May 4, 2023

GUEST ROOM | Pre-Enrollment Pandemonium

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As the semester comes to a close, springtime means many different things for a Cornellian; magnolia blossoms, the first warm day on the slope, students lounging on the quad for the first time since fall, etc. Unfortunately, spring also brings about one of the most anxiety-filled mornings of the entire term: pre-enrollment for the following semester. In terms of anxiety, this year’s pre-enrollment has been no different.

There are seemingly limitless hurdles that the average Cornell student must jump over to even begin building a schedule on the morning of pre-enrollment, and in my circle alone it feels like I’ve heard it all: capped waitlists, unexpected prerequisite errors, access codes that were promised but never delivered. God only knows what other barriers to entry Cornell has let loose upon its student body. When Ezra said “Any Person, Any Study,” he left out the part that says, “until the class is deemed full.”

What’s more? This process is supposed to get easier as time goes on, but it just doesn’t. If the ever-feared row of red Xs in Student Center served as a right-of-passage into the Cornell academic community that students only had to navigate around preceding the fall of their freshman year, maybe this issue wouldn’t be such a big deal. But that is not the case. I am writing as an incoming junior who, during my fifth pre-enrollment session at Cornell, was accepted into one class. One out of seven.

I understand that our experience is not all that different from students across other universities. My problem with the whole fiasco is that our institution is not supposed to be like other institutions. I refuse to believe that our staff and faculty made up of the smartest individuals in the world can’t figure out how to organize pre-enrollment in a way that takes the stress off of the student body. You’re telling me that an undergraduate student was able to create an app that notifies individuals when a course they’ve chosen to track becomes available, but none of our world-renowned engineers and computer scientists can find a way to make those classes more widely available in the first place? There should have never been a need for apps like CourseGrab!

If the College of Arts & Sciences wants to uphold distribution requirements, fine. But there should be no surprise when PHYS 1201 and MATH 1300 fill with English and Government major seniors before sophomores even have a chance to try. And no one student should be made unable to access their desired educational path simply because too many other students have the same path in mind. Cornell cannot continue to accept 900 engineers per year and then cap Calculus for Engineers at half that amount of students.

Perhaps I am preaching to the choir, but it is time the stress students undergo just to enroll in classes — that will undoubtedly lead to further stress — is acknowledged. Can’t any part of our academic process be peaceful? When course plans A through Z all fail, what more is there for students to do besides start to wonder if the university they’ve chosen truly values their education?

So, Cornell staff, faculty, registrar, and anyone else with a hand in the game, next time you walk between McGraw Tower and Olin Library to take a whiff of the magnolias in April and think about how blissful our campus is this time of year, I urge you to remember the students sitting in those libraries, jumping through every hoop known to the academic world, fighting a system to enroll in classes that they are paying to attend. It is time for this stress to fall on someone besides current Cornellians.

Grace Elmore is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. Comments can be sent to [email protected]. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.