Inside the course registration process

The Course Catalog – photo by Augie Aliaga ’21

As course selection comes around, many of you —for the first time— need to make a real choice regarding which classes you will take next year. When spring conferences roll around, your advisor will hand you a massive book full of course offerings. This catalog can be overwhelming. And so, there are several key things to keep in mind when scheduling your courses.

First: course acceptances are completely impartial. 

Head of the Upper School Patrick Andrén said, “We look at when the order came in and if you missed the deadline, but a lot of it is a random draw; that is the most equitable way to do it.”

Though some academically gifted students may find this system displeasing, it ensures every student has equal opportunity to take every class. For example, if you really struggled in U.S. History but are fascinated by government and politics, you are just as likely to get into the class as someone who flew through U.S. History. In other words, you needn’t stress about your transcript; it will have no effect on your future non-honors courses at Haverford. However, when trying to enroll in an honors course, a minimum grade obtained in a previous class may be required, such as at least a B+ in Precalculus in order to get into Statistics*.

Remember as well that nothing is set in stone. As everyone knows, there exists a two-week period at the beginning of each semester where you can test out your new classes and make sure you really want to take them. To be blunt, this short period is probably not long enough for you to really figure out whether you want to stay in a class or not.

Take some advice from Ms. Heather Stinson, one of the three college counselors.

“It’s always worth a conversation: we would never turn you away. Talk to your teacher, talk to your college counselor, talk to your advisor. [But remember] it’s different if it’s a semester-long class versus a year-long class,” Stinson said. “If it’s a year-long class, you have so much more time to calibrate, so it’s less of a push. With the semester-long class, it’s a little more tight. However, I find everything can be solved with a little transparency.”

Third: keep in mind when scheduling your courses that you cannot be too upset if you do not get the class you wanted.

Mr. Andrén offered his perspective on this possible disappointment.

“The final step of course selection is when things are actually scheduled,” Andrén said. “When Ms. Skidmore works to develop the schedule, conflicts arise and she will reach out to any pertaining student to select a different course.”

Mr. Andrén also said that, like any other academic institution, Haverford has inevitable limitations.

“As a small school, we pride ourselves on being able to do lots of things, but one thing we can’t do is say, ‘Okay, there are X number of kids who want to take class Y, let’s just open up infinite sections of class Y.’”

“Maybe you don’t get your first elective, but you end up in a class that you didn’t necessarily think you were going to have a passion for or be something you really enjoyed.”

Upper School Head Mr. Patrick Andrén

Both Mr. Andrén and Ms. Stinson insisted that not getting the classes you signed up for can be a positive thing. “Some students are hesitant to pick [unfamiliar classes] because they fear new opportunity, but taking some academic risk is the name of the game,” Ms. Stinson said.

Mr. Andrén has a similar perspective, noting that “maybe you don’t get your first elective, but you end up in a class that you didn’t necessarily think you were going to have a passion for or be something you really enjoyed.”

If the stress of course selection is hitting you hard, just relax and know that the process is equitable and flexible, and that if you do not get what you want, you will find a class equally if not even more interesting.

Author: Jonny Sonnenfeld '20

Jonny Sonnenfeld '20 is a journalism student who has written for The Index throughout the past four years. He is in honors English and won a gold key this year from the scholastic arts and writing. His chili in a bread bowl article was responsible for the reintroduction of the meal in the surrounding area.