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Freshmen play the drop/add game despite advice

Freshman Whitney Morton decided Monday that Biology of Dinosaurs wasn't for her: After just one class, she logged on to ACES Web and dropped the course in favor of one in art history.

Although discouraged by the University, freshmen like Morton often use the drop/add period to shop for classes.

The administration, particularly the Pre-Major Advising Center, dissuades first-year students from significantly changing their class schedules, and instead urges them to stay in their assigned four classes, except in rare cases.

"We certainly do discourage freshmen from using drop/add," said Dean of Trinity College Robert Thompson. "Typically what happens is that we have more familiarity with what options they have, and we think they should try to stick classes out."

Assistant Director of PMAC Milton Blackmon also warns that freshmen should be wary of dropping certain courses. "We wouldn't encourage them at all to drop the writing or seminar course," Blackmon said. "We need to fill them each semester."

Students are sent first-year course guides over the summer and are asked to go online to select three primary and seven alternative classes, as well as four possible writing courses and four possible first-year seminars, Blackmon said. The guide provides course descriptions, describes Curriculum 2000 and offers suggested tracks for each of the majors. The Registrar and the PMAC then work together to create each student's schedule.

Sam Louis said the lack of control in choosing a schedule over the summer contributes to drop/add's necessity.

"It's kind of shooting in the dark," he said. "You really have no idea what you're doing."

Freshmen's pre-major advisers provided PINs for access into ACES during meetings last week to ensure that freshmen receive approval from their advisers before dropping or adding classes, Blackmon said. Once students have entered their PINs, however, they have free reign to alter their courses.

"I've dropped and added classes numerous times already mostly because the classes I was in were the last choices as far as registration went," said Kelly Bruno.

Numerous upperclassmen, including senior Shivali Gotecha, said they wish they had taken as proactive a role in their course load as freshmen.

"My first semester I sort of knew about it but wasn't exactly sure how to go about it," Gotecha said.

Other than changing classes because of a lack of interest, students said they wanted more control over the times they had to be in class--an element that they did not have control over when registering.

However, freshmen in the FOCUS Program--about 40 percent of the class--and those who received most of their top choices said they did not have to resort to schedule shifting.

"Signing up in the summer happened to work out well for me," said Matt Saternus, who has not dropped any courses. "I'd prefer to know what we were going to get, but I guess the system's fine considering how many people they have to schedule."

A vocal cross-section of the class does not have such a rosy outlook of the scheduling procedures. "Signing up in the summer is dumb," Morton said. "I didn't know what I wanted or what the requirements were."

Cindy Yee contributed to this story.

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