Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dinosaur College Registration

 BYU Smith Fieldhouse--scene of some not-so-fun memories
In my first few semesters at BYU the class registration system was positively prehistoric, even by 1973-74 standards.  The process was entirely hands-on, so we trudged on down to the Smith Fieldhouse on the west end of lower campus to register on the athletic courts.  The procedure went as follows:

Step 1: At home, you (student) studied the current class catalog, picking out classes required for your major, some electives, and then a few options as backups.  Each class usually offered a number of sections; popular classes could have dozens of sections available (especially lower division 100s and 200s) but specialized subjects could be restricted to just a few sections.  On paper you created a matrix showing how all your chosen class sections fit together time-wise, allowing breaks, and taking care you did not get stuck with any 7 a.m. classes.  You took this carefully crafted schedule with you to registration.

Step 2: You trekked to the Fieldhouse but on entering and encountering thousands of other eager students, about-faced and headed for home.  No really, that wasn’t a choice.  Scores of small tables were set up around the perimeter of the building, each with a sign taped to the front edge announcing which discipline it represented.  So if a student wanted History 310 he found the history area, then stood in the line that displayed History 300 classes.  If there were a hundred people ahead of you that was tough luck, you twiddled your thumbs for a while.

Step 3: Each table held numerous file boxes holding hundreds of 3x5 cards.  Cards were divided up according to the particular course, then within that, the particular section, each card representing one student in that class.  If there were 40 spots for one class section, the box held 40 cards for that section, and each time a student requested the class, a card was removed.  As you told the monitor what you wanted it seemed that half the time there were no cards left for that section.  Right there you had to make a quick decision on whether you could accommodate a different section of the same class, or if you just had to abandon the class altogether--your carefully crafted schedule went out the window.  The trouble was, you didn’t know until you went to all the other tables on your list, whether you would get into those class sections, so theoretically you could spend all day going from table to table to construct a decent schedule!

Around my junior year the system changed but I don’t remember exactly how it went, except that  BYU abandoned the Fieldhouse folly and probably switched to a mail-in system, which is still prehistoric in comparison with the online registration of today.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I remember well the registration process in the Smith Fieldhouse. It was exciting and stressful, and satifying to get the schedule worked out, even if it ended up less than ideal.

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