A look into the disappointment felt by AHS students at this year’s registration process
The last days of February mark an important time period for the students at American High School. Students are faced with the excruciating task of making decisions—ones that will have a large impact on their future. The process of selecting courses is one that requires a great deal of pondering, which is why students this year were disappointed with the time frame provided for them to make such profound choices.
“It felt too fast this year,” junior Jennifer Lee—who only had two full days to make decisions for her final year at the school—claims. “Because I was registering for my senior year, I had way more empty class slots to fill. I had to check if all of my graduation requirements would be filled, all while balancing my AP choices with my more easygoing ones.”
Kristine Dang (11), who had a similar rushed experience, asserts that she “strongly believes two days was not enough time to choose courses… Even now I’m still wondering if the classes I chose were too much for me and if I had more time, I would’ve been able to choose classes that I have interests for and won’t overwork me,” claiming that the rushed time period stripped her of having all her questions about different courses answered in time.
Freshman Stuti Jajoo, despite being given a longer time to select her courses due to her grade level, still believes the process felt too rushed. “My experience with course registration this year was stressful because we were given like a week or so,” she details, claiming that the decisions are too critical to be shoved into a single week. “Course registration is important and students should spend some time thinking about it.”
Ms. Sorensen, one of the six counselors at AHS, reveals that the process of registering actually spanned over two weeks, beginning with the freshmen. The reason, she reveals, that some students had less time than others, was really due to the new schedule. “If we have six periods a day, then we can get to six classes a day,” she describes, revealing why the registration schedule played out so differently from previous years. “If we only have three periods a day, then we can only get to three classes a day. So it’s really an issue of getting into every single class.”
She explains the reasoning behind registration occurring so early in the year. “We base our course registration around our open house so that it can give our rising freshmen time to participate in open house as well as our students here at American to talk to teachers and get more information,” she relays.
The actual process of course registration takes place long before students fill out their registration forms, and continues long after the forms are submitted. AP and Honors presentations begin at the start of February, and creating the master schedule lasts all the way through summer. “It is a really massive task in terms of making sure that all students are scheduled for next year, and that we have a master schedule. That’s one of the reasons it’s planned out the way it is—to give us enough time to get everything ready and scheduled,” Ms. Sorensen adds.
She explains that the side that students see is only a small portion of the entire process. “I think the side that students don’t necessarily see is how massive of an undertaking it is,” she describes. “We have to review every single form and enter the data on that. Then we cross reference everything to make sure it’s updated and that what’s on the form matches what’s in the computer. Then this schedule essentially has to be built.”
The pressure faced by counselors at this time of the year is undoubtedly large, but students also experience a great deal of tension surrounding registration, which is why the scramble this month has really left them disappointed. “I was pretty stressed about choosing the right courses and had a lot of last minute changes,” Gurseerat Kakar (10) reveals. “The classes we choose can seriously impact the direction we go in our future. We should be given at least two weeks to feel confident in our course requests.”
Two to three weeks is the general time frame many students feel would be an efficient amount to really make the right decisions. “It would keep students from hurriedly choosing their classes and making last-minute decisions. It would also let counselors work with more students and help them choose what’s best for them,” Lee adds.
Ms. Sorensen, however, doesn’t see an extended amount of time as a solution to the root problem. She explains that instead, students should understand that submitting the forms doesn’t necessarily signify the final decision. “Once we input all of the data into the computer, we eventually will show students what they’ve requested. If there’s an error or if there’s a request to change a level or course, we allow that process to take place as well,” she details. “I personally think that the finality of the registration process is what makes students really nervous. You turn in your form and it feels very final. But we allow students to see their courses later in the year and they’re allowed to update or change it.”
She describes that the counselors do everything in their power to relieve that initial stress felt by the students. “We try to be as available as we can be. We do informational sessions at night and meet with the students one on one to talk about the classes.” Aside from talking with students, counselors also reach out to the parents. “We talk a lot with parents about academic balance and college admissions and what’s required and what’s not. I’m hoping that through some of those educational pieces that it will help get the message out.”
The ‘message’ she refers to is the fact that overwhelming themselves with classes is not the way to go for high school students. “There needs to be an understanding from our students and our community that everything that they need to do for high school graduation and college admissions can be done without overloading yourself with classes,” she adds.
With so many factors to take into consideration, planning a registration process in the best interest of all parties is not the easiest task. Dang, however, offers a beneficial solution. “I think it would be helpful to have the counselor presentation as a video rather than a presentation,” she suggests. “It could be played for all the students at once, which would be easier and more efficient for the counselors and students.”