Yes, with more than 20 departments and more than 750 post-graduate courses to choose from, choosing an elective is almost as difficult as passing one! Which is why for the past two weeks, I have undergone immense mental torture trying to choose an elective.
And which is why I have decided to present this comprehensive and full-of-memes guide to choosing courses at LSE.
Step 1: Identify your objectives
Let’s face it, different people have different objectives in choosing courses. While all of us like to imagine that we are choosing courses to partake of the ‘LSE experience’, ‘broaden our horizons’ or ‘get an inter-disciplinary perspective’, once in the rough-and-tumble of post-graduate study, with mounting student debt and fast-fading dreams of getting a distinction, some of us become ‘strategic’ and base our course choices on some err… baser variables. These include:
- Basic finance and economics courses – to be more attractive to employers
- Superstar professors – preferably Nobel Prize winners (to refer to in interviews and let’s face it because they are THAT GOOD!)
- Quantitative Courses – less scope for subjectivity, hence easier to score in
- Qualitative Courses – for those with an undying hatred for anything quantitative
- Courses our friends are taking – so that we can split the readings
- Courses being taught by teachers whom we already love (or who already love us)– not that that helps with the marks, answer sheets are completely devoid of personal details but I find that we generally do well in courses that we love!
- Courses in which nobody has failed in years!
- Courses with no morning classes (personal preference!)
- Courses with lectures and seminars combined
- Courses with no essays/exams
These, as you may imagine, are competing objectives, which makes it quite difficult for many course to satisfy them simultaneously. This helps us to narrow down the course choices.
Step 2 – Finding the Courses that satisfy our objectives
This is a step that requires multiple browser windows, multiple cups of coffee and small indestructible objects that you can throw in frustration and be confident that they won’t break.
First you need to open the LSE Course Guide: http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/calendar/courseGuides/graduate.htm
This web-page contains a list of all post-graduate courses at LSE and is essentially your course-selection Bible.
Caveat Emptor: Many courses have similar names so it is better to search by course number. Eg. – There’s Global Business Management and Global Business Management and Information Systems. So if you Ctrl+F just Global Business, you will reach the first course and get it completely wrong!
Here you browse through various courses and Ctrl+click the courses whose names pique your interest, like ‘Genocide’ or ‘Nationalism’ (Disclaimer: Examples for illustrative purposes only, the author is not particularly sympathetic to these courses or concepts)
If you are lucky, this process will led to about 20-30 new tabs, not more. Now comes the process of shortening these to about 5-10 tabs.
a. Check whether this course is offered in the current academic year :
This is the first thing stated on the page and hence missed by most people eager to read the course description. The skipping of this important step may lead to you punching through your laptop screen later or pulling your hair out.
b. Check whether this course is available for your degree:
This information is present under ‘Availability’ and if you see something like what is show above, or ‘Teaching is closed to all other students’, you can pretty much forget about taking this course, unless you are an MSc. Management student. If your degree name is included though, jump for joy! Even if it is not, you can write to the course leader to try to get entry – chances are low but effort usually pays off!
c. Check which term the course is taught in:
LSE has three terms: Michaelmas Term (MT), Lent Term (LT) and Summer Term (ST)
All three terms have their origins in ancient happenings – Biblical and weather related.
There is no teaching in the summer term, which, in keeping with the other two, could have been called Hell Term, as it is reserved only for exams. This means we choose courses only for MT and LT. So if you are at the end of MT and have fallen in love with a course that was only taught in MT, unless you have that time-turner from Harry Potter, you cannot take it. If you find this out at the end of Step 5, more laptop breaking and hair pulling will commence.
This information is near the bottom of the page, under the heading: ‘Teaching’
This is usually not a problem (in my experience) as most courses are half unit courses. However, some courses are a full-unit. This means that they are taught throughout the year so in the Teaching section above, they will have lectures scheduled in MT as well, so that should alert you).
Please confirm with your programme administrator, the number of units required for your degree and how many units are covered by compulsory courses. The remainder is the number of units you need to fill with electives (I know this is Duh but for completeness sake, pliss excuse!)
e. Check the course description
You saw a course called Leadership, you remembered one of the core competencies at McKinsey was ‘Leadership’, you put two and two together and concluded this course will teach you how to be a leader and get you into McKinsey! – WRONG!
