Spring schedule can prevent registration woes later

Since Oct. 29, UAOnline has had the spring 2012 semester schedule available for viewing, a full two weeks before the first day of registration. This is to allow students to view the schedule and be able to plan out what they need or want to take for the following semester. Advisers of all departments recommend students take advantage of the preview to prepare their schedules ahead of time.

“When a student has a degree plan to graduation and can see exactly what classes they need, how many semesters it will take, et cetera, it helps students to reach that goal,” said Julie Cotterell, academic adviser for the Mathematical and Social Sciences.

So what exactly is pre-planning?

It often entails previewing the schedule to familiarize one’s self with what classes are available when registration opens. Sometimes it is sitting down with an academic adviser to get advice on what courses they should be looking into taking.

Cotterell tells her students that they want to ensure that the classes selected are courses that will count for their degree, won’t conflict with work, family or other activities outside of school, and won’t be overloaded with too many difficult classes at one time.

But to some, like political science junior Julian Freeshaw, pre-planning is a yearly ritual of methodological viewing, recording, charting and constant altering of courses to create what he calls an ideal schedule.

Freeshaw has it down to an art.

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First he checks the schedule, comparing it to his DegreeWorks account to determine what he still has left to take to graduate, then copies and pastes all of the courses that he needs for his degree. Next he checks RateMyProfessors.com and kicks out the courses with professors that have generally bad reviews. Finally he takes the classes that are left and fits them together like a jigsaw puzzle until every piece fits perfectly — and voila, his schedule is complete.

“It’s the same thing every year, but each year gets a little more difficult once I start running out of classes to choose from,” said Freeshaw. “But it’s worked for me every year, pretty much.”

However any planner may find that circumstances arise that can ruin even the soundest schedule.
Variables include classes where the professor leaves or the times or locations change, causing conflicts with other courses. Back-to-back classes can work well if each one is in the Cuddy Quad. However, Crickett Watt, adviser for the School of Engineering, warns that if either of those classes has their location moved somewhere else, like in the Arts Building, a student can be in trouble.

“I tell my students to always plan for the unexpected,” said Watt. “They should be flexible and have a back-up plan. But they should also plan to have a good time and really enjoy the college experience.”

Watt also suggests students think about planning unplanned time, leaving space in a schedule so if something does not get done earlier, such as homework or studying, there is this empty space to complete those tasks without stress.
According to several advisers, another issue particularly complained about by their students is the different registration dates, which allows upperclassmen priority over underclassmen.

“I do like to plan ahead, but because I am only a sophomore I have to wait longer to register,” said art sophomore Alexa Thompson. “So a lot of the classes I thought I’d take fill up before I can register, so either I have to wait and hope they open or find something else. But I guess I get that seniors want to graduate and get out of here, and I can take some of those full classes later on.”

Classes can fill up quickly, causing students to either choose another class as a backup, or continuously refresh UAOnline until it opens up.

“Most classes do not have a waiting list, so it’s sadly a case of keep checking back,” said Danielle Dixon, College of Health adviser. “Registration changes daily, especially the first week of school. I always say keep checking, contact the professor, show up the first day of class — and if all else fails, have a backup plan.”

Despite the questions and concerns, advisers suggest all students should at least look at DegreeWorks or find a matriculation guide to get a baseline of what they should be taking each semester.

“I’ve found that if you have your entire degree planned out from the start, it is easier to get around those difficulties by looking to what was planned for next semester to see if any of those can be taken instead,” said Dixon.

Whether a student meets with an adviser, checks out DegreeWorks, breaks out the Microsoft Excel sheet or just writes down a rough draft, being familiar with the course options available will lessen stress and add ease when registration time comes.