Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Academic Advising and Registration

The mandatory meeting for first-year students (optional for upper-division students) to discuss our registration process for next year's classes was held last week.  Registration will start next week.  For first-year students, the process can create a great deal of stress because it is another "unknown" to them.

The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs explained the ins and outs of the curriculum requirements beyond the first-year required classes.  The Registrar explained the actual procedures for registration. 

And then the rumor mill started to make the process even more stressful.  The sources were sometimes upper-division students' comments but often just from imagination: 

  • Horror tales about registration for rising 2L students (computer freezes, no places in popular courses because rising 3Ls will take all the spots, long wait lists, etc.) while ignoring changes in the system and statistical realities. 
  • Rumors that students will fail if they get Professor X while swearing they will get an A with Professor Y - even though course statistics do not reflect these guarantees. 
  • Rumors playing up the fear factor of different professors' exams or teaching styles or course topics and ignore that different students learn and test better in different ways and have different backgrounds and interests. 
  • Moanings about the audacity of the law school's hiring of unknown visitors/new hires/adjuncts who cannot be easily pigeon-holed.

So what is the 1L student to do to survive registration and choosing the best class schedule?  Here are some tips that I give students when they consult with me:

  • Know the requirements for graduation: credit hours, normal course loads, required doctrinal courses, skills development courses, writing courses, certificate programs, dual degree programs.
  • Think ahead beyond the next semester to the full academic year and the next academic year - how will fall 2L courses impact spring 2L courses and how will 2L courses influence the 3L courses. 
  • Consider summer school credits (including study abroad) if the student plans to attend and know the policies that are involved.
  • Have alternate course choices in mind in case a class is closed out entirely or only waiting list spots are open at the time the student registers.
  • Take a balanced course schedule by considering paper versus exam courses, required versus elective courses, large versus seminar courses, difficult topics for the student versus topics that come more easily, hands-on skills courses versus traditional courses, courses that interest the student versus ones that have less appeal, law versus dual degree courses (if applicable), and other factors.
  • Watch out for prerequisites that are needed for later courses or clinics that the student wants to take.
  • Talk to professors about elective courses that sound interesting but are only briefly covered in the course descriptions to find out more about the courses.
  • Talk to professors in specialty areas in which the student may want to practice to get advice on courses that would be beneficial for background.
  • Consider courses that will give background for the bar exam but which may not be required courses for one's law degree. 
  • Talk to multiple students who have taken a course/professor in the past because variety of input will likely highlight pros and cons rather than one-sided feedback.
  • Look at the exam schedule to see what the grouping of exams will be like for particular combinations of courses (available at our school prior to registration).

With careful thought and planning, registration can be a less stressful experience for students.  Faculty, administrators, and others can provide guidance as students weigh the pros and cons of different course choices.  (Amy Jarmon) 

 

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