Read the description carefully to see that the course content matches your thought process stimulated by the course title. Sometimes the course title and the course content can be quite different from what you imagined!
f. Look at the assessment criteria
There are six types of assessment:
- Class Participation – rare
- Case Presentations – very few
- Weekly Assignments – mainly in finance/accounts based courses
- Group Presentations – few courses
- Essays – LOTS of courses
- Exams – almost all courses
Some courses might have their own quirky assessments. Eg. – For Cross-Cultural Management I have a Virtual Team Project. This means that my team consists of a member fromESADE Business School,Spainand Richard Ivy Business School, Canada (?).
So if you already have six subjects where you will be giving exams, you might want to take one that doesn’t have an exam. Or if you already have three subjects where you will have essays due in Week 6, you might want to avoid one more that has the same schedule.
g. Check the time-table: https://www.lse.ac.uk/admin/timetables/confirmed/module_sessional.htm
After all that careful research, comes the moment of truth – scheduling conflicts.
“Hey!” you say, “why did I not do this earlier and save myself a lot of heartbreak?” Because it is much easier to see the time-table for 5-10 subjects than for 30 subjects my friend, trust me.
So here you can only search by the Course number and not the course name so if you took my tip about remembering course names, you will be rewarded here.
Go into each department and click on the course number and see the timetable. Preferably have an excel spread sheet or Google Calendar ready where you map in the timings for each course so you can spot conflicts easily.
You don’t have to drop conflicting courses right now because as we shall see, there is no guarantee you will get them in the first place! 😛
h. Check the Moodle Page for the course
Moodle is LSE’s Virtual Learning Environment and the academically most happening place from a student POV. You get your reading lists and cases here and submit essays etc. here as well. Most courses have enrolment keys so you may not be able to get in, some courses might allow you to see partial content as a guest. Use this opportunity to look at weekly topics and gain familiarity with the course content. This will help you write a better supporting statement if the course is capped (more on this later).
Step 3: Applying for the courses you want
Now comes the moment of truth #2. You go into LSE’s course application and other important-stuff-doing platform called LSE for you or LFY for short.
You go in to course choice and key in the course number for the course you want to apply to and then if it comes up in green, it means it is ‘Capped’ (cue destruction of property) else it is not, in which case, you just got the course you wanted!! (cue for Hallelujah).
If your luck is as good as mine, the course you want WILL be capped, which means that the number of participants on this course is limited and you have to write a supporting statement stating why you want to take this course. Here, all the research you did on the course will come in handy. You might want to do a bit of research on the professor teaching the course and put in a few lines about how you are interested in his research areas (only if you really are). And then you wait. There is nothing else you can do to get into this course, from your room I mean.
Step 4: Auditing Classes
So LSE has this brilliant thing wherein you can audit classes and change your course choices in the first two weeks. This means you can sit-in to any class you want and see if you like it and then you can drop other classes and take that one. This is very different from other schools which just give you the option to drop classes within 24 hours of that class, whereas LSE give you two weeks at the beginning of the term, which means two lectures per course, which I think is amazing!
In order to improve your chances, attend classes, ask questions, talk to the professor, discuss the course and mention your name repeatedly (!!) You could also talk to previous year students and get insights, favourite parts of the course etc.
Step 5: Accepting/Rejecting Offers
Within a few days of your application, you will receive a mail from Registry stating whether you have received an offer for a place on your desired course, have been waitlisted or rejected. In the last two cases you can now do nothing and its time to start thinking about a backup.
In case you are offered a place, you can choose to accept it and be done or reject it and go to Step 1.
DO NOT DO THIS
It is always good to apply for backups in the first instance so that you do not end up with courses you hate. However, it is bad form to accept courses you have no intention of taking or holding on to them even after you have finalised your courses for the term as this prevents the school from offering the place to other waitlisted students.
Step 6: Have an – I succeeded in getting the courses I wanted – party. \m/
And now you are ready to begin studying and getting that distinction at LSE! Bonne chance!