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A Recipe for Registration

November 17, 2010

I've found that registering for courses can (but doesn't have to) be a nerve-wracking process. My first registration a few months ago went smoothly enough. What jitters I had were assuaged by the wealth of informational packets, advisor meetings, and helpers present at registration sites. Their presence was a tacit assurance that even if I screwed up, these kind and patient people would be there to comfort me and fix my mistakes.

Fortunately, it didn't come to that. I dutifully read all my papers about how to register; I met with my advisor to talk through my schedule and future plans; I strolled to my assigned time and place to register brimming with hope, envisioning a schedule wreathed in gold and free time. Only when I actually started registering did that image begin to falter. The fact that not all of my first-choice classes had spots free didn't shake me up too badly; I had about fifteen backups to power through before I'd really start sweating. So I powered through them. And I started sweating. Was this possible? All of my careful scheming to achieve schedule nirvana had been for naught?

Reassurance cradled me in the form of an intriguing ethnomusicology class called "Musics of the World." Never having been exposed to much non-Western music or to any ethnomusicology, I was curious to see what I could learn. As I have come to find out over the past term, Presto actually did me a huge favor by shutting me out of all the classes I thought I wanted to take. Ethnomusicology is fascinating. Among other things, we've gone over Indian classical music and Javanese gamelan ensembles, debated about the definition of music, and invented our own methods of notating songs. The styles I have been introduced to have found its way into the heart of my playlists - anything from Jinder Jade, who rocks a genre called "UK Punjabi," to Miriam Makeba, a prominent South African singer whose music was banned after she was exiled during apartheid.

Lesson one of registration: the coincidental classes may become the ones you look forward to the most. Do not fear the "C" that stands for "closed class." When one door shuts, another one opens.

After I made it through that first registration without unleashing unspeakable demons from the netherworlds or causing any colossal natural disasters, I accepted that it was not, in fact, that scary a process. The whole ordeal had taken maybe twenty minutes, so, sitting in front of the computer in a post-registrational daze, I decided I could take an extra two minutes and figure out how to look up what my actual schedule would be, timewise. That took a little brainpower - somehow, Presto never seems to want to let me in on the secrets of its inner workings - but the sight that greeted my eyes when I arrived at the desired page was as unexpected as it was unbelievable: I had no classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My eyes immediately turned into sparkly stars. I floated three inches off the ground, and hovered back to Dascomb to gloat.

Lesson two of registration: the process may yield surprising blessings. Do not fear changes to your meticulously planned schedule.

My advisor was hesitant to celebrate when I told him how my schedule had turned out - he warned me that not having class every day had brought the self-discipline and willpower of greater students than I to their knees. I smiled, nodded and chuckled patronizingly to myself. The well-meaning fool, I thought, he knows not what iron will I possess. Then my inexperienced little freshman brain gravitated back toward the irresistible beauty that was my schedule.

Lesson three of registration: your advisor is more right than you know. Listen well.

I have not, so far, crashed and burned this term. In fact, my self-discipline has held up quite nicely in the face of whole weekdays full of no class. This is probably in large part due to my cramming said weekdays full of other things, like work and tumbling club and music lessons and working out and chores and errands and meetings and oh my goodness so much stuff that needs to get done. Even so, it hasn't been easy. Many a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday have I had such excellent classes that my Tuesdays and Thursdays have been filled simply with pining for them. Many times have I expressed the wish that I could go to classes all week long.

Nevertheless, I am now an older, wiser freshman. I approached registration this week with slightly more confidence and a slightly more flexible schedule (read: slightly less obsessive planning). At exactly 1:00PM, I signed on to Presto. By 1:03PM, I was registered for two of my hoped-for classes. By 1:20PM, I was forced to accept not only that all of my backup classes were full, but also that every interesting class that did not require instructor consent or prerequisites was also full. Every single one. I was reduced to clicking my way through the departments, one by one, and searching for available classes by brute force. I thought I had learned lessons one and two of registration, but they had not prepared me for such wholesale destruction of my dreams. By 1:45PM I was on my second combing-through of the possible courses offered, and so desperate that I seriously considered registering for an economics class. I had scheduled a meeting with a professor at 2:00PM and needed to finish this blasted registration, pronto!

I hastily registered for some physics and environmental science courses - the only feasible and even remotely interesting options available to me - and navigated around Presto to see my weekly schedule for the upcoming term. The page loaded. I froze. My eyes may or may not have enlarged to the size of saucers. By sheer, glorious, wild chance, I had ended up with no Monday, Wednesday, or Friday classes.

Lesson four of registration: never despair. The brightest light may come in your darkest hour.

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