Not Your Grandma's Course Catalog: Students Create Programs to Streamline Registration

You know that awful moment when the class you had your heart set on turns out to be full? Students across the country are turning to technology to help you out.

One of the best things about college versus high school is that you have so many amazing classes to choose from, and as long as you’re fulfilling your major and degree requirements, your schedule is largely up to you. The only catch is that popular classes fill up quickly—so quickly that you’re almost guaranteed to be wait-listed for courses like What if Harry Potter is Real? or Demystifying the Hipster. Few things in your college experience are more frustrating than missing out on the class that was going to be the highlight of your semester.

Luckily, a handful of forward-thinking undergrads have made it their mission to help you get into the most sought-after classes. Fed up with their schools’ somewhat antiquated registration systems, students at several colleges and universities across the country have taken matters into their own hands by developing apps and other programs that aim to streamline the registration process.

Zach Hall created the website while he was a student at Furman University. The site provides an alert system that notifies students when a spot opens up in a class. Hall came up with the idea after spending a summer constantly checking the school’s registration system and waiting anxiously for spots to become available in classes he wanted to take that were full. The site was an instant hit with the student body.

In the spring of 2013, ClassGet caught the attention of University Registrar Brad Barron, who conceded that it was far more user-friendly than the school’s own registration system. With Barron's blessing, Hall was allowed to continue running the site and was even given the most up-to-date data to work with.

At Rutgers University, Vaibhav Verma was similarly frustrated when he wasn’t able to register for the school’s most popular courses one semester. But he turned that frustration into inspiration and developed the Rutgers Schedule Sniper, which sends students a message when a spot becomes available in a full class. He created it for his own use, but 8,000 of his fellow students had used it by the following semester.

Though students love these innovations, some schools have been less than thrilled with them. Just last year, the dean at CUNY–Baruch told 19 students to stop using the customized computer script they’d created to automatically check the school’s registration system. Apparently they’d caused so much traffic to the site that they nearly crashed the computer system for all City University of New York campuses. But it could be argued that colleges and universities should be proud that student-developers have been so well-trained that they’ve been able to concoct such powerful programs. And indeed, as was the case with Zach Hall at Furman, some schools do seem to be approaching this trend as an opportunity for collaboration.

But if you don’t have a magical app or website to help you get into a full class at your school, just keep the following tips in mind: register as soon as you’re able to, be patient and watch for openings, and always try speaking with your academic advisor to see if any strings can be pulled in your favor—there’s no harm in asking!

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