I am wondering whether graduate schools really care about final semester course load. I am a senior physics major, applying to graduate schools in geophysics. Currently I am enrolled in the normal 16hr course load but am considering dropping down to 12 hours for my final semester. I've never taken less than 15 hours but I would like to lighten my load in the final semester for several reasons: - I am working on a first author manuscript that my advisor wants me to submit by the end of my senior year. I haven't had much time to work on it this semester due to classes and applying to fellowships/grad schools. I think this should be one of my priorities for next semester. - I have to write my senior thesis next semester (on different project than the manuscript). - I am taking my first graduate course in seismology and I would really like to excel in this because 1) my advisor is teaching it, 2) I am the first undergrad to ever take the course, 3) it is the field I will be pursuing for graduate studies. - I have finished all requirements for the physics major (and some), and it would just be nice to have a lighter load in my final semester... Also, I will be visiting grad schools in the spring and likely will miss some class. So, are these reasons valid and will admissions commities raise an eyebrow when they see my final semester being relatively light? Another concern: One of the courses that I am planning to take is ornithology (the study of birds). Bird watching is a hobby of mine so this course would really just be for my own personal pleasure and is unrelated to my goals for graduate school. I have never taken an unrelated class just for my own amusement... Would this look bad or should I really stick to courses that relate to my grad school interests? My thoughts are that this will be my last chance to take a course like this before graduate school. Thanks for any advice PF friends.