Many students express frustration with the registration process at Cal Poly, but few know the method and structure behind it. Students become concerned with graduating on time due to availability of classes — especially general education (GE) classes — and how priorities are being used as well as pressure from the University mandate passed last year regarding students graduating in four years.
In addition to these topics students are also concerned with the possibility of certain classes not being offered, but administration tells why.
Problems with registration from a student’s point of view:
“The GE’s are (the most) difficult to get into because they are more impacted, which makes filling out schedules difficult,” English senior Alyssa Beltran said. “Registration for (my) core English classes are really easy because they close it off to only English majors.”
Other students said it is nearly impossible to enroll in classes they want at desirable times, but most do not know why. Aerospace engineering senior Charles Williams said he feels the reason registration is so difficult is due to class accommodations.
“We don’t have enough classrooms or teachers that the school needs with a student body of this size,” Williams said.
There is a mixture of opinions on campus about major courses and whether or not they are easy to get into, but many students agree that GE’s and electives seem to pose problems across the board.
“GE’s are definitely going to be more difficult because every student has to take about the same classes,” Office of the Registrar administration analyst Brad Fely said.
The registration process:
Many students complain about registration, but they do not know the logistics to how registration works and why it is the way it is.
Students tend to place a lot of the blame on the registration office, but it turns out, they may not be the ones to blame.
“We are the means for getting the information to students but the decisions about what classes, professors and times are going to be offered, are decided by individual departments,” Fely said.
Food science and nutrition department head Louise Berner said her department uses historic demand to decide which classes are offered.
“We take into account number of majors needing major courses, resources and instructors available to teach,” Berner said.
As far as deciding which professors teach which classes, Berner said the department works together.
“Faculty prioritizes course interests and we get together and make compromises to decide who teaches what,” she said.
Berner said sometimes it is obvious which professors teach each course based on their experience and specialty areas. However, this can pose a problem with students obtaining courses since there is limited space and time for classes. If a professor is unavailable to teach a class, it may no longer be offered.
The times classes are scheduled is an ongoing problem among faculty and students.
“We try to take into account preferences, but there are only so many hours in a day and so many rooms available,” Berner said. They do what they can, but professors usually end up instructing at less than preferred times, she said.
Even after all of this planning and scheduling, Berner said faculty still tries to do all they can for students.
“We add labs or larger sections when necessary; we send out regular e-mails regarding advising or course changes; we give students priority in major courses and we alert students of any scheduling conflicts they may have,” Berner said.
Although the nutrition department attempts to accommodate students, they can’t control the other courses students need outside of their majors, Berner said.
After each department finalizes its schedules, the registration and scheduling offices get a list from each academic department with this information and format them online. Even though it is in charge of posting the registration rotation schedule, the registration office did not come up with this process, Fely said.
“The college of science and mathematics created this rotation system back in the 90s,” he said. “This is the rotation format that they felt would work best for this university.”
Fely said the registration departments do their best to make predictions about what classes students will need in the future.
“We are constantly looking forward, but we need to look in the rear-view mirror a little bit too,” Fely said. “We hope in the future to not have to rely on the past.”
Students not only have issues when they register during their normal rotation schedule, but some students said they encountered problems even when using a priority. Each student is given three priorities (times that allow registration before normal rotations start) to use during their college career.
Biological sciences senior Misty Moyle said she unintentionally used a priority for no reason.
“Last quarter I used a priority to get a specific physics professor, and when I came to class on the first day, they had changed the professor without notification,” Moyle said.
Priority registration seems to be a growing problem. Many students who feel they have a “good” rotation, end up not getting their desired classes because too many people are using priorities.
Fely said priorities are not used appropriately.
“Priorities were intended for graduating seniors who are struggling to get those last few classes,” Fely said. “I think that many students are using their priorities a little too early.”
He said he encounters students who use priorities too soon and come in their last quarter begging for admission into a class, but the records office never gives extra priorities.
Despite the difficulties students have with registration, the academic departments and registration offices are constantly trying to improve the process.
In an attempt to better registration for students, many freshmen have their classes picked for them by their departments in order to ensure they graduate on time — a process called “block scheduling.”
Bioresource and agricultural engineering freshman Gian Ghiglieri said he hasn’t registered for himself yet.
“My major gave me my schedule for the first quarter,” Ghiglieri said. “I had a mixture of GE’s and major classes, and I had nice breaks throughout my day too.”
Forestry and natural resources freshman Preston Way said his schedule was not hand picked, but the university set him up with block scheduling.
“I am used to block scheduling from high school, and I have always liked it,” Way said. “It is nice having the consistency.”
Way also said he had priority registration as an incoming freshmen and first priority for winter quarter as well, so registration has not been a problem, yet.
Even though some freshmen prefer block scheduling, staff such as College of Liberal Arts academic adviser Wendy Spradlin, see problems with it.
Block scheduling was installed to aid in the mandate which was passed last year and stated that students need to graduate in four years.
“Personally I don’t think (block scheduling) is good, especially for the College of Liberal Arts, because our curriculum is supposed to allow students to have so much choice,” Spradlin said.
Spradlin said block scheduling just robs students of their ability to choose — like when students were put into calculus, a course she said they never would choose for themselves.
“I think it is great that we are encouraging students to graduate in four years, but my concern is how can we penalize them if they are unable to get 12 to 16 units each quarter?” Spradlin said.
She said if students are not able to enroll in the classes they need, they must be vocal to the department heads and administration.
“Each year we try to improve, but there is still a lot that needs to be done,”she said.
Spradlin said she keeps hoping for more improvements when it comes to registration.
“I did notice this quarter that it appears they are not letting students waitlist in classes once they hit 16 units which is nice,” she said. “It allows more opportunity for those who have later registration.”
Even though some may not consider block scheduling an improvement, it is part of the new changes being made to the registration process.
Staff members are not the only people seeing the changes made to registration. Kinesiology junior Kelli DeAngelis said despite the common hassles of registration, it seems departments are doing their best to help students.
“One time I was 12th on the wait list and they ended up opening up another section for that course,” she said.
According to faculty, staff and students, the registration process is far from perfect, but administration is trying to improve the process. Although, it will never be possible to satisfy every student, every time, some tips from faculty, staff and students for registration are as follows:
● “Students need to make sure they aren’t being picky about times of classes,” Spradlin said. “If there is a class available, take it.”
● “Make sure you aren’t using your priorities too early” Fely said. “They are meant for graduating seniors, who need those last few courses.”
● “Don’t use a priority to get a specific professor, because you never know if they might have to change the professor last minute,” Moyle said.
● “Don’t be afraid to waitlist classes, because you never know if they will open up another class,” DeAngelis said.
● “Make sure you create several schedule options on PASS before you register, so that if certain classes are full, you have more choices,” graphic communications senior Stephanie Coffaney said.