Ask a fifth year

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
Class registration is so frustrating! All of the classes I want to take meet at the same time, and that doesn’t even factor in how hard it is figuring out what I need. Just when I have it figured out, a friend of mine mentions a gen. ed. requirement I didn’t even know about. What gives? Any advice for making the process easier? What the heck is a “dimensions of diversity” class, anyway?
-Scheduled-out in Sage

Forgive my elation in your time of crisis, Scheduled-out, but it’s hard for any graduating senior not to look at scheduling as a giant cow pie we’ve finally successfully avoided, and I have to say: it feels great. The fact that I don’t have to deal with scheduling classes at Lawrence ever again aside, I think my having gone through this process so many times makes me something of an expert, so I think I might be able to help.
First things first: Set up a meeting with your advisor. I know it can seem like an unnecessary hoop to jump through, especially if you know what you need, but let me tell you from experience that you don’t want to miss the help an involved advisor can provide. Like every double degree student, I was assigned two advisors when I arrived at Lawrence.
Rather than working with them, I treated them mostly as obstacles, simply the addresses to which I needed to send the request to release my holds before registration began. When my bio advisor mentioned that he was retiring, I neglected to fill out the advisor change form he had given me because I already understood the course catalog, and could do without the extra hassle of a second advisor.
I was right in assuming I understood the course catalog – I’ll be graduating next month with a degree in biology – but doing it without an advisor meant I missed pretty much every opportunity that isn’t listed in the class schedule. I realize now that much of the value of the biology degree at Lawrence comes from independent studies or tutorials, or from the trip to the Cayman Islands some of my friends just returned from.
Without anyone to mention these opportunities to me, I missed them altogether, filling my schedule instead with lower-level bio courses, including ones I wasn’t particularly interested in, just to fulfill the requirements.
That was dumb. If I could go back and be less ignorantly hubristic, I would. Maybe you’re not as stupid as I am, but there are still intricacies and subtleties to your specific degree requirements. It just makes the process easier to have someone who has done this before helping you out.
For your sake, let this person be your advisor. I know it’s easier to talk to your friends or the first upperclassmen that walks by when you’re trying to figure out your schedule, but these people aren’t paid to pay close attention to your requirements, or to be up-to-date on the ever-changing GERs. Your advisor has the knowledge and the interest to help you, which is probably more than you can say for anyone else who has their own schedule to worry about.
That said, there are a lot of things you can do to make it easier, the most important of which is to plan ahead – okay, maybe this is less important now that registration has already started, but it’s still a good thing to do in the long run. Familiarize yourself with the course catalog now, and calculate how many classes you absolutely need to take to graduate with your major. I recommend that you try to get as many of these covered as possible early on, so you’re not stressing about graduation when all of your classmates have already checked out.
Draft a schedule for next year. If there are conflicts, or you have options between two classes at the same time, make multiple drafts. This will let you weigh your options, as well as prepare you for the inevitable of not getting into one class or another. If you can’t make it work with three classes you need, make it work with two and then add another one for fun – this is a liberal arts college, after all.
I’m not sure I can help you understand just what a “dimensions of diversity” class is, as I don’t particularly understand it myself. I think it means that the professor will mention another country at some point, but I think they might be flexible about that guideline.