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Dear Future Oberlin Freshman...

November 18, 2011

Dear Future Oberlin Freshmen,

There are many out there who will tell you that your freshman year is a beautiful time of exploration and self-(re)invention. "Find your true passion!" they say, or something to this effect. This is all well and good; I in no way wish to discourage young minds from coming into their own by whatever means possible. But Future Oberlin Freshmen (hereinafter "FOF") be warned: while the first semester is a most wonderful time for one to find oneself through a variety of activities, please make sure that you do so in a responsible manner.

"But Paul," you may protest, "that advice is so vague as to be functionally useless!"

My dear FOF, I know this. That is why I wish to impart to you today some specific knowledge that I have gained through what I would define as SEVERE IRRESPONSIBILITY. Through my own personal failings, it is my wish that you will become enriched with wisdom and avoid the carelessness with which I constructed my first semester schedule.


I have distilled my learnings down to three main points:

1. Make a plan. Make a backup plan. Make a backup of your backup plan. Make a...
2. Do not, under any circumstances, take an excess of ExCos.
3. Talk to your academic advisor. Twice, if need be.

Sincerely,
Paul Buser

...

I had no idea what I was doing when I threw together my schedule. First off, I was very intimidated by PRESTO, which is comparable in terms of ease of use to helicopter pilotry. I would highly recommend the PRESTO help session, which goes over the basics of course management. On top of the PRESTO learning curve, I wasn't sure exactly what the course sign-up process constituted. Were we to be locked in a computer lab for 45 minutes or until we had 12 credits (whichever comes first)? I was surprised to learn that no, signup could be done from any computer with internet access, and the only reason I was hoarded into the Science Center computer lab was to provide a more congenial atmosphere in which to sign up for my classes.

In any case, I rolled down to the Science Center and proceeded to search for the 4 classes I had scribbled down on a piece of paper when I found out one could search the course catalog before registration. Much to my surprise, they were all full! Having no backups, I then hastily assembled a makeshift schedule (which ended up being pretty good, I would say). Problem (temporarily) solved!

All was well and good until my first class: the professor arrived only to say that the course had been canceled. I was out 4 credits and my certification as a full-time student! Needless to say, things did not look good - because I didn't know how Add/Drop worked. Convinced that it was too late to register for any further academic classes, I turned to their younger sibling, the ExCo.

Now, ExCos sometimes seem to present themselves as "mini-classes;" less intense courses designed to give the student a taste of what they're offering. This is absolute hogwash. Not only do you learn just as much from ExCos, but the time commitments are just as rigorous. The hours may not be as long, but ExCos have a tendency to meet at the worst possible times in the evening - i.e. the times when your homework calls out to you in much the same way that Norman Bates communicates with his mother in "Psycho." I found this out in the most experiential mode possible - through the thrill of taking four of these lovely extracurriculars.

In retrospect (something a blog lends itself to quite well), this all could have been avoided had I talked to my lovely academic advisor Meredith Gadsby. However, after meeting with her once to receive my necessary RAP number, I assumed I could figure things out for myself.


Hey Ms. Gadsby,
I ended up staying out quite late, so I hope you don't mind if I skip our meeting at 10:30 and start the morning sans alarm clock!
Paul

No problem! I'm glad everything worked out!
MG

I told her that I was all set as far as credit hours, which was completely true. What I didn't say was how excited I was to be taking four ExCos (also completely true).

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Responses to this Entry

To any terrified pre-Oberlin students, note that during your first class registration is intentionally encouraged to take place during your scheduled time at a particular location (in the science center or the library if you're double degree) for several reasons:

1. There are registrars around in the off chance that you can't get into PRESTO or if your time slot closes before you finish registering;
2. There are amazingly awesome (and trained!) upperclassmen students (also known as academic ambassadors) to help you figure out how to schedule classes, how to maneuver waitlists if you can't get into a specific class initially, and advise on professors and classes; and
3. You can ask both of these sets of people questions about EVERYTHING regarding registration.

I also answered a comment from a prospective student last year about taking five ExCos at once. While they are fun and extremely exciting, ExCos are real classes with real work and real meeting times. They're AMAZING and I'm so glad that Oberlin offers them, but they're not to be considered easy or fluff padding to a schedule.

Out of curiosity, what ExCos are you taking this semester?

Posted by: Ma'ayan on November 21, 2011 12:03 PM

Just to add emphasis to Ma'ayan's comment: I don't think many students end up in Paul's unfortunate situation. I'm pretty sure that there are group advising sessions scheduled during orientation designed explicitly to explain how the add/drop system works. And certainly most advisors go well out of their way to make sure their advisees choose an appropriate schedule. I guess the moral of the story is: be sure to go to the advising sessions you're scheduled for--there actually is a point to them!

Posted by: David on November 21, 2011 1:34 PM

Brownie points for the "Psycho" reference! Though you're overworked, at least you still have guh-reat taste in movies. :->

Posted by: jackie! on November 27, 2011 3:28 PM

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