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How to beat the blue square: Helpful tips for course registration as a first-year

DTH Photo Illustration. A student looks at classes in the ConnectCarolina portal.

Course registration at UNC can be challenging, and seeing the dreaded blue square — the sign the class is full — can be heartbreaking. So, here are some recommendations to help students build their ideal schedule while minimizing stress. 

UNC students and Academic Advising said planning properly, being on time, asking for help and being flexible can make a stressful registration appointment much easier. 

One way to make sure registration goes smoothly is proper planning. 

Junior Jamal Smith said filling up your ConnectCarolina shopping cart in advance is key. He said it’s okay to add classes that didn’t fit into an original plan or an ideal schedule. 

“Get gen-eds, major classes or even some classes that interest you,” he said. “And first-year seminars because you only have one chance to (take) those.”

Beth Shuster, STEM division assistant dean of academic advising, said having a limited shopping cart can be a problem during registration. She recommended having 20 to 30 classes in the shopping cart before registering for classes. 

Since first-years have last priority for course registration, Shuster said having only five courses in their shopping cart will get students stuck during registration. 

But there are certain programs to help with the planning process. Zach Hannay, a junior, said Coursicle was a helpful tool for class planning. He said Coursicle creates hypothetical schedules and can even show students which classes their friends are taking. 

Planning for course registration does not have to be something you do alone. Asking for help from Academic Advising is one way many students determine their upcoming schedule.

Smith said he uses Academic Advising's online resources to help him plan for registration. 

“A lot of times they have layout or map plans, especially for pre-med students," he said. "They have a whole map that tells you exactly what classes to take and when you should take them to get your gen eds done.”

Another way to keep registration stress-free is to be on time to your registration appointment. 

Shuster said one of the two biggest mistakes made by students is being late to registration appointments.

Hannay said when he was a first-year, he didn’t understand that registration happened fast and students needed to be on time to their appointments.

“Know your appointment time,” he said. “Classes get filled up quickly. Once you have your classes, don’t drop them. There’s a swap feature that lets you switch classes so you don’t lose one of them.”

But even if a student plans properly and shows up to their appointment on time, there is no guarantee they’ll get their ideal schedule. 

Smith said it is important to not rush when registering and to not overload on one type of class.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I was a biology major and I thought I could take biology, chemistry and physics all in one semester because I still had that high school mindset,” he said. “Take it slow and do not rush into anything.”

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