Load Balancing

As you probably already know, computer science classes are often much more rigorous and time-consuming than the average class at Stanford. With this in mind it is important to properly balance your quarterly class load so that you do not overextend yourself. As a general guideline, having two computer science classes in a given quarter will keep you pretty busy but won't crush you with an inordinate amount of work. Taking three computer science classes in one quarter is generally considered difficult and will probably not leave much room for extra-curricular activities. To even consider taking four computer science classes in one quarter is strongly discouraged. Let's face it, you need some time for eating, showering, and sleeping. To sum things up, see which of these attitudes best fits your lifestyle.

CS ClassesAttitude
1 or 2I really like computer science, but I think it is important to leave time for other things I like to do as well.
3I really can't think of anything I'd rather do than sleep, eat, and program.
4I don't know why I pay for housing because I end up staying in Gates every night.
5+I am too busy to have an attitude.

In all seriousness, overextending oneself can have far-reaching consequences as the quarter progresses. Typically, students who take more classes than they can handle end up doing poorly in all of their classes and may be forced to drop a class anyway. This is not meant to discourage anyone from being ambitious when planning a class schedule (there are students who have successfully taken four or more computer science classes in a given quarter), but be prepared for the amount of work required.

It is also a good idea to try to take a balanced load of programming-oriented and problem-set-oriented classes so that you don't get burned-out doing just one or the other. For more details about specific classes, check out course ranking sites Coursecycle, old class webpages, and official course evaluations. Course ranking sites have student comments and some official registrar data about course difficulty and instructor quality. Class webpages from previous quarters will often contain handouts and old assignments that can give you a good feel for the class material. Most CS classes are accessible via a .stanford.edu subdomain with the course number as the subdomain. For example, the CS107 page can be found at cs107.stanford.edu. You can find official course evaluations on Axess under Student > Course and Section Evaluations.

Finally, you should take this information with a grain of salt because different people will be comfortable with different workloads. The most important thing to keep in mind when planning a course schedule is to choose classes that have a workload that is appropriate to you. Think about the past couple of quarters, the classes you've taken, and how manageable the workload has been. This will give you a good sense of what a set of classes might be like in future quarters. Also, keep in mind that many people find themselves more easily able to manage a heavier workload as they progress through the major so it's not uncommon for seniors to take 3 CS classes in one quarter, even though they probably took only 1 or 2 CS classes during previous years. Be willing to be flexible and adjust your coursework to your current needs and capabilities.

If you need help or recommendations on course planning, please come see the Course Advisor.

Content by CS Course Advisor
Last updated on Friday, 25-Sep-2015 20:11:38 PDT.
Design by Linda Nguyen, '05