Tension runs high on registration day at each of the five Colonial Inauguration sessions, where newly minted freshmen frantically punch keys and repeat course registration numbers in their heads in an effort to secure their ideal first semester schedules.
Paul Duff, interim associate dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, helps train the 55 to 60 freshman faculty advisers in CCAS. He said registration is “a big shock for freshmen because they are basically told what to take in high school.”
“I think freshmen should first of all relax and remember that they have four years to take what they want to take,” Duff said.
CCAS will receive more freshmen than any school this fall with an incoming class of 1,535. Duff advised freshmen to “take courses that look interesting and challenging.”
He said there is “a lot of frustration” on registration day.
“Some students are absolutely baffled as to how they could ever put together a schedule that works,” Duff said.
The other four schools also have faculty advisers that assist students with registration during CI.
Freshmen are offered last pick of classes after upperclass registration in the spring. However, some slots in many classes are reserved to allow for freshman registration during each of the CI sessions.
Sweat and tears: what to expect on registration day
Sophomore Katherine Aberlin said her experience registering for classes at CI was “horrible.”
“It is true, people cry,” Aberlin said. “I got none of my first choices and only one of my second choices, and then I sat there for two hours trying to find classes and ended up signing up for things that I didn’t want to take with a passion. It was so annoying and overwhelming.”
Although Aberlin’s original schedule was unfavorable, she ended up registering for most of the classes she wanted. She said she altered her schedule six or seven times before the end of the summer.
Sophomore Arden Anlian had similar difficulties during registration at CI.
“They don’t emphasize enough that when CI is over, you can change your schedule,” Anlian said. “Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have started crying at CI because by the time classes started, I had everything I wanted.”
Open registration, where any student can sign up for a class, begins after the last CI session.
Students are also encouraged to sign in to full classes or attend the first day of class and ask the professor if more students can be added to the roster.
Jessica DiPietro, an academic advisor in the School of Business, said students are concerned about getting the class times they want.
“For the most part students get their top choices, but they may have to take the class at a different time of day than they would like,” DiPietro said.
Duff also warned that students should expect to register for early classes. Incoming students can also expect to see a few Friday classes, as University officials begin scheduling more sections to a day that has traditionally signaled the start of the weekend.
“They’re freshman,” Duff said,
“they’re going to have to take 8 a.m. classes.”
Making the best out of curriculum requirements
All schools but the School of Engineering and Applied Science have curriculum requirements that students must fulfill in a variety of academic areas.
The curriculum requirements in some schools vary. CCAS requires students to take courses in seven fields: literacy, quantitative and logical reasoning, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, creative and performing arts, and foreign language or culture.
The School of Business has different requirements in English, math and science for each of its majors. Jim Fry, academic advising director of the Elliott School of International Affairs, described its requirements as “typical liberal arts distributions.” The School of Public Health and Human Services has similar requirements to CCAS.
Duff, a CCAS dean, advises freshmen to finish their curriculum requirements by junior year.
“Students should get most GCRs done in their first couple of years because they will probably want to concentrate on their major,” Duff said.
Many students opt to fulfill requirements with courses they anticipate to be easy. There are several courses, however, that may seem easier than they are.
One such course is astronomy, which many students take to fulfill a lab science requirement.
“It’s not learning about the stars,” Aberlin said. “It is about physics. If you’re good at physics, then take it. Otherwise stay away. Don’t think, ‘Oh, we’re going to learn about stars and constellations and it will be so much fun.'”
Shah, a sophomore, recommended that students fulfill their fine arts requirement when they have a difficult course load, probably during junior or senior year. An art class may help ease the pressure of more academically demanding classes.
Creative writing courses are popular choices for the fine arts GCR for the less artistically inclined, or those who don’t want to spend the money on art supplies.
There are many classes that fulfill the social sciences GCR. Popular courses include introductory psychology, political science and economics.
Economics professor Anthony Yezer said his microeconomics class is comprised mainly of freshmen, and he rated the difficulty of his course as “fairly high” but said his is a “standard” economics course.
“This is a course in which your opinion does not matter at all,” Yezer said. “I am going to teach them how to solve problems.”
Finding your way in an intro class
Large introductory classes are practically unavoidable for freshmen. These nearly 300-person classes are often departmental prerequisites students must take.
“The intro classes are all big, and you have to take them,” Farzinfarid, a junior, said. “Freshman year, your only small classes are probably going to be your English and your foreign language.”
The large introductory lectures are divided into smaller discussion sections taught by teaching assistants. Discussion sessions meet once a week.
Farzinfarid said the teacher’s assistants in introductory classes determine the classroom experience.
“You can learn everything from your TA,” Farzinfarid said.
Attendance in the large lecture courses can be lower than smaller classes, but Farzinfarid said attendance depends on how engaging the professor is. She said attendance has been “pretty good” in the introductory classes she has taken.
A ‘major’ decision
Many students come to GW undecided on their major or end up changing the major they originally intended to pursue.
Duff, of CCAS, advises students to “ease into” their major and approach it “cautiously.”
“I think a lot of students come here and think they’re going to do political science and then do something completely different like English or philosophy,” Duff said.
He said freshmen can make the mistake of concentrating on one area of study and encouraged students to take a variety of classes.
Farzinfarid has changed her major several times throughout the year before deciding on international affairs.
“I’m glad I took so many different things last year because I found out that I didn’t like some of the things that I thought I would, and I really liked some other things,” Farzinfarid said.
Sizing up professors
When choosing classes, students often rely on the advice of their friends to determine which professors are best.
Incoming freshmen, however, do not have that advantage. Many students use an online database, ratemyprofessors.com, to help them choose professors. This Web site includes online student submissions of ratings and comments about professors and courses.
For instance, a profile about Yezer, an economics professor, gives him a score of 2.6 out of a maximum of five. While some students described Yezer’s teaching style as “horrible,” others called him a “great professor.” One response said, “He makes fun of people for asking stupid questions (which DO exist). He is absolutely hysterical to watch, and as long as you can follow along with him, you will learn a lot and enjoy doing the work.”
Shah described the site as the “best idea ever made.”
“The professor makes or breaks a class, and (the site) warns you about the ones you should watch out for,” Shah said.
Duff, however, said he thinks the site can be misleading.
“I don’t know how helpful it is,” Duff said. “The only people who are going to say anything are the people who are absolutely in love with the professor or angry with them. You’re not going to get a balanced review.”
Unique electives and programs
Students sometimes opt to include less academically traditional classes in their schedule.
Each semester, hundreds of students sign up for one-credit exercise activity courses. The exercise activities department offers a variety of classes ranging from yoga and hip-hop conditioning to Japanese swordsmanship and massage.
Professor Aubre Jones teaches a racquetball course and encourages students to take exercise activities classes to stay in shape.
“So many students come to GW and study all the time,” Jones said. “You can leave GW and know a lot, but not being physically fit is going to take years off your life.”
There are also several unique academic programs for freshmen that will be housed on the Mount Vernon Campus this fall.
The Women’s Leadership Program, which gives 82 freshman females the opportunity to learn leadership skills, will begin its seventh year on the Mount Vernon Campus.
One-third, or about 60, of the freshman honors students will be living on Mount Vernon and taking at least two honors classes on the campus.
One new program, Dean’s Global Scholars, will also be at Mount Vernon. In this two-year program, the 20 participating freshmen will concentrate on global issues and will travel to Chile as part of their curriculum.