Right now, it’s 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, and I’m sitting in HubBub trying to figure out my life. Or more specifically, my life for the next semester. Today is the last day of Advance Registration, and this feeling of slight panic is a familiar one.
Last year on the same day, I sat in the same seat in HubBub doing the same thing. Every day last week people asked me, “What are you taking next semester?” and my answer was, “I have no idea.” People are usually bewildered by this response, as if failing to decide exactly what courses are lined up two months in the future is nearly a criminal act.
It comes as no surprise that time flies by in college, but the week of Advance Registration serves as an immediate, tangible reminder. Asking students to decide which courses they are taking so early perpetuates a rather stressful pressure of outlining the exact trajectory of one’s academic progress — something that not everyone necessarily knows.
Especially for college students, the amount of courses available to students is certainly overwhelming, and having more time to truly look through and decide carefully what courses a student wants to enroll in is essential in crafting a satisfying college education. Though some may argue that actual course selection begins after Advance Registration, the stress behind the very idea of Advance Registration is something that gives me — as a student who has been undecided for at least the past year — some anxiety.
Instead of Advance Registration starting at the end of October and early November in the middle of midterm season, it would be far more effective and beneficial to push the period back to the end of the semester when students have time to truly evaluate what courses they should take. Adding on the pressure of Advance Registration while students are trying to get through their current classes is simply unfair, and can be easily remedied by pushing registration a few weeks back.
Postponing Advance Registration could, however, lead to difficulties for the administration in assessing which courses have enough interest to continue. But adding an official shopping period at the beginning of every semester would make course selection less stressful, as there would be less pressure to immediately decide on an academic path. Many peer institutions like Yale University and Brown University have designated shopping periods that last multiple weeks, designed to help students get acclimated with the courses they are interested in and allow them time to decide if they truly want to commit to them.
If we must work within our current system though, the administration should let students know more explicitly about how flexible switching in and out of courses is. Failing to get into a class after Advance Registration is not the end of the world as many students believe it is — there is so much room before and during the semester to re-evaluate a class, drop if needed, and switch around in general. But so many students forget this in the hurry to decide classes so early that even having the registrar’s office send out emails notifying students of specific dates of when course selection begins and ends or the last day to drop a class would alleviate concerns of the seemingly rigid selection process.
At the beginning of this semester, I sat in on a total of nine different classes, trying to figure out which ones were the best fit for me while still fulfilling the requirements I needed. Though those were a rather stressful two weeks, I do not regret it — in doing this, I ensured that my schedule was something that I could fully enjoy and engage in, and that I felt comfortable with every single one of my classes.
Ultimately, our education at Penn is what we are paying for. We should think critically about course selection and take our time to really do it — and not fall into the trap of allowing a week or two in November seem like the only time to do it. At the end of the day, you are the student who will be taking these classes — making sure you think critically about every class by taking the time to think it through, physically being there and feeling it out is far more important than two weeks of Advance Registration.
JESSICA LI is a College sophomore from Livingston, N.J., studying English and psychology. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. "Road Jess Travelled" usually appears every other Monday.
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