Orientation is a great opportunity for new college students — and their parents — to ask questions. One hot topic: course registration. How does it work? And can choosing the right classes help your student graduate on time?
Some students take five or more years to graduate, but that isn’t an option for everyone. Because my scholarships ended after four years, I needed to finish my degree on time. Thanks to careful planning, a willingness to take extra courses during breaks, and an excellent advisor, I graduated in four years with a double major and two minors.
At many schools, course registration for first-year students takes place during orientation. Here are some tips for helping your student start strong and stay on track.
If your student took AP classes/exams or courses for college credit during high school, or if she has community college or other transfer credits, encourage her to sit down with the registrar or her advisor as soon as possible to see if any of these count toward general education requirements or as prerequisites.
Orientation questions: Who should my student talk to about how previous credits will count on her transcript? Will those extra credits allow her to register early?
When students plan properly, it’s possible to graduate in four years from most degree programs.
Orientation question: What resources are available to help my student graduate in four years?
Most schools require students to meet with academic advisors before registering for classes each semester. These advisors work with multiple students. Encourage your student to make an appointment as soon as course offerings are available rather than waiting until the last minute.
Registration isn’t the only time students can meet with advisors. Your student should visit if she’s having trouble in a class, thinking about changing majors, or looking for guidance on almost any issue.
Orientation question: How do we find out the name of my student’s advisor?
Your student should ask her advisor literally to sign off on anything that isn’t specifically in the course catalog. Is she studying abroad? Courses should be pre-approved by her advisor (or the head of the department). Is she doing a computer science internship instead of taking a class? Get that signature or have it cleared by the registrar’s office. This protects your student in case of staffing changes.
Orientation question: Who should my student talk to about making course substitutions?
Course requirements may change during your student’s college career. Most schools will be good about ensuring students are able to graduate based on the requirements in place their freshman year, but it doesn’t hurt to preserve this documentation.
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