The Pie Chart Lies: The Frustrations of Building a Timetable

This coming Friday, I’ll finally begin registering for my courses for the upcoming school year. Considering that universities and colleges have been using online scheduling for quite some time, you would think that the whole process would be quick and painless. You would be wrong.

Now, I know this won’t apply to a lot of you, but I do know some second-year students who had their timetables set out for them like I did, so bear with me. At the very least I’m sure you can reminisce about your wonderful time making your first undergrad timetable.

I’m part of a Facebook group that acts as both a support and social hub for the coming year’s undergrad journalism class and, for the past two weeks, my new online peers have been posting comments about course selection. I pretty much disregarded most of these. “Building a timetable is going to be easy. Why wouldn’t it be?” I would tell myself as yet another first-year posted a question about the credit value of a particular class.

My assumptions about registration weren’t exactly unfounded. The university had sent me e-mail upon e-mail about registration. I definitely wasn’t going to be forgetting about it. As well, pamphlets about course selection for our programs were included in our acceptance packages, and the way the whole process was described to me made it sound like a walk in the park. “All you have to do is have one credit from Intro to Journalism and 4 other credits from whatever you want. Simple, right? Here’s a pie chart explaining everything.” Great. Huge help. Thanks.

My journey into course selection began with me armed with only that background knowledge. Soon I found myself facing page upon page of courses: some with time slots and teachers, some without; some worth 0.5 credits, some worth none. I even found different course types under the same course name. I had no clue what I was doing. I felt kind of silly after ignoring my peers posts for the past two weeks, but if I learned anything from my one semester in college it’s that you should never be afraid to ask for help.

Pretty soon I was building the ultimate timetable: just two days off first semester and only one extremely long break of 7 hours on the second. I was elated. I thought my timetable was awesome. But this elation was soon crushed by my friend going through the same process as me. “You might not get the courses you want,” she informed me. “Make multiple timetables just in case.” Gee, thanks.

Luckily, schools aren’t completely evil and do give you a great deal of flexibility with the courses you are taking. Multiple discussion groups are offered most of the time, so it’s not usually hard to find one that won’t conflict with your other classes. There are also a number of different time blocks for actual lectures if you don’t care which teacher you’ll be getting. If it is offered, use a timetable generator and fill in as many of the blocks as possible, so if one fills up on registration day you’ll immediately have another course/section to take its place.

Anyway, after starting this whole scheduling thing, I started getting really excited for the fall. Having all of this freedom with my timetable has allowed me to [attempt] to take a number of courses that won’t have me falling asleep. It should be an interesting year. So, like I said, I get to register on Friday. If you happen to remember, think of me at around 3:30. Send good vibes and I may get my ideal timetable *knocks on wood*

Find out if I get into the courses I want or if I somehow get stuck in PoliSci here: http://www.twitter.com/Phraserify

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