February 2, 2004

Students Settle Into Their Schedules

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It’s the second week of school — do you know where your classes are? For many Cornellians, the answer seems to be: pretty much.

“I think I finally do [have my schedule set],” said Blake Sanborn ’04, who dropped a class Friday.

According to David Yeh, associate vice president and university registrar, most Cornell students will not waver too far from the schedules they picked last semester during CourseEnroll.

“About 85 percent of students who pre-enroll actually receive the courses they requested,” Yeh said.

Most students add courses to their schedules within the first three weeks, according to Yeh, after which new courses must be petitioned. He said that many students who add courses after the semester has started do so to fulfill graduation requirements.

Yeh added that many more students switch sections than entire classes in the first weeks of the semester. Katie Fuhrman ’06, who finalized her schedule last Thursday, said that sections can be problematic in planning out a section.

“I usually don’t get my first section pick, but then I switch it to a section I want,” Fuhrman said, noting that better sections open up in the first days of the semester as students shuffle their schedules.

Sanborn said that he has had to drop courses in the past because of sections that didn’t fit his schedule.

Yeh said that most students add or drop courses in the first two days of classes, noting also that there was a large spike in online adding and dropping on Feb 22, when students were allowed to make changes to the courses they had pre-enrolled in. Yeh said that there have been a few hundred course changes already, and he estimated a few thousand by the end of the add/drop period.

Yeh also said that spring semester is prone to fewer mid-semester course changes than fall semester. He explained that many students are in sequence classes in which the spring semester is a continuation of classes they already completed in previous semester. Other students, especially upperclassmen, use spring semester to take classes required for graduation.

“I know there’s a lot of shopping going on,” said Dr. James B. Maas Ph.D. ’66, psychology, who has taught at Cornell for over 40 years. “I can’t remember when there wasn’t course shopping.”

Maas sympathized with the difficulty some students have in creating a schedule. “There seems to be a proliferation of classes offered at the same time,” he said. “I think that has complicated things a bit.”

Hannah Stearns ’07 agreed, that course offerings restrict course shopping. “My schedule is usually pretty tight, so there are only so many options in adding and dropping,” she said.

Cornell does not have an official shopping period, during which students visit courses before registering for them. Yeh said that this method of picking courses would not work at Cornell.

“It’s not very desirable in a large institution, because we are trying to get classes as stable as possible,” Yeh said. “There are lots of issues.”

He said that many students at Cornell are “very directed and focused in [terms of] which courses they need to take or want to take.” He added that some colleges have required courses, which further complicates the shopping processes.

Stearns, who said she is very cognizant of her graduation requirements when she decides her schedule, said she does not feel that an official shopping period would be beneficial.

“I don’t even think that would work,” she said. “There’d be so many people in each class the first week or so.”

Fuhrman agreed, saying that although she likes the idea, too many people would be in each class. She also noted an advantage in pre-enrolling as opposed to formally shopping: “You don’t have to worry about not getting in [to classes you’ve attended].”

Students have different ways of juggling their schedules. Stearns switched from one language class to another last Monday, but said that she has never otherwise switched courses or sections. Fuhrman said that she prefers pre-enrolling for more courses than she expects to take and then drop those she doesn’t like, explaining that this method lets her not fall behind in her work. Sanborn takes a different approach and tries to take only those courses he expects to eventually complete.

“It puts more stress on your life if you take 25 credits and then narrow it down,” he said.

Whatever the method, Maas agrees that students need some way of adjusting their schedules once the semester has started. Students who are not satisfied with a particular course “should have the flexibility to go somewhere else,” he said. “I think there’s all sorts of healthy reasons to shop.”

Archived article by Yuval Shavit