Then and Now: Registering for Classes

Then and Now: Registering for Classes
old photo of registration
An undated photo of freshman registration. Courtesy of TCNJ’s archives.

For any alumnus who ever camped out overnight in order to be the first in line to register, or stood in line for hours only to discover at the last possible moment that the class you needed had just closed, you might not like what you’re about to read.

“Today’s students can register in as little as 60 seconds, and do it from their dorm room or even while sitting on the beach should they be studying abroad” says David Morales, associate director of orientation and registration.

These days, students log onto The Electronic Student Services (T.E.S.S.) Web site to sign up for classes. Morales’ office has data showing that students often complete their registration within 15 minutes of logging in to the site, and a good number of them are registered and logged off within just one minute.

That’s a far cry from the way things were for Glenn Sliker ’74. “Everything was done with pencil and paper, chalkboards, and printed course listings,” Sliker says. After standing in line for what seemed like an eternity, he and the other students slowly made their way to the room where registration was taking place. “You looked up at the chalkboard to see what classes were available, and then all of a sudden someone was erasing the course you needed off of the board because it was full.”

schedule of classes
Students eagerly awaited the “Schedule of Classes” books that used to be printed each semester. These days, the information is posted online.

Morales says the scene was very similar in the 1980s, when registration took place in the Student Center. “I remember those lines of students—you’d have thought they were waiting for concert tickets,” he says. By that point the chalkboard had been replaced with an overhead projector, which displayed what classes had seats remaining. When the silhouette of a larger-than-life hand appeared on the wall to cross out a course that had just closed, a chorus of groans could be heard throughout the building.

Jim Boothby ’99 remembers long lines from his early years as a student, but says by then registration had moved into the Green Hall basement. “Once we made it into the corner room of Green, our Mecca for that moment, we were greeted by the somber faces of the computer operators who were awaiting to input our first, second, third, or, should we be so unlucky, fourth choice of courses,” says Boothby. Looking back, he says the process was somewhat akin to the plight of A Christmas Story’s Ralphie Parker, “waiting in line to put in his request to that overworked Santa, only to be quickly rejected.”

During the 1990s, ASTRO, a phone system for registering, was set up at the College. “Using ASTRO was initially frustrating,” Boothby says, “but after one figured out that his or her Ticketmaster phone skills were applicable, I think we all got over the change.” Yet he says he still regrets never being able to “find that golden call time that would have gotten me into the Outdoor Rec class.”

When T.E.S.S. officially took over for ASTRO, the change from standing in line to going online to register was complete. Soon after, it was no longer necessary to print the course listing books, because that information was posted online. T.E.S.S. will eventually be replaced by a new system, currently in development, which will, among other things, allow students to run “what if” scenarios to identify the courses they would need if they changed majors. Perhaps it will even cut the actual registration time to under 60 seconds, so that future TCNJ students can one day look back and think, “I can’t believe it used to take a whole minute to register for classes.”

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