What You Always Wanted to Know About Pre-Registration but Never Asked the Right Person
Q. How does the computer assign the courses once I've entered them into Pre-Registration?
On the end of the last day of the pre-registration entry period, a computer program is run which assigns the courses. The computer program that assigns the courses begins looking at each tree of each student in order, filling course slot #1 for each student from the information entered via pre-registration. Each student gets one course before any student gets a second class.
Q. Hold it! What order does the computer take in assigning courses? Do seniors go first followed by juniors, sophomores, and then first-years?
Yes, but still only one course at a time. The courses are assigned by class with seniors going first, juniors second, sophomores third, and first-years last. The computer sorts all of the enrolled students by class, and then each class is sorted at random and each student is assigned a random number in order. The first student in the entire list, therefore, is a senior with the lowest random number. The last student in the list is a first-year with the highest random number.
Q. Oh! OK. So each student gets a course in that order?
Yes. Except in the case of preregistered courses. The computer first looks for courses for which a student has been preregistered; the preregistered course goes in slot #1 of that student. If a student has preregistered for two courses, the second preregistered course goes in slot #2, and so on. All of the preregistered courses are assigned first.
Q. So, doesn't that give those students who have preregistered an advantage? You said that those students get all of their preregistered courses first!
There really is no advantage. While it is true that students who preregister get those courses first, those preregistered courses count as the course selections in slot #1 and/or slot #2 if the student preregistered for a second course as well. When the computer is assigning the first course for everyone, that student is skipped because a course is already in slot #1. That student does not get another course in slot #2 at that point just because they have a course in slot #1. So, it can be an advantage to the student to preregister for a certain course if that course is going to be filled quickly, but it is a disadvantage to preregister for a course if that course does not close quickly or if there are other high-demand courses the student wants. Those high-demand courses won't be looked at for that student until the second or third pass, and by that time, they may be closed. And remember, preregistration occurs only in a few departments, so we aren't talking about a lot of students.
Q. So what about the rest of the courses?
After the preregistered courses are all assigned, the computer starts over again, looking at the A1 choice of the first student "in line" in each class. That course is given to that student in their slot #1. Then the next student gets their A1 choice, then the next, and the next, and the next, and so on all the way down the to the last first-year student in the list. The computer continues to go through the list of students, seniors to first-year, alternately reversing the order with each pass so the last student in a class is first every other time, until all students have used up all of the branches of the tree or the maximum number of hours is reached. When the computer reaches a student with a slot with no course entered, it automatically goes to the courses listed under "Other Courses". Those courses are assigned in the same manner until the maximum number of credits is reached or there are no more courses.
Q. What happens when the course in A1 is closed? Where does the computer look then?
At some point, the A1 course of a student is closed by the student requests that were met prior to the computer reaching that student. When the course in A1 is closed, the computer looks at B1, and, assuming it is open, assigns that course to slot #1. If B1 is closed also (and that is a rare occurrence), then the computer assigns course C1. If C1 is closed (and that is an extremely rare occurrence), then the computer goes back up to A2. It will keep going until an open class is found.
Q. So everyone gets at least one course before someone gets a second course?
Exactly. Once all students have at least one course, the computer starts over with the first student "in line" and starts assigning courses to slot #2. Remember, too, that those students who have a preregistered course in slot #2 are skipped in this round as well.
Q. How does the computer follow the "tree branches" if a course is open or closed?
Let's assume that a student got A1 on the first pass, and the computer is now looking for a second course. If the course in A2 is open, then that course is assigned. If that A2 course is closed, then the computer will try A9. If A2 is assigned, then on the next pass, the computer will look at A3 or, if A3 is closed, A6. Once a certain route has been started on a particular tree, whether it is Tree A or Tree B or Tree C, the computer will stay in that tree. And once a certain "branch" of a tree is begun (A1 to A2 or A1 to A9, for example), the computer will follow that branch and no others.
Q. So which classes should go first on the tree? The ones that are in high demand and will fill-up fast, or the ones that I really, really want or need?
That's a tough one to answer unequivocally. If you know a course is usually open at the end of registration or at the beginning of a semester, then put it lower on your tree. No sense in putting it high on your tree (like A1 or B1 or A2 or A9) if you have other desirable courses that are more likely to fill up and close during registration. Those are the ones that should go in those early slots. The other course can be at A4 or even in "Other Courses" if you know it's still going to be open.
