By staff writer E.E. Southerby
Volume 43 – August 3, 2003
Now Playing: “Walk On By” by Cake
The school year is just around the corner. I can tell, because I've been getting a lot of ‘Back 2 School' flyers in the mail. It seems like every year they come earlier and earlier. I hope there's an upper limit to this trend, because otherwise the day will come when you see an ad for binders and a staple remover (what kind of student buys a staple remover?) in mid-November. “Get them before they're gone!” Anyway, here's what happened:
-Lesbians. Ok, now that I have your attention, I'll introduce the topic of this week's column: How to register for classes. If you are a college student, or if you know any college students, or if you've just dropped acid and now you THINK you're a college student, this article will be a great help to you. You may want to get some acid anyway, though, because it'll help you get through the registration process with a shred of sanity, and also it'll make this column a whole lot funnier.
-First some history: Many years ago, when Jesus went to college, registration was done very differently than it is today. All the students would line up with their registration papers, and the ones who were Jewish were ushered onto a train. No, wait, that was 1939. Sorry about that. What really happened was that whoever got in line first got all the classes he or she wanted, while the person at the back of the line didn't get into any classes at all and had to drop out of school and become a drifter. This led to students camping out outside the registration tables for months on end, kind of like lining up to see Star Wars, and in both cases you were equally likely to get poked by a nerd with a plastic light saber.
-This brings me back to the topic of this week's column: Lesbians. Whoops, I meant: How to register for classes. These days, registration is done either on the “internet” or by “telephone”. This has many advantages to the old method. For one, instead of spending hours waiting in line to get your class schedule, you can now spend hours listening to a busy signal and hitting redial, or re-reading the same 404 error with the other 20,000 people who are all trying to register at the same time as you.
-Before you can even THINK of registering for your classes (ha ha!), you need to create a timetable. This can be done using a combination of school literature, including the university calendar or catalog, the undergraduate registration guide, and a map of northern Ecuador. Creating a timetable is done in three (3) steps, which I have listed along with the estimated time required to complete each one: 1) Choose the courses you want to take (5 minutes). 2) Arrange them in such a way that no course takes place at the same time as another one of your courses (100 hours). 3) Go online only to find out that each and every one of your chosen courses has been cancelled or moved to a timeslot that conflicts with another one of your courses. Lie in the fetal position while sucking your thumb for a week. (one week).
-Even though you'll find that choosing your classes is a much easier task than getting into them, it's still not as simple as it sounds. The reason for this boils down to one word: Prerequisites. You see, before you're allowed entrance into, say, a third-year physics class, you have to have already taken a class in mathematics, chemistry, and sometimes interpretive dance. Of course, each of these classes have prerequisites of their own, so by the time you're eligible for the physics class of your dreams, you've already earned a Ph.D. in Art History.
-Quote of the Moment: One of my friends, over instant messenger: “I've been trying to register for two days now, and every time I get through it tells me the “server is busy – try again later”. What do I do?” I suggest you follow their advice: Keep trying while the classes you need fill up and your blood pressure rises. Then look into the exciting field of ‘drifting'.
-At some point, through a computer error that somebody will no doubt be fired for, you will be allowed access to the registration systems. This is when you find out that all the classes in which you absolutely have to be registered in order to graduate are completely full and you must get on a waiting list. Do not be tricked into thinking this is your ordinary waiting list, like at a restaurant. At least at a restaurant you'll eventually be led to a table, once all the celebrities and attractive people who got there after you are through with their meals. No, the registration waiting list is the list of people who made it into the registration system, but were too late to do anything with it. It's like the consolation prize of a really shitty game show. “Well, thanks for coming out, we have some great parting gifts for you… Like a toaster, or chlamydia.”
-There may also be courses available to you that are not yet full. These are usually the classes that require the permission of the instructor in order to register. Who the hell does this professor think he is? The Gate Keeper? Usually it's some neo-nazi professor who's been around since the Taft administration and doesn't like the idea of kids he doesn't know personally registering in his class. Do not be discouraged by a class that requires permission of the instructor. Obtaining said permission is a relatively simple and pain-free process, provided you can decode the prof's 128-bit encrypted top-secret email address in under 30 seconds, answer a series of Dungeon Master-style questions (each more baffling than the last), and then get past the Chimaera.
-Sometimes all of these factors combine to make a sort of hydrogen bomb of registration irony. True story: One of my friends needed desperately to register in a certain class. Unfortunately, the class had already filled up and he was to be put on the Waiting List of Agony. So he called up the school and asked them what he could do, since it was absolutely essential that he be registered in this particular course. He was told “Just get permission of the instructor and he'll take you off the waiting list. It's really simple.” An added hassle, no doubt, but fair enough. So my friend asked for the name of the professor of this particular class, to which the school responded (really): “We don't know.”
-Perhaps you might think that, because you're paying the school thousands upon thousands of dollars in tuition, books, housing and alcohol, that they would be more receptive towards allowing you to actually register and attend their university. Perhaps you might believe that, with a little persistence, you'll be able to access the online registration system and there will still be space left in the classes you need, and everything will work out alright in the end. Perhaps you might be an idiot.