OPINION: Registering for classes shouldn’t be so hard

Drawing of a sad person on their computer, the words 'Add Drop Portal' looming over them
(Jadyn Lee • The Student Life)

On Nov. 19, registration opened for Pitzer College first-year students. The process went horribly wrong. Before the day had begun, most Pitzer introductory classes were already filled. I had the 3:45 p.m. timeslot, yet I ended my registration search at 5 p.m. By the end of the day, my class schedule looked terrible for a prospective social science major: Introduction to Biology for STEM majors and Music in Western Society were not classes I wanted to take. 

Some of my peers only successfully added two courses. A few accidentally circumvented prerequisites while desperately adding classes and ended up in intermediate French classes. A Korean international student defaulted to an Intro to Korean class. Weeks after registration day, some first-years still do not have four credits. Registration was nightmarish.

With poor technology and unsustainable faculty hiring practices, the Claremont Colleges’ registration system causes too much unnecessary stress to its students.

The anxiety before, during and after registration was overwhelming. A large part of that has to do with the website design of the Claremont Colleges’ registration system. Searching for classes is inefficient. “There was no data for the specified criteria” is a death message for students who click the wrong button. The student portal does not allow users to use the back button on browsers, or it asks them to resubmit the registration agreement form. For no real reason, the “title” and “course code” search options do not default to the “contains” option that allows any combination of search terms to display results (like every other search tool on the internet). 

Minute inconveniences are symptoms of an unnecessarily complicated, unintuitive website interface. Unfortunately, these minor annoyances were made far worse because of how slowly the website was running. Every time the portal forced us to click a different link, it would take 10 extra minutes to load. Eventually, the entire portal gave up and crashed.

With Harvey Mudd College, one of the best STEM schools in the nation, belonging to the Claremont Consortium, the schools need to invest in better technological infrastructure. 

More impactful than the technological problems, however, was the utter failure of Pitzer’s administration to balance the number of classes needed with the number of students. For Pitzer first-years, introductory classes did not have nearly enough reserved spots for them. There was no flexibility to explore different majors — a key selling point for liberal arts colleges. 

The problems associated with not getting into classes have much to do with Pitzer’s communication. Colleges should be upfront and honest with their students before and after registration periods. One of my professors told their class that there were only 3.1 courses per student before registration opened up. Giving students lowered expectations, with concrete promises of new classes being added later on, would have eased student frustration. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exasperated the problem of not having enough professors to accommodate the number of students. With maximum student requirements in classes, professors are wary of adding students from PERM lists. The only solution to this issue is for Pitzer to institute more sustainable hiring solutions, relying less on the sporadic hiring of contingent faculty.  

For something of this magnitude, registration should be the most focused, efficient and well-thought-out part of a college student’s experience. Prospective students and their families are paying tens of thousands of dollars for a website that feels a decade old. The least Pitzer can do is offer these improved conveniences as a goodie bag, of sorts, in compensation for our biannual torment. 

Kenny Le PZ ’25 is from Anaheim, California. He’s a stressed first year looking to work in public policy.

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