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This post is part of our 2016 pre-NSOP newsletter series, Required Reading. If you're not subscribed yet, why the hell not? Get essential Columbia and Barnard content delivered straight to you in the build-up to Orientation.

Just because you're new to college doesn't mean you need to be unfamiliar with the system.

You may feel out of place as a wee first-year to begin with, but if you know how to play the Shop 'Til You Drop game well, you'll fit in seamlessly and be able to sample a huge amount of classes in just one week.

Here's the goal: Try as many classes as possible during your first 10 days at college, so that when you finalize your schedule for the semester, you know the classes that you're getting yourself into are gold.

First, let's bash some dates:

Tuesday September 6th: Classes start. Friday September 16th: Deadline to register for, drop, and finalize classes.

Ok, 10 days to go wild and cheat on all of your professors. Here's what you're going to do...

1. Find cool classes.

Search for Fall 2016 classes on Courses@CU, Columbia's academic directory, or Barnard's Course Search library. Either screenshot courses that interest you or write down their details—time and day, course name, professor, etc. (Pro-tip: You can read professor reviews on CULPA.)

Keep an eye out for prerequisite requirements and things like that. Since you're a first-year, chances are you won't be allowed into 3000-level classes, classes with prereqs, or small seminars. In fact, avoid seminars in general since, due to their small sizes, they're harder to shop and drop. Don't worry, however, about lecture classes being at maximum capacity. Like you, people will drop classes so even if there are 400/400 people signed up, chances are there'll still be space for you.

(N.B. Barnard and Columbia courses overlap on the directory and Course Search, so don't worry that one course catalogue is missing information.)

2. Create working schedules.

You can adapt this pre-made shop 'til you drop scheduling template by clicking FileMake a copy, or create your own on paper or in Excel. Carry over the courses that you jotted down or screenshotted into this schedule. The schedule will help you see which classes coincide with each other. You can always add more rows if you end up having four courses you want to take all at 1:10 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays or something like that.

3. Narrow it down.

In those 10 days from September 6th to 16th, you can sample a maximum of...

four Tuesday/Thursday classes happening at the same time, three Monday/Wednesday classes happening at the same time, and two Friday classes happening at the same time (but they’re few anyway.)

Now as much as you'd love to be, you're not Hermione and you don't have a Time Turner so we'll need to whittle down your options to make sure that you're only in one place at one time.

Fill in the second table in the template. Write in that you'll go to Option 1 on the first Tuesday at 10:10 a.m. but Option 2 on the second Tuesday at 10:10 a.m, and so on and so forth.

Yes, this become a bit like a course registration sudoku, but hey count it as brain exercises (which you'll need if you're going to be shopping to the point of dropping.)

4. Finally attend those classes.

Once your schedule is set and you've noted classroom locations, you can finally rock up to these lectures.

While you're in there, of course do the standard knowledge-absorption stuff, but also think about the professor's teaching style, the distribution of grading percentages, the workload, the reading list, all that sort of stuff.

As your week progresses, keep all your syllabi in one place to review. Tragic as it may be, you can't keep up this two-timing nonsense all semester so you'll need to drop classes eventually. These 10 days of busybody attendance and syllabi collection will help you make an informed decision.

A note about actually registering:

It's ok to turn up to lectures that you're not registered for. If a professor asks to see everyone who isn't registered after class, only go up to them if you plan on registering.

If you go to one class and are dead certain that this is the one for you, consider registering right away, even if you've planned to hit up three different classes for the next three Thursday mornings. You don't want Advanced Modern Greek I to fill up and leave you all on your lonesome.

That being said, if the professor takes attendance in lectures, you'll need to decide between…

Having a few black spots next to your name as you go sample other classes and miss roll call, Never knowing what those other classes that you were going to attend were like because you want perfect attendance, or Not registering until the last minute and risking losing your place in the class.

The choice is yours, fam.

Now go forth, prosper, and shop 'til you drop.

Got any other ways to take as many classes as possible? We'd love to know. Facebook message us, Snapchat us @CUspectrum, or Tweet us. The whole point of this is to help the Class of 2020 gear up for college, so definitely chip in.

Sophia Hotung is a rising junior at Barnard and the editor of Spectrum. She won't two-time people, but will two-time classes. You can reach her at

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