The course registration system should be more fair

| Staff Columnist

Last week, I, along with many other Washington University students, registered for classes for the fall semester. When I logged into WebSTAC Wednesday morning, I found that the section of Argumentation that I wanted to take was full. This of course created a total last-second rearranging of my schedule. While I have expected and prepared for this situation in previous years, as a junior with an early registration time, I expected very little competition.

And then I learned from a friend that he had in fact registered the day before. Apparently because he had transferred in a number of Advanced Placement credits and taken a lot of credits each semester, he qualified to register a day earlier than I did. For several reasons, I think this is a gross inequity, and the current system should be abandoned in favor of one that is fair to everyone.

The way the system is currently set up, students are given a day to register based on the number of credits they have completed in semesters past (including transfer credit). This allows those students who have accumulated many additional credits through transferring and AP credits, or have taken a heavier courseload for most semesters to register a day before many of their classmates. Students are then assigned a random registration time on their day in order to ensure that too many students are not registering at once and overtaxing the computer system.

At Wash. U., what classes one is able to register for can have a profound effect on one’s academic experience. Not getting into even one class can mean the total rearrangement of a schedule. A different registration day could even mean the difference between being able complete a second major or not. With the stakes potentially so high, it is quite important to consider how the University decides who gets to register when. It would seem the two options available to the University would be a merit-based system to decide registration dates, or one based solely on student level.

Right now the current merit-based system favors those students that have been able to amass a large number of credits. To me, this seems to be an illogical and unfair choice. One group that the system rewards is those students who have transferred in a lot of AP credits. This blatantly favors students who went to high schools that offered large numbers of AP courses. I know many high schools do not offer many APs due to a lack of resources or disillusionment with the AP system. It doesn’t seem at all fair for a student’s high school’s policies to affect their course choices in college. The system also seems to favor students who take a large number of credits per semester. This does not seem as quite as unfair as the AP issue, but in reality, the number of credits a student has taken says very little about them as a student. A strong student might take only 15 credits per semester of difficult classes while a weaker student might be able to manage 19 credits per semester of easier classes. If the University insists on a merit-based system for deciding registration days, perhaps one based on GPA might be a better option.

My proposal is that the University abandons the merit-based system altogether. I think all freshmen should register together, all sophomores together, and all juniors together. To me, this seems like the fairest system. It eliminates judgments about which students deserve the first crack at registration and although not all students will get into the classes they want, at least everything will be up to chance. I ask the administration to consider making this change in the interest of fairness for all students.

  • Rila

    I completely agree with you. I currently attend Brown, and although our system is not perfect, it works. All seniors register a day before juniors, and juniors register a day before sophomores, so that everyone can register together based on their class year. What are the caps on most classes like at Wash U? I will be coming for a graduate program in the fall and would really like to know.

  • Anonymous

    I could not disagree with you more. I’m currently a Junior who came in with 15 AP credits, takes an average of 18 credits a semester, and has taken summer classes. Last semester, I was at 89 credits. 90 is the cutoff to register with the Seniors. Even though I had as many or more credits than every other junior, I still had one of the last registration times. Given that students can only bring in 15 AP credits, it does not disadvantage those without a strong AP program in high school as much as it could. Engineers don’t have have a cap on the number of AP credits they can bring in. In addition, those who take more classes should have an earlier registration time. Like someone else said, those who take more classes in an effort to graduate early or complete multiple majors should be able to choose their classes. In addition, I feel that the time of your registration should be ranked by credits. If you are registering on the day for those with Junior standing, you should have an earlier time if you have many credits and a later time if you barely made the threshold for Junior standing. This same principle applies to all class levels. Just because you have been here 3 years, that doesn’t entitle you to the best registration time. I’m against using GPA because like you said, not all classes are equally difficult. This would also penalize some students with more difficult majors, or those who take more difficult classes.

  • Kiko

    Um, the system is not merit based, that would imply that a higher GPA would mean a better registration time. Also, what stops you from taking more classes per semester? Surely if the author realizes that more credits= better reg. time and if he feels so strongly about it, he could rectify the situation. And you can also take summer classes so…yeah

  • guest

    Actually, if you need any course to complete a major (first or second) you will be able to take it. You may be on a wait-list now for it, but just talk to your main advisor or professor advisor and they’ll get you in the course. you will not be prohibited from completing a major here just because you couldn’t get into the class right when the registration period opened.

  • Disgruntled hardworker

    I think the author misses the point of the current system. It’s not merit-based, it just helps people like me graduate early if they don’t want to spend an extra $40k for a senior year. I brought in AP credits and am taking a ton of credits to graduate early, so how do you propose helping me get my registration time when I’m technically a freshman but will graduate with the sophomores?