Q. Do I really have to fill out all three trees?
Not necessarily, but doing so increases your chances of getting the courses you want. If you are pretty sure that you are going to get all of the courses you ask for in A1, A2, A3, A4, and maybe O1, then that's all you need to do. (But there aren’t many students who can do that!) First-year students and sophomores especially, and juniors who are after high-demand courses need to complete all of Tree A and Tree B at a minimum to increase the chances of getting what they want.
Q. Do all of the trees have to have all different courses in them, or can I use some of the same courses on some of the same "branches"?
You can put the same courses on any of the trees. All of the courses can be the same except for the #1 slot in each one. Differentiating A1, B1, and C1 must be done in order to move to the next tree in case the course is closed. But remember, if a course is closed on Tree A, it will be closed on Tree B as well if put in the same slot. But the trees could be almost identical.
Q. How do labs get assigned to the right lab science course?
As soon as the computer finds a course in a slot that has an assigned lab, it automatically skips down to the "Laboratories" slots where it looks for a corresponding lab. Those labs can close as well, so it's a good idea to put down an alternative choice if there is one.
Q. Does it make a difference when I put the courses in the computer?
No, as long as it's before the deadline. The courses may be entered into Pre-Registration at anytime during the registration period. But once the deadline is reached, the pre-registration program is turned off, no more courses may be entered, and the assigning program is run. In that case, students who have no courses on their trees have to wait until drop/add to get a schedule.
Q. Am I registered for the courses I enter on the tree as I put them in?
No. For some reason, some folks believe that is the case, however. Read again the portion about how the program assigns courses.
Q. Do I really have to have the tree information entered on time? Can't I still get my courses anyway, especially if I'm a senior?
The course assigning program is going to be run regardless of whether or not all information is in the computer. If you don't have your tree in the computer by the deadline, you miss your chance at any course that is closed during the process. If you have done registration before at Rhodes, you know that the number of courses that close is pretty high in some departments. There is a chance, of course, that you may get the courses you want without using the tree, but your chances diminish greatly if you have to start from scratch to build a schedule when everyone else already has a schedule.
Q. I have a schedule with classes every day at 8:00 a.m. Why did the computer give me those when they were my last option?
“The computer” (or the Pre-Registration program) won't give you anything you didn't ask for. You may not have realized that having an 8:00 a.m. class every day was a possibility when you filled out your tree, but somewhere the branch of the tree existed with both of those courses. Because of the way the classes closed as the assignments went along, you wound up with both of them. This is a good example of what can happen if you don't check each possible "branch" or route the computer can take when assigning courses.
Q. I didn't get any of the courses I really wanted. Why not?
There are several reasons: most often, the courses you requested were full by the time the computer got to you. Or maybe you requested two classes at the same time so there was a period conflict. The computer will not assign a course if there is already a course assigned in that class time slot. In other words, the computer will not give you a time conflict.
Q. How come my roommate got all the courses they wanted, but I didn't get any of my first three choices?
Same reasons as above. Your roommate may have selected low demand classes so none of them was closed. You may have asked for all high demand classes, and by luck of the draw, you were in the position of having them all closed by the time the assigning program got to you.
Q. Is there a way for advisors to get around the guidelines for the Tree and get the courses their advisees want?
No. There is nothing an advisor or any professor can do to give their advisees an advantage in getting the courses they want. Preregistration is the only way to assure a course, and we've already seen that preregistration is not always an advantage.
Q. Do seniors get all of their courses first?
No. As described above, the program assigns one course to every student before the first student in line (a senior) gets a second course.
Q. As a senior, I need one natural science class to graduate. What happens if I don't get it?
First of all, be sure to put the course you want in A1 and another in B1 and another in C1. If you still don't get it, most faculty members will work with you to get something you need. Most students know who and how to ask for some consideration in cases like that. It always seems to work out.
Q. Can I use any computer to enter the tree information?
Yes. Any computer that can access the Rhodes Homepage can be used to enter the courses into WebSTEP.
Q. Can the computer tell us a class is closed when we enter it into Pre-Registration, so that we don't waste our time trying to get into it?
Good question, and we wish it could; but if you remember from the discussion above, courses aren't closed when you are entering the information into Pre-Registration. Courses don't close until the program begins to run.
Q. Why won't the computer let me register for more than 19 credits?
Nineteen credits is the maximum regular load. You need an overload petition approved for more than that. We want to make sure that you do that before registering for 19 or more credits.