Course registration took place last month, and I decided to interview two of my friends (both double-degree students) about their course registration experiences as well as what they have learned through the process. As a first- or even second- or third-year, I know I would have really appreciated tips and advice on how to make the most out of course registration and how to distribute my course load smartly throughout all of my semesters, so I hope this blog post can be of help to those who need it!
(These interviews have been edited for clarity.)
1. Could you describe your experience with course registration throughout your semesters at Oberlin?
Allison To (fourth-year double-degree student majoring in classical Piano Performance and Psychology):
My experience with course registration has been pretty stressful. When you’re an underclassman, you don't really get the courses that you want, so you kind of have to find backups and figure out what would be the best to take. Also, a lot of the time, the courses that you want to take would have a schedule conflict. And so in that case then you would have to figure out something else to take and yeah, it's usually really stressful; also, it's usually really, really early in the mornings — you would have to wake up really early and then sometimes your internet failed you and then you would stress about not getting your classes and registering on time. And then there have been instances where I was on the waitlist for a class that I really had to take. But usually, if you are within the top five on a waitlist, you will most likely get off because people will drop the class. So overall it’s been a really stressful experience, but it always somehow works out.
Kenji Anderson (fifth-year double-degree student majoring in classical Piano Performance and English):
I feel like course registration's always a mix of stress and a little bit of anxiety, but also a lot of fun. You can kind of dream up your next semester and be ambitious and decide all these things you want to do before you actually have to do them. And then all your friends are also looking for courses to take, so it's a good topic of conversation — I can think of a lot of times when I’ve sat with friends in Stevie (one of Oberlin College’s dining halls) talking about course registration. But then the stressful part is, can I actually get the spot in the class I want? How will my schedule work out? And then there are the very realistic questions of, “Can I balance all these classes I want to take?” and then as you get further in your degree, it's like, “Ugh, what classes do I have to take to finish my degree? Am I actually on track to graduate? I think I'm on track to graduate, but does it actually say that on my transcript?” Now that I'm in my 10th semester, course registration is super easy, but because it's super easy, it’s also a little less fun.
2. Do you have any tips to share or any “hacks” that helped you in your course registration process, especially for other double-degree students (current and prospective)?
AT: Definitely have backups, because you will not get the classes that you want all the time. And utilize your resources because your advisors are actually there to help you. They will offer really valuable insight and then help you schedule your classes and let you know what is more important to take, and what will help you progress towards your major, along with figuring out other classes to take to fulfill the other liberal arts requirements. It would be helpful to create a grand schedule of what you plan to take in the future. So you get a better understanding of what you still have to take and what you’ve already fulfilled for your major requirements, especially for double-degree students. I personally had a heavier Conservatory load my first two years. And then I focused more on my College requirements during my junior and senior years. And I think that worked out pretty well.
Also, find a good balance between your majors, or your two majors for double-degree (or double-major) students, because some of the Conservatory classes have a lighter course load and are less intense whereas if you're at the College you probably have courses that are likely more intense and have a lot more work. So you want to make sure you have a good balance so you don't overwhelm yourself in your later years.
And also make sure to write down your course numbers (or CRNs). That will really help you during your registration process so you don't have to scramble to find the course, because you could just go onto the “enter CRN” tab and then you can just add it to your summary and then you’re done [with registration]. Also, figure out which classes need instructor's consent and make sure to get your instructor's consent beforehand. That relieves so much of the stress.
KA: You should use the “Plan Ahead” feature (a feature on the Course Registration webpage that allows students to browse through the course catalog and compile a list of classes that they might want to register for for the next semester) beforehand and you can plan your schedule. I would just put down every single class that you're going to possibly take. That way when registration time comes, you can type in your RAP (which is short for Registration Alternate Pin, a six-digit number unique to you that your advisor(s) will give you before registration period that will allow you to log in to your registration page) and then you can click “Add,” “Add,” “Add,” etc. Apart from that, if you need consent for the class, you ask the teacher beforehand so that you can just get in right away, because if you wait then maybe they will give you consent, but all the spots will be taken. Also, planning in general, or trying your best to get a sense of “Will this course be offered next semester or next year? Or is it a one-time-only course (i.e., offered only once or once every few semesters or years)?” can be helpful.
Consider making a four- or five-year plan because it’s good to know, roughly, what classes you can substitute with others or move around. Also, there's an add/drop period where you can try to get a read on what your schedule will look like for the whole semester based off of the first week or week and a half. So you also have a tiny window of time to trust your intuition to figure out if you should add a class or drop it.
Yuhki Ueda (me!): In addition to the tips Allison and Kenji mentioned above, I would also recommend making use of some other resources that are available to students. Your academic advisor(s) are there to guide you through your academic journey, including the course registration process, so be sure to reach out to them if you have any questions. It can also be helpful to talk to professors, and students in the years above yours, particularly those who have the same major(s), if you need advice and insider (i.e., major-specific) tips.
DegreeWorks can also be a very helpful tool for figuring out which requirements you have already fulfilled and which you still need to fulfill in future semesters. The “What-If” function is particularly useful because you can use it to process your potential progress (toward your degree(s) and graduation) if you were to take certain courses as a certain major or majors. For example, if I am interested in taking a particular course related to my Psychology major in a future semester, I could input it into the “What-If” page and see if and how much it would contribute to my academic requirements if I were to actually take it.
As a person who processes visual representations of information more easily, before course registration, I first list all of the classes I want to take in the next semester and check that I will be on track to graduate, then I create a calendar that shows what a typical week in that semester might look like through inputting all of the courses onto a spreadsheet or table.
3. Is there anything you would have liked to know when you were a freshman about course registration or anything you would have done differently if you could?
AT: I would definitely have taken Instrumental Accompanying (a requirement for Classical Piano Performance majors) way earlier, because it's a lot to take along with upper-level classes. Another thing is, when you're an upperclassman, your classes are going to be significantly harder. So, as opposed to when you're an underclassman and you have classes that are not as intense, maybe it's better to have a heavier course load in those earlier years and then have more time to focus on your harder classes in your later years.
As a freshman I would have liked to know how much room I had to explore my interests because one of the things that scared me a lot was exploring other majors, because while I was considering being a psych major, it wasn't something that was (or had to be) completely set in stone at the time. And then for STEM classes, those took a lot of time because there are labs (outside of lectures). But then I think if I had explored more during my freshman year, it would've been nicer and more informative, and it probably would have helped me to fulfill more of my requirements.
Also, make sure to wake up in time for your registration! (YU: I have been assigned registration times as early as 7:30 a.m., so I second this!)
KA: A good thing to remember is that you have requirements outside of your major that you have to do. So I think it's really good to start getting those requirements done because that will force you to take classes that maybe you don't think you are as interested in, but it could possibly lead to you discovering something you really like that you may have not thought you would like. For example, I took a Geology class my third year and I thought, “Oh, if I had taken this my freshman year, that could have really changed my trajectory.” I looked into adding a minor because it seemed fun, but I didn't end up doing it mostly because I didn't have the time. I sort of did that with Environmental Studies, too, but with Environmental Studies I was like, “I don't want to study anymore in the future.” So, I would recommend taking up doing a variety of things. Just have fun with it!
Also, when you're signing up for courses, it's good to be realistic in terms of the time you have — if you are going to be spending a lot of time practicing music, then maybe a science class with a lab isn't the right thing to do and there's no shame in taking an easier, not-for-majors class to get a requirement out of the way. At the same time, I don't think you should pinhole yourself like, “I'm not a science-y student,” or “I'm not a math person,” because it's still college and we're still learning and trying different things.
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