Attention to details necessary for successful registration

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Photo Credit: Holly Hansel | Daily Texan Staff

Registration — the word alone is enough to induce a splitting headache in some students, along with the hassles, deadlines and frustratingly closed classes that come along with the process. Although modern technology has certainly removed some of these difficulties, at the end of every semester, students are still faced with the impending battle of getting into their desired classes.

Fortunately, registration doesn’t necessarily have to be a cut-throat battle royale; with this survival guide for what is perhaps the most dreaded two weeks of the spring, this year’s registration may end without tears and bloodshed.

One of the most frequently pondered questions amongst students is the order in which registration times are decided — when you have a friend of the same major or last name letter registering a week before you, the process can often come across as exasperatingly random.

“There is an alpha breakdown,” said Nancy Sutherland, history and liberal arts advisor. “It is based on a simple, yet secret formula created by a registrar sometime in the last century.”

While last name and class year are important factors, the Registrar’s office rotates the order of the names so students whose last name begins with “A” don’t always get to register first in their class.

Similarly, there are frequent misunderstandings when it comes to the specific required courses available for students. For example, unless you want to get certified to teach or you plan to transfer to another university, you can take any two different classes in the approved list of American history core courses – even upper-division ones, according to Sutherland.

The same goes for classes like GOV 312, in which many students feel tied down to taking a specific subject matter.

“Many students that I have advised do not know that the second required Government course, GOV 312L, has topics,” said Linda Mayhew, advising coordinator for the Liberal Arts Honors and Humanities programs. “This gives you a chance to select a topic that really interests you.”

However, sometimes class availability can get a bit trickier. Many students tend to believe that professors have the final say in regards to their class roster and that students can always get their permission to add a class that’s either full or restricted.

“Actually, departments can override faculty preferences,” said Jackie Dana, sociology undergraduate advisor. “We often have to tell students ‘No’ even after they get a written note because we use the waitlist system and check prerequisites.”

In terms of general advice, advisors suggest keeping an eye on your prerequisites and taking advantage of waitlists. Although being last on a long waitlist may appear to be a depressing prospect, with the large number of people who change classes during the add/drop period, it’s not the end of the world, especially for a larger lecture class. However, it also helps to have a backup class just in case.

“It’s also important to realize that sometimes required classes really do max out and advisors don’t always have the authority to add additional students,” Dana said. “We don’t intentionally keep people from graduating.”

And while it may seem a bit obvious, many students aren’t aware of the extended course descriptions available on some departments’ websites.

While the Registrar provides a general overview of what a class entails, course descriptions on the pages of individual departments often offer a more insightful look at what specific classes have to offer.

For example, the English department lists the required readings for the semester alongside a breakdown of professor’s individual grading, and the journalism department allows access to past and present undergraduate course syllabi.

“If you can’t get into a class you need or just really, really want, be sure to ask an advisor for assistance,” Dana said. “But don’t make demands.”

For Sutherland, the number one tip to being prepared for registration is to talk to your advisers ... except during actual registration days. She also advises awareness of the catalog for your major, as each catalog has very different degree requirements, flags and CORE approved courses.

“Advisors are here year-round. Make a plan of action to graduate — even if you change your mind a little,” Sutherland said. “You can still go to advising during registration, but it will just be to touch base or to check on secrets advisors might know, so you won’t be as stressed.”

Printed on Thursday, April 19, 2012 as: Helpful tips for surviving registration