Incoming freshmen to register for classes before CI

Editor’s note: This article was originally published online, on March 23.

Remember being a pre-freshman sitting down at Colonial Inauguration for hours trying to select classes you knew little or nothing about?

Those days are over. This year, the University has made changes to the way the students in the class of 2010 will register for their first semester of classes.

The new system, named GW First Class, will replace the previous method of having incoming freshmen meet with CI staffers to develop a schedule and then register on computers for classes on the third day of CI. The new program is run through Blackboard, the University’s online academic portal, and will provide students an opportunity to register online from their homes before coming to CI, with the help of e-mail assistance from GW advisers.

The change is a result of student dissatisfaction with the current advising system, said Renee Clement, Student Activities Center assistant director for Colonial Inauguration.

“One of the biggest ‘complaints’ we get about CI is that it gives students an inaccurate perception of life as a student at GW – specifically, that we will ‘handhold’ them through these processes, when actually students have to pursue them with much more autonomy and independence,” Clement said in an e-mail this week.

Administrators worked with deans and assistant deans from across the University to develop the new system, which Fred Siegel, associate vice president and dean of freshmen, said will be an improvement.

“During my first CI (in 2003), I watched that third morning of CI and what it was like – I thought it was very stressful,” Siegel said. ” Kids are registering on four hours of sleep, their parents are hovering around, asking if they got their classes.”

“I could see it was a system that needed improvement,” Siegel added.

The new system will allow incoming freshmen to spend less time registering during CI and more time socializing, Siegel said.

In collaboration with administrators and advisers in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Siegel said the administration began discussing ways to address the registration and advising issues more than two years ago.

Last year the University began a 100-student pilot program similar to the program that will be fully implemented this summer. After students expressed greater satisfaction with the new program, administrators from the Columbian College began discussing ways to make the system University-wide for this CI.

“We learned from (the pilot program) that, with proper guidance, students could effectively register from home,” wrote Paul Duff, associate dean of CCAS for undergraduate studies, in an e-mail. “An assessment told us that students were satisfied with the distance advising and registration process.”

GW First Class allows students to connect with their adviser after being admitted but before registering. It provides an overview of curriculum opportunities and school requirements for each student and helps “evaluate courses, research faculty, and select a schedule best suited to the student’s specific needs,” Clement said.

After a face-to-face meeting with their advisers during CI to review their schedule, students will be able to go back and make changes any changes they wish after orientation’s conclusion.

Clement said because a student’s initial contact with their adviser is done through e-mail, there is some concern in the administration that the personal feeling of the advising process will be lost. She said the concerns are unfounded.

“I think it just allows people to get connected earlier, and then reinforce those connections during their academic advising experience at CI,” Clement said.

Another administration concern is the program’s potential to confuse incoming freshmen.

“Although we have some plans in place to support students as they complete the process, it is hard to predict all of the questions and problems that might arise the first time around,” Clement said.

CI this year will run from June to mid-July.

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