The First-Year Perspective: On learning to deal with registration frustrations

If you’re enrolled here at Connecticut College, chances are you’re probably taking or intending to take a variety of courses. In fact, that’s probably the reason you’re paying so much to be here right now. But if you go through your weekly schedule, it is more than likely that there is a class or two that you aren’t quite as keen on taking. So the question is, why are you signed up for it? Well, oftentimes it is due to a General Education or major-based requirement, but in many cases it boils down to the fact all the classes you wanted were already taken during the add period.

Registering for classes, as many of you know, can be extremely trying. Remember the very first time you had to access Self Service? Feeling that hot, constricting sensation in your throat as the minutes turned to hours? That empty feeling in your stomach as you realized every instant you spent scribbling down a CRN number or waiting for a slow page to finish loading, classes were gradually filling to the brim? That crushing wave of despair as the class you just knew would be perfect for you had reached maximum capacity? Of course you do; everyone does.

Registration remains inactive for months, before reopening for a few short days during early summer and a few hours at the beginning of the semester. The result is a horde of students all signing up for classes at the same time, slowing down the already large and labyrinthine site, and filling up sought-after classes in a matter of minutes.

And is that really fair?

While part of the appeal of a liberal arts school is the freedom to drift from class to class and learn more about each and every subject, many of those enrolled here have a concrete idea of what they want to do after college, and have a detailed plan of how to accomplish this goal. So when they cannot get into their desired classes – whether it be due to faulty internet connection, being unable to get to a computer or simply not being fast enough – they have lost one of the reasons they are paying exorbitant tuition to attend.

Unfortunately, there are not many easy solutions to this problem. While in an ideal world there could be classes for everyone who wanted them, in reality this entails hiring new professors, or asking current ones to do much more work than they do already. Even if everyone who wants to take course X is just fit into existing classes, this causes class sizes to balloon, which in turn detracts from the student-based environment Conn is all about.

Why even have this online system anyway? Well, on the one hand, it makes life much easier for the bursars and registrars who would otherwise be forced to fill out ridiculous amounts of paperwork and be inundated with demands and requests from students. It also allows students to be freer with their class choices. Without this system, students would have to get different documents from various professors and staff to ensure they got into the class they needed to take for their major, or at the very least, require students to send in letters or forms which cost money and kill trees. But while no one denies this saves some hassle and has few better alternatives, is it worth the consequences? Is it worth possibly not getting a necessary prerequisite and having to stay an extra semester? Is it worth the frustration of trying to get into a course only to see it filled up?

Maybe this is one of the more important lessons to be learned from college: there is no guarantee you will get what you want or what you need. There is no rule dictating that you will find the course you’re looking for, or get the major you want, or even graduate in four years. It’s just a toss-up, a $60,000 coin toss we go through every single year in our sad search to delude ourselves into thinking we’re on some special path. Perhaps the course registration isn’t some malign entity trying to complicate our lives. Maybe that’s just life. •