Registering for Classes Is a Workplace Skill -- Really

What is interesting is that managing all the aspects of your college career are like a job. They are training for all the things you will be expected to do in your personal and professional life later. You can feel good about yourself and your skills when you get it right.
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Where does the time go!? It seems like the term just started. But the end of midterms and the approach of the holidays also signals that students will be asked to register for the next term really soon. Usually first year students and seniors get to register first. Seniors get priority to be sure they will be able to get those last requirements out of the way before graduation -- the ones they should have done a year earlier and procrastinated about. The tendency is to think about registration as a procedure, but it can become a life-changing opportunity. How well you cope can show how well you are prepared to deal with similar bureaucratic situations in work and life after college. So registration is a workplace skill.

If you look at how you have done this term in the courses you are taking there are lessons that should inform what comes next. If there is a subject that you just cannot get for the life of you despite following all the good advice about tutors and study groups and library hours, then you do not want to sign up for more of the same next term. What if it was in your major? Then you, for sure, want to think about whether this is the right major. This is why it is a really good idea to meet with an adviser to talk about your registration plans. Too many students start college with a vocationally oriented major in mind and as they learn about themselves and new interests emerge change happens. It is normal. An adviser can help navigate change. It is a mature thing to do just as it would be if you were in a totally hostile work environment -- you would look for a way to change the situation.

Look at the subjects where you have done well and really enjoyed them. That is where your attention should go. But what if it means abandoning the career idea that you have told everybody. Remember majors are not careers and careers change over a lifetime. What you want to do is build big picture skills that will apply over a lifetime of careers and develop a GPA that will signal how smart you are to employers and grad schools when the time comes. You are learning to capitalize on your assets just as you will at work.

If you have taken some courses in the areas you enjoy look at the course catalog and see what the requirements are for that major and how much more you would have to do to make a switch or just to meet the major requirements. Talk to the adviser in the department you are considering. Talk to upperclassmen in the department to see what they like about it and what classes and professors they suggest. Gathering information to make a wise choice or decision is a workplace skill.

While looking at the catalog also look at the requirements for graduation. Then look at your transcript and be sure you are on track. There is nothing sadder than a student who thinks he is ready to graduate and being told that they missed some essential course. These things are all automated now and easy to track. You may even have had notices from the dean or registrar or an adviser asking you to talk to them or check your record. Too many students also delete emails from administrators and find themselves sorry later. Don't do that. You never want to miss essential communications.

Think too about the courses for the next semester in terms of who you are. If you know you will never get up for a class at 8, do not take it unless it is absolutely totally essential (like my intensive Spanish class when I was racing to complete a language requirement when I was in college). Take a lesson from me and knock out requirements early. But also if you have a job you may need to load in classes on certain days or late in the day or on weekends. Some of the best professors prefer prime time and that would be midday and midweek. So think about that too. College is a good time to learn about how you are most efficient and effective.

Be sure to not have too many classes in one day or too many tough ones. Be sure to have time to study and breathe between classes. This is not high school where you go directly from one class to another. You can actually go to the library between classes to study, start the paper or prep for the quiz (or take a nap or go to a club meeting.) This is about time management and setting priorities -- workplace skills.

Know the tricks of the registration process. First see your adviser early and get your plans approved and get any good advice you need. If there is a class that is very popular, maybe talk to the professor to express your interest in case you are wait-listed for it. Find out what the wait-list processes are. Make very good friends with the department secretaries who can often make magic. Making nice to gatekeepers is always a key workplace skill. Go on line to register as soon as the registration period allows to increase your chances of getting into the classes you want/need. If there are some that you seem to not be able to get then keep trying. Some slots will open up as other students drop them or are dropped for not paying on time.

Pay on time -- always essential for the rest of your life. If you do not all this work goes up in smoke. Your courses could be dropped and you would have to start over at the end of the line. Your advisers or deans can help. You may have financial aid issues. It is best to resolve those before the registration period starts so that you are sure of your standing. Once you are registered you are on the hook for those classes and responsible for the bills. Being fiscally responsible is essential for work and for life
What is interesting is that managing all the aspects of your college career are like a job. They are training for all the things you will be expected to do in your personal and professional life later. You can feel good about yourself and your skills when you get it right.

Marcia Y. Cantarella, PhD is author of I CAN Finish College: The Overcome Any Obstacle and Get Your Degree Guide. Learn more about Dr. Cantarella at

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