It’s November. Sweater weather has finally come to Collegeville. The leaves are falling faster. The sun is setting earlier. The squirrels are getting more aggressive. ‘Tis the season, folks. But don’t let the autumnal beauty distract you from what really matters right now: academics. November is when the English majors drown in es- says. It’s when the Psychology students panic over their lack of research participants. It’s when first-year students begin to discover what college work is really like, and when the seniors begin to forget about it.
I am at my most vulnerable in November because of one of its most daunting aspects: now is the time for class registration.
Everyone hates class registration. So many of my classmates and colleagues have horror stories about it. Sure, it’s exciting, but it kills you. You get 30 minutes with your advisor to decide what the com- ing 4-5 months of your adult life will consist of. You make sacrifices. You might find out through your advisor that the only slot left for that one mandatory class you need to take as soon as possible is at 8:00 a.m. every day of the week except Wednesday, and you need to drop your favorite club so you can get enough sleep. Even if you’re ultra-prepared and your advisor helped you to get your whole four years planned out, something will change, and boy, it will mess you up.
Let’s talk about this even more broadly, though. Consider this: what if you have to register without your advisor? It won’t be news to Ursinus students that some advisors are better than others, and yet our advisors are the main people through whom we are able to efficiently and productively plan out our classes. My advisor is the only person on campus who has helped me understand this confusing system. Sure you could find online: what classes are required for your major, what core requirements even are, what different types of class credits there are, how to pursue a double major, how and why in the hell the Teaching Certification professional track differs from a minor and how a professional track factors into your current course of study. But it is much easier to go through all of that with a living, breathing human being walking you through it.
The issue is this: the system should not be this painstakingly distressing. Since changing the system takes time, the least that we can ask for is something to dampen the shock. I’m talking more info sessions available to students of all four years and easily accessible, outlined paper guides for majors explaining what courses are needed and how to get them. The one major & minor expo per academic year is not enough. The brochures given during the expos should be equally and readily accessible for all majors at all times, and these resources should be provided to incoming students, even when they’re still in high school.
On a positive note, at least for me, my knowledge of the ins-and-outs of college academics and a bunch of other institutional technicalities has expand- ed quite wildly; I know how to do payroll paperwork, adjust my meal plan for Wismer, arrange club meetings and events using the online Event Managing System service, and even how to wash my own laundry, which is something I’ve heard that not many college-age guys know how to do. The task of choosing what classes, when, why, and what for brings me so much stress that it’s likely shortened my total lifespan by a solid month.
Yes, I pranced carefree into my freshman year with a remarkably firm allegiance to the task of becoming an English major. One year later, all is said and done. Now, as a flourish- ing sophomore-and-a-half, I can reflect on my experience in getting to where I am and how I got here.
Some may dread the chaos of November, but frankly, in my eyes, there’s some beauty in the mess. November brings out the best and the worst within you, and it’s made visible to everybody else. We speak unspoken prayers of strength for the scholarly martyrs who study in the library until it closes at 2am. Profound wishes of luck and success are made through simple smiles of encouragement and assurant nods of the head.
Of course, to speak of the pleasant qualities is not to ignore the rough ones. November is trying, taxing, and unforgiving: it pushes you. Not all who choose to walk the path are always ready to brave it. People disappear. Friends come and go. We all notice the emptied desks and the vacated singles. So when we can’t offer direct help to someone who needs it, the least we can do is offer guidance and direction.