Course registration. These two words can sound like a death knell for many 5C students. It’s a time full of uncomfortable unpredictability and rising frustration. The weeks leading up to registration are full of anticipation: chances are that you’ll see everyone around you ‘Hyperscheduling,’ reading course reviews and browsing RateMyProfessor.
Despite all the time spent planning, there’s a relatively high chance — especially for fellow first-years — that all your meticulous planning might just go out the window on registration day when you sit in front of your computer and watch courses fill up in front of your eyes. However, this is also an opportunity to avoid restricting yourself academically and to reconsider what you want to explore.
As a first-year, this is only my second time going through the course registration process, but I feel well-equipped with all of the advice I’ve gotten. “PERM as much as possible. Show up to classes. Email professors.” The list of what to do and what not to do goes on and on, adding another element of tension as we count down the days.
Flashback to August: I’d been quite lucky with how my schedule turned out, ultimately getting into all the courses I’d wanted with minimal hassle. As I sat back and reflected on the process, I began to wonder. Maybe course registration wasn’t so bad! Maybe people were just being overdramatic.
This semester, I have a 4:15 p.m. registration time.
All my dreamy, misguided optimism regarding the simplicity of course registration quickly went out the window. As I shared my situation and compared registration times with friends, I became accustomed to the reactionary grimaces and sympathetic smiles I’d receive. I stared wistfully at the dream schedule I’d planned out in my Notes app and bid it a tentative goodbye.
However, when I finally sat down to browse all of the available courses — not just courses I’d ingrained in my mind as necessary to take for an Economics major, or courses I felt like I had to take because they sounded impressive — I began to realize just how much I’d been limiting myself. I’d already begun to lock myself into the mindset of taking classes for a major that seemed acceptable, or classes that seemed like appropriate building blocks towards a career that’s still largely intangible.
I remember how during Orientation Week, Pomona College’s “more than the major” academic rhetoric was clowned upon by students, maybe just because it was over-exhausted in orientation presentations and sessions. However, it’s something that we should keep in mind, especially for first-years. We should remember that we are at a liberal arts college. So much of the opportunity here comes from exploring topics we lack experience in, might not be the best at or that are completely unrelated to our majors.
In a roundabout way, having a late course registration time has made me do just this. It’s made me reach far beyond what I’d locked myself into without really considering what I want to do.
Maybe a part of this learned optimism is just delusion or, more specifically, deluding myself into accepting my late registration time, but it’s also helped me embrace a mindset that stretches far beyond this one aspect of college life. In a strange way, the unpredictability and the conscious lack of control bring a necessary yet comforting embrace of the unknown.
For my fellow first-years worried about course registration day, here’s your reminder that you’ll be just fine regardless of what unexpected schedule you might end up with. Things can and likely will change. If you’re undecided on your major and still oscillating between many potential areas of study like me, challenge yourself to look beyond the boundaries you might’ve unintentionally put up. Who knows? There may be a class you’ve never considered that could introduce a new way of thinking or a new way of understanding yourself.
Go in with an open mind! Just don’t forget to PERM.
Michelle Zhang PO ’27 is from the Bay Area. She’s a proud lefty and has a Duolingo streak of six years.