August 13, 2015

From Course Request to Schedule: A Magical Journey

Dean Frosh always hears the strains of the Schoolhouse Rock music when she contemplates how schedules are created. Just like Schoolhouse Rock's guide to how a bill becomes a law, your schedule is created in a multi-step, intricate dance of information, ideas and realities. While you're waiting patiently for the schedule reveal on August 20, we thought we'd take you on the journey of how your early academic ideas become a schedule. 

We happily, and noisily, welcomed many of you to an Academic Planning & Advising Day, where you spent a long day hearing about your requirements and course options and met with deans, professors and peer advisers. You completed a course request form: making some choices for your classes and providing us with information about your academic plans and aspirations. 

Some of you entertained us with pictures or notes of inspiration to make us smile when we were reviewing thousands of forms. Here are some of our favs...

We added your writing and math placements to the mix and made some adjustments. Then, AP scores arrive and we make more adjustments. We do it again when IB results and transcripts with college credits appear on our doorstep.

All of your reviewed choices and alternates get entered into a web-based system (some of you even did this yourself instead of using a paper form). This sectioning system runs ONCE, and only once. While we're adjusting course requests, the Housing Office is spending their summer making room assignments. These two processes intersect in late July, so your course requests connect with your campus housing assignments. That doesn't mean you won't travel to other campuses, but it attempts to minimize your time on the bus. 

Throughout May and June and in early July, we're also busy with your emails because you've changed your mind or are responding to questions we had for you. "Why are you interested in taking Calculus when your intended major doesn't require it?" is one of my favorite emails to send, fancying rescuing a student from my own fate taking Calculus as an English and Journalism major. 

The other largely invisible detail is that many, many Rutgers offices send us lists of those of you taking advantage of our special programs which impact your schedule: DRC, the RU-TV Broadcast Communication community and other learning communities, student athletes, ROTC cadets/midshipmen, etc. We also work hard to accommodate religious observances that impact course timing.

And then SECTIONING RUNS. Dean Frosh likes to envision it as a humongous lottery hopper where all the classes spin wildly in the air before setting into your schedule. This year, sectioning created 6086 schedules, 3437 for SAS students. And then we're done and can go on vacation for the rest of the summer, right? Well, not exactly. 

Much like the bill goes from sub-committee to committee to the Senate to the House, the schedules are real, but they're not done. All 3437 are reviewed for issues. By human eyes. Some come back part-time and need courses added, some are at waaay too many credits and need something dropped, and some include errors like Saturday or online classes. We also continue to make adjustments based on more APs and transcripts, summer courses, and cancelled classes. It all starts to look something like this:

All of these changes, tweaks, reviews happen up until the moment of schedule reveal on August 20 – and even after that we continue to adjust for APs and transcripts and time/travel conflicts. Plus, incredibly, new students are still completing their course requests, so we take a break from updating schedules to create their schedules. Sheer volume is one of the reasons we don't take change requests for classes in August. We just can't efficiently manage one-by-one requests for changes in any fair manner that would serve you all and get all of the tasks done correctly.

The other, and more important, reason is that as new students, you need to learn how to use webreg and how to manage your own preferences! Come November, you'll be doing all of your own registering online. So, on August 20, you will receive a good, but probably not perfect, schedule to get you started. And once you get to campus, we will be running sessions on Monday, August 31 to teach you how to make changes and use webreg. Look for dates/times on your Welcome Week orientation schedule and at the SAS Advising website.

We hope this little journey through the life of a schedule helps you understand the process involved in creating your schedule. Your deans and advisers are excited to welcome you to Rutgers and look forward to working with you, helping you, and answering all of your academic questions as you settle in to your life in college. And just remember...