Course Request opened this week, which means that most students are spending hours deliberating over their ideal schedule for next semester before finally hitting “submit.” Unfortunately, these hours of deliberation don’t result in immediate answers. For the following weeks, students wait as the registrar office’s computerized scheduling program works to determine who, out of 35,000 students, gets which course and who must try again the following semester. During the week of Course Request, students might feel as if they have control over their futures; however, those feelings quickly subside once we hand over the responsibility to the school, rendering our futures no longer ours to ensure.
This process is equally stressful for completely undecided students and students who have everything mapped out. Many undecided freshmen plan to decide their major by selecting an assortment of classes that interest them and then pursuing whichever subject most inspires them; with so many classes available, it’s overwhelming to choose only five to seven, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the classes not chosen could have been the key to illuminating your future path.
On the other hand, some students know exactly what they want to study and have all four years’ worth of courses planned out to a tee; they lay out each class they’ll need to take every semester in order to complete their major requirements and graduate on time. In fact, incoming freshmen are encouraged to do this during required “First Year Experience” courses. This perfectly planned bubble is burst, though, when freshmen receive their Course Request results and find that their plan has been disrupted by too-full classes.
So, for the vast majority of students, the anxiety and uncertainty of both the decision making and the waiting period is extremely taxing; however, while the school could take measures to generally improve the process, there are many things students can do to make it easier on themselves — starting with a mindset switch.
For the undecided student: You are bound to discover what you are passionate about somehow. It’s smart to explore what’s out there, but it’s impossible to take every class that the school offers. Thoroughly read the course descriptions and go with your gut; your instinct is what you’ll have to rely on when you choose your major, so it’ll be good practice.
For the four-year-plan student: it’s normal to despair when your plans are jumbled by forces outside of your control. Take comfort in the possibility that your desired class being unavailable to you could lead to a new class that results in a new passion. I like to think that college is more about exploration than rigidity; you could have many unborn interests that lie outside of your four-year plan.
Once you’re feeling better about this stressful process in general, you can think about steps you can take to increase your chances of getting your desired classes.
“The best advice I have for students who feel the stress of Course Request is to remember that unlike (the week of) Add/Drop, it’s not important that you complete your Course Request the very first day,” said Christina Minford, professional academic advisor at Virginia Tech. “Whether you fill it in the first day or the last day, you will be equally likely to get the classes.”
Furthermore, nothing is set in stone until the add/drop week is over. During this week, the website Course Pickle becomes every student’s best friend. If a student is not granted a spot in a class and that class is full during add/drop week, they can enter the course request number (CRN) and be notified if a spot opens up.
Many students want to take certain courses; however, suspecting it’ll be hard to get a spot they omit them from their Course Request list entirely. But Course Request helps departments determine how much demand there is for a class; if a department has to turn away a significant number of students for one course, they might decide to open up more sections for that course, and you could get a spot.
For students balancing work and school, Course Request can feel like a puzzle that’s impossible to solve, but there are tools that can help to seamlessly integrate courses into busy schedules.
Course Request can be a frustrating and painful process for everyone, but especially for students who don’t take advantage of the help and alternative options available.
“You can find certain websites like PScheduler to show you possible options for how your classes could be arranged in terms of your schedule preference,” Minford said. “This can be especially helpful if you are also working while going to school.”
Students have advisors for a reason, and they possess a wealth of knowledge that can only be accessed by students who take the initiative.
“Remember that your academic advisors are there to help you with knowing which classes would be best to take next — you do not need to figure it out on your own,” Minford said.
Advisors are especially busy during Course Request, so they are more inclined to devote their time to students who think ahead.
“I can have as many as 12 advising appointments during a Course Request day,” Minford said. “I really love it when a proactive student will meet with me before Course Request even begins. I normally have a lot more energy and time to give to the student during a typical week versus a Course Request week.”
Ultimately, it is impossible for a school as large as Virginia Tech to accommodate each student and guarantee them their first choice schedules. However, if students are strategic in their approach toward Course Request, it is possible to attain the perfect schedule. The process can be tedious and is almost sure to test students’ patience, but as long as students remain diligent and utilize the school’s resources, it is most certainly conquerable.