Better late than never, right?
Should students who come to later orientation sessions be penalized for doing so? At SJSU seats in classes are not put aside for each orientation session. [While I’m sure there are many factors that have gone into the creation of this policy, I think that one of the reasons SJSU can do this is because the majority of SJSU students are from the Bay Area and traveling to orientation is not a huge monetary or logistical problem for them. At schools with a much larger out-of-state population I’m sure that this policy would be met with a lot more criticism.] This means that students who register in later sessions have fewer and fewer options to choose from. Having successfully advised hundreds of students during registration I can safely say that it took a lot more preparation and resourcefulness to get students in the last orientations into classes that they needed and were prepared to take.
One of the biggest problems I ran into at SJSU was adhering to Executive Order 665. This order requires that all future Cal State students take entry level math (ELM) and English placement tests (EPT) before entering the university. SJSU admits a large number of students who are considered remedial based on their test results and these students are therefore required to take specific courses to take care of their remediation. Not only are these students required to take specific English and math courses, but they are also limited in the number of other courses they can take. For example, a remedial math student can’t take courses such as chemistry, economics, or life science. While this makes complete sense, it creates a number of limitations when it comes to registration. At the end of each orientation session every student had a full schedule of classes, but some were wait-listed for classes they technically HAD TO take in the fall and many had to settle for their third, fourth or fifth choice when it came to General Education (GE) courses.
One of the ways that we tried to prepare for the later sessions was to pull numbers of available seats for heavily required and recommended courses. This was a tedious process, particularly collating the data, but advisors seemed to appreciate the information. Some read off open sections to their students, some printed off copies for their students, some used the info sparingly, but at least they knew the extent of class availability before they headed into the registration lab. Another step that we took to try and help students out was to spend extra time showing them how to do a general search for open sections of classes vs. simply imputing class code numbers. This was not always the easiest process to try and explain, particularly when students were already chopping at the bit to get the labs, but for those who listened it was a valuable tool to have.
One of the question I’m left with when it comes to advising orientation students is whether or not advisors should amend their presentation based on current class status or continue to give the same presentation throughout the season. For example, at the beginning of the summer the Fall registration guidebook that we gave out was rather helpful. All of the sections for all of the classes had available spots and students could be confident that except for some small changes, the schedules they built the night before registering could be theirs the next day. In the beginning registering was simple, class codes could be used to pinpoint a specific course, specific section, specific time and date. Because all courses were available it was imperative that students understood which courses would count for multiple GE units, which courses were preferred by certain majors, etc. However, as more and more students registered for classes, more and more sections closed and the registration guidebook became rather archaic in nature. Asking students to create schedules and explaining course codes seemed unnecessary because no matter how many schedules they created, they were going to have to rework them entirely the next day in the lab. And once the courses that accounted for multiple GE’s were gone, advertising them seemed a bit futile as well. With this being said, I hesitate to say that I would change my presentation very much from the first to the last session. My main reason for saying this is because everyone needs to receive the same information so that they can be on par with one another when the next series of registration occurs. If an advisor chooses not to mention the multiple counting GEs simply because they are all gone, then students at later sessions can’t even plan on taking them in the spring or during their sophomore year. If students do not learn how to register using class codes that pinpoint their classes, they will have a much harder time registering once they become upperclassman. And learning to create schedules is one of the challenges and joys of being in college: “I get to pick what time I have math each day!”. In other words, I believe that while the circumstances in the labs may be changing, advisors must walk a fine line between amending their presentation to account for the changes and still providing all students with an equal and fair advising session, even if they don’t have equal access to classes.