With a laundry list of prerequisites, general education requirements, and lower-division and upper-division classes, calling enrollment an overwhelming experience might be an understatement for new students.
Aside from a brief introduction to the Degree Audit Reporting System during New Student Orientation, incoming Bruins are generally left ill-equipped to navigate the competitive enrollment process by themselves.
UCLA offers more than 3,800 courses within 109 departments, and, yet, students are left to pave their own academic road map with minimal help. And combined with unprecedented levels of overcrowding, it’s no wonder that enrollment is a constant battle for early appointments and precious class openings.
The current enrollment system is loosely based on the number of units completed. But within a certain range of units, luck is usually the determining factor in enrollment time. After priority groups, enrollment times are randomly distributed based on descending unit count.
UCLA has a responsibility to best prepare its students for success. But lackluster transparency regarding course requirements and lottery-style distribution of appointment times leave many new students behind before they’ve even started their college career. UCLA has some programs in place already, but it should expand on them to create consistent workshops that would guide students step by step through the process of planning classes, regardless of their year at UCLA.
And at such a large public university, these workshops wouldn’t just help students plan classes – they would increase transparency surrounding the enrollment process and increase interaction between students and academic counselors.
The enrollment process is divided into two sections: first pass and second pass, wherein everyone is limited to enrolling in 10 units for their first pass.
The registrar’s office did not respond in time to a request for comment.
But even with these current systems in place to streamline enrollment, freshmen already feel jaded about the system and its apparent limitations.
Drake Choi, a first-year pre-economics student, said the enrollment process can be especially stressful for students trying to explore their academic options.
“I was pretty nervous every time I had an enrollment pass just because I was so uncertain about my major that it made enrolling a lot more difficult than it needed to be,” Choi said.
The current system is set up in such a way that rushes students to claim a certain major in order to stay on track for graduation, leaving them without the luxury to figure out their path and major as they go.
“I feel like I had a whole plan set up for graduation, but it’s really hard to graduate on time or at the speed that I want because of the classes that have been limited. I can’t take the classes that I really want to take, so I’m left taking classes that I have no interest in,” said Stephanie Yeo, a first-year psychology student.
Uncertainty is a constant for first-years, but even those on a set path will run into systematic roadblocks that make it nearly impossible to get the classes they’re paying tuition for.
This is where UCLA comes in.
The current system is working, but not at its maximum efficiency. Fortunately, UCLA already has the infrastructure to improve that system in the form of hundreds of New Student Advisors and existing orientation programs.
New Student Orientation and Orientation Part 2 are explicitly targeted at first-year students, but by expanding these workshops to all UCLA students and making them more consistent throughout the year, the university could more effectively assist Bruins through multiple enrollment processes.
Even an increase in advertising for current amenities could make a big difference – Orientation Part 2 would be an extremely effective resource, if anyone knew about it.
And expanding these resources could have long-term effects.
Some upperclassmen who struggled with these problems as underclassmen still feel like they’re at a disadvantage.
“I missed out on a lot of major classes I needed to take because either they’re filled up by the time my enrollment time came around, or there were some restrictions on it even by the time of your pass that don’t lift,” said Paul Shinwoo Kim, a third-year communication student.
This touches upon the problems with availability of information in the current system – problems that increased transparency and resources could help fix.
Unless students remember to check the warnings on all of their planned classes, they may find unexpected course restrictions. Students who realize that a certain class is restricted during their enrollment are not given the luxury of mapping out their schedules in that instant, potentially jeopardizing their four-year plans in the blink of an eye.
Of course, it may seem that the consistency of the established enrollment system is the best a university with almost 32,000 students can do. However, UCLA’s enormous size can also work to its benefit. With students quite literally paying their way into overenrolled classes, it’s evident that the status quo is far from perfect. But with the multitude of resources UCLA has at its disposal, as well as a multibillion-dollar budget, providing workshops to alleviate the stress of enrollment is the least it can do.
Fixing systemic overenrollment and overhauling an entire system can’t be done overnight.
But for now, UCLA should at least take steps to help students through its mess.