I recently had the “joyful” (read: excruciating, stressful, and frustrating) experience of signing up for college classes. Yay for adulting! I went into the enrollment process knowing that there was a chance that I couldn’t get the classes that I wanted. However, I didn’t anticipate how big of a mess enrollment was going to be.
For starters, I was given a later enrollment time (12 PM). This. Was. Terrible. By 10 AM, all the spots for both lecture and discussion sections were filled up for a core mathematics course that I had to take. It was so filled that I couldn’t even sign up for the waitlist! Across all social media sites, incoming freshmen were panicking about what class they could take in place of that math class. (Side note: The university realized how badly it screwed up and opened more discussion sections for certain math classes. However, this mistake shouldn’t have happened in the first place.) To be honest, this was a terrifying predicament for a freshman to be placed in.
Imagine being a freshman, waiting to sign up for courses. You look through the requirements for your major. You diligently plan out classes you want to and need to take. You look for back up classes. Then, when enrollment time comes, all your options are unavailable. Not even the back ups to your back ups have open spaces. You cannot enroll into your core classes that you need to fulfill prerequisites for next semester’s courses because there aren’t any spaces open. You then feel despair. Frustration. Anger.
For being touted as the “#1 public university in the world”, UC Berkeley does a terrible job at servicing its students, especially the naive, incoming freshmen.
My suggestions for the university:
• Use data from current and incoming students to better predict which core courses will need more sections. (This, I can actually see happening.)
• Admit less students, so that Cal students don’t have to fight each other for resources. (This might be a little too hopeful.)
As for data, the university has so much that it can use. It can aggregate data ranging from students’ test scores to students’ required courses to create a database that can be used to predict how many sections of each class is needed per semester. While it won’t be perfect, I’m confident that it will definitely be better than the current situation, especially after the system gets calibrated. Currently, it feels like the university opens the same number of sections per class every year without taking into consideration the needs and wants of students, causing this problem to repeat every semester.
Let me go more into detail about my database idea. Let’s take for example 5 students who SIR to Berkeley as engineering students. Berkeley has their test-scores and grades (some self-reported, some official). Those 5 students got 5’s on the AP Calculus AB exam and reported that they took the AP Calculus BC exam. More likely than not, they will get a 5 (if not, a 4) on the exam. This allows them to waive their Math 1A and Math 1B requirements. Depending on their specific majors (seeing as they are engineering students and have College of Engineering requirements), they will most likely enroll into Math 53 (Multivariable Calculus) or Math 54 (Linear Algebra). The university should take this into consideration when creating sections per course. It might sound like a lot of work and setting it up for the first time definitely will be difficult, but once it is set up, it will definitely be beneficial to both the university and its students.
Data really is powerful. If marketing companies can use it to determine what kind of toilet paper that they should advertise to me, why can’t the university use data to determine what courses students are most likely to take? The work can be divided among the different departments. The university has the data; it just needs to use it.
Furthermore, to alleviate the problem of scarcity of resources for students, UC Berkeley needs to admit less students. How can you call yourself the “#1 public university” if your own students are not being serviced properly? The university only has so many faculty members, classes, and materials. The current students aren’t being serviced properly, yet, even more students pour in every year. If it really wants to keep up with the likes of Stanford, Berkeley needs to service its students better.
Well, I’m certainly not excited to have to deal with this garbage for 7 more semesters. Go Bears…
tl;dr: Berkeley sucks.
Until next post!