Registration brings stress
Finals are still almost two weeks away, but many students have already gone through the most traumatic time of the semester.

Class registration is almost over. Of course, the end of registration only means it is time to start filling out force slips.

Course registration at Texas A&M is a serious ordeal. Students will use any means they can think of to make sure they find their dream schedule. The system is too complex and nerve-wracking. Students should be able to focus on term papers and finals without worrying about academic advising, force slips and the haunting voice of the University information system.

Many students invest a significant amount of time and effort into course registration -- and it is understandable. This short phone conversation between an automated voice and a few dozen touch-tone pulses will control virtually every aspect of the student's life. Depending on the outcome of these minutes of stress, the student will be spending hundreds of hours studying for nuclear physics or coasting through four kinesiologies. A student's schedule may determine how early they get up, how stressed they are, how their GPR changes or when they graduate. The difference between section 513 and 514 might be enormous, and a panicked Aggie may only have a few minutes to choose between the two.

There are dozens of aspects to consider when choosing a schedule, and students need more help than the small degree chart in the course catalog can provide. Students must decide when to take their elective hours, what classes will help them most, what order to take which classes and which professors will best teach the material.

Most departments offer their students extensive academic advising, but few students take advantage of that offer. Instead, Aggies often base their course selection on the advise of other students and a few random guesses.

Texas A&M's method of registration only increases the stress of course selection. Students often compete against thousands of fellow Aggies for one of the 30 seats available in a specific class. The results are not always pretty.

The University staggers registration, giving preference to honors students, student workers and upper classmen. Hence, more stressful decisions.

Student workers must decide whether their schedule allows them the time to dig up recent paycheck stubs, collect a signature from a supervisor and stand in line so they may qualify for early student worker registration.

Students must weigh the advantages of honors registration against the risk of losing future privileges if they drop an honors class.

As 10 p.m. draws near on the chosen registration day, students flee to the nearest touch-tone phone. For the next few hours, students across campus will listen to the irritating tones of a busy signal as their hopes for getting their perfect schedule dwindle away.

Under certain circumstances, various faculty and administrators will take pity on a slow-dialing student, allowing them to be forced into a filled class.

Some classes are so popular that a force slip represents the only practical method to register for a section. This is often the case with technical writing, which every student must take in order to graduate.

The result is a long line on one of the dead days as students wait to be forced into a class they need in order to earn their diploma. On this day with no classes, students begin collecting in the halls of the Blocker building as early as 7 a.m. hoping to secure one of the hotly-contested seats.

The whole system is stressful -- too stressful for students to be messing with during finals. Students should be encouraged to take advantage of the advising available to them, but steps should be taken to remove the traumatic aspects of registration.
Dave Johnston is a senior mathematics major.