As a freshman or sophomore, course selection week at Wheaton can feel like the Hunger Games. Some classes, particularly in the natural and social sciences, are in high demand. Underclassmen must often race for the few spots that remain open to them after juniors and seniors have registered, only to discover that spaces have opened up after the add/drop period.
Associate Professor of Psychology Michael Berg has noticed this problem within his own department.
“This past spring , we had a particular problem in Psychology with students enrolling in our high demand courses as a fifth course and then dropping them a week or two into the semester,” said Berg. “That students shop for courses isn’t inherently a bad thing, but they take up spaces that could have gone to someone who really needed it. And those needier students aren’t able to take the spot when it opens up, because it is typically too far into the semester.”
With this in mind, Berg and other members of his department proposed a new course registration practice that would help freshmen and sophomores register for their courses without disadvantaging upperclassmen.
“The goal of this proposal is to … help students in earlier class years gain greater access to courses,” said Berg. “Registration would be capped at 4.5 credits during the initial class-by-class registration period, and only after all students have had a chance to register for a full load of courses would students (on the final day(s) of registration) be allowed to register for additional credits up to the 5.5 credit limit.”
“The language of the proposal was written in terms of a 4.5 credit registration cap is to allow students to register for half credit courses … without having to wait until the final days of registration,” Berg added.
This will force seniors and juniors to carefully consider their courses, while allowing sophomores and freshmen more access to courses.
The proposal was passed at December’s faculty meeting and will be implemented at the end of this semester.
Registrar and Dean of Academic Systems Patricia Santilli explained that this would not be a change in policy or legislation but simply course registration practices.
“Our faculty is good at making sure students get the courses they need,” Santilli said. “But sophomores will have a little more access to classes they didn’t before, and so will freshman. It won’t solve every problem, but it will level the playing field.”
While Berg was vetting his proposal, the SGA suggested the “need for enhanced advising that will help students make their selections more carefully,” especially for those students with multiple majors.
But Santilli sees the new system as a benefit to students with multiple majors, not a hindrance.
“If anything it allows those students to get the classes they need earlier in their first and second years.”
Santilli understands that there will be some initial frustration and confusion with the new system, but this will be alleviated by notifications and emails, as well as open office hours for answering questions.
This cap on classes during the first wave of registration does not affect the gray card system.
Students note the new practice is particularly beneficial to some students.
“I think it’s especially good for science majors,” said Liz Parant ’17.
Kait Phelan ’15 added the new practice could make it easier to register for labs, especially. “I remember that as a freshman, the classes would be unlimited but the labs aren’t. And you can’t get into class without registering for lab so you would get stuck with horrible lab times.”