlook signature
How to Create an Outlook Signature

Settings > Mail > Compose and Reply

    • Suggestions for subject lines
      • To a professor
        • Main subject of email in 4-5 words—Class 
        • Ex. Question on Problem Set 2— 10 AM Chemistry 
      • To an advisor
        • Main subject of email in 3-5 words 
        • Ex. Question: Adding Class Outside of Major 
    • Ask SLC if you have specific questions on emailing, subject lines, and signatures. 

Major Selection

  • Each school has a different deadline to declare a primary major, so make sure you’re aware of your school’s deadline. Second majors and minors can generally be declared at any point in your college career (provided you have sufficient time to complete the requirements). 
  • Students in the College of Arts & Sciences must declare a major by the Spring Semester of their sophomore year. You can also change your major at any point, just make sure that you can be on track to meet the requirements for your major if you decide to switch. 

Books

  • Where to get textbooks
    • $$$ WashU Bookstore: Usually everyone’s last choice for textbook shopping, since the prices are steep.
      • If you’re going to try to buy/rent a used book at WashU’s bookstore, do it early or they may run out and only have new books
    • $$ Amazon + Third-Party: Purchase or rent by searching your books’ ISBN on Amazon
    • $ From a student: Another option for buying textbooks is to buy them from a student who has already taken the class. If you don’t know anyone who has taken the class before, you can post a request in the WashU’s Free and For Sale Facebook Group.
    • Deneb Library: Feel free to check the suite before you purchase a textbook. 
    • WashU Libraries: The library typically holds one copy of each required book, so this is a great resource if you’re willing to go in and photocopy the book when you have readings or assigned problems. This is an underused resource, but can be unreliable if the book is lost or someone else is using it.
  • Old v. New Edition
    • Two things to be aware of if you choose to go with an earlier edition
      • Occasionally there may be significant changes in the textbook between editions
      • Some classes require an online access code, which isn’t included with used books. However, most access codes can be bought online separately from the textbook, so it may still be cheaper to buy a used book and buy the access code separately.
    • If you’re considering purchasing an early edition of a textbook, email your professor first.
      • In some classes, you will have assigned problems from a textbook as homework and these problems vary between editions. 
  • Renting vs. Buying 
    • Renting is cheaper than buying, it is basically borrowing a book with a fee.
    • Buying means that you own the book and can sell it later.
  • For other options, please contact your SPCs.