Undergraduate Admissions

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Planning Your Schedule


This Thursday is class registration. Everyone who’s currently here will register for our fall classes. Last term there were technical issues and we had to split registration between upper- and underclassmen. Apparently those issues have not been resolved so we’ll be doing that again this term; the first twenty minutes of registration are exclusively for rising juniors and seniors. Lucky me, I’m a rising senior, so I get priority.

Registration goes really quickly so you should always know what classes you’re taking beforehand. The difference between a miserable term and a fantastic term is often just knowing what you’re getting into.

There are some really useful tools that should always be used when planning your schedule. You can probably access some of them already. If you have an access.caltech.edu login, then you’re all set to use the first few.

  • TQFR’s

  • What is it? TQFR’s are survey reports that are generated by other people who took the class. They contain professor ratings, work level estimations, and helpful comments by other students.

  • How do I find it? Log on to access.caltech.edu. There’s a link to view TQFR reports. Search for the most recent entries by the same name as the class you’re thinking of taking.

  • When should I use it?Before you choose any elective class. Some sound fun and relaxed but are really challenging. Some sound challenging but are really relaxed. Know your workload. TQFR’s can help you choose between options that you already know you have, but they aren’t very good at helping you figure out what your options are.

  • Degree Audit

  • What is it?The Degree Audit tells you what requirements you have to complete foryour degree. It’s not quite as useful as a freshman because you haven’t declared a major yet, but it will tell you all about your core requirements. For me, it’s very useful because I only have a few requirements left. It has helpful little numbers that tell me what credits I need to fill.

  • How do I find it?It’s on Regis, the course registration website that keeps track of your schedule and shows you your grades. You access Regis through access.caltech.edu. I recommend bookmarking Regis so it always shows up at the top of your Access page. It comes in useful when you’re filling out Add/Drop cards. Go to Regis -> Academic Information -> Degree Audit (button at the bottom left of the Academic Information page). It comes in a pop-up so make sure those aren’t blocked.

  • When should I use it? When you’re about to fill out your ASCIT Course Planner.

  • ASCIT Course Scheduler

  • What is it?The ASCIT Course Scheduler lets you plan your week-to-week schedule for the next term. It has times and units for all the classes offered in the next term. This lets you schedule your days without overlaps, or just know what you’re getting into. (I definitely scheduled myself some four-hour class blocks before I learned how to use this tool.)
  • How do I find it?It’s on the ASCIT (Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology) website: donut.caltech.edu. Log in to the ASCIT website with your access.caltech credentials to find "Course Scheduler" under "User Services" at the top left.

  • When should I use it?About a week before course registration, when you’re figuring out what classes/sections you’re actually going to be in. You can also use it to find what’s available in a specific category (e.g., if you need a frosh hum, search for classes labeled "Hum" and it will bring up all the frosh hums offered in the next term. Use in conjunction with TQFR’s to find the best classes in the right categories.) Definitely use this to choose the sections you want for all your core curriculum classes.

  • ASCIT Course Planner

  • What is it?The ASCIT Course Planner knows what classes are offered which terms, but not class times. It’s a great tool to make your "four year plan," but I wouldn’t worry too hard about the full four years right now. Many of you, even those who come in very sure of what they want to do, will switch majors before you declare. So use this to plan core and get to the rest later.

  • How do I find it? It’s also on the ASCIT website. The link is right under the one for the Course Scheduler.

  • When should I use it?When you’re thinking you don’t have time fora humanities/social sciences (HSS) course this term and you’re trying to figure out when you can make up the difference.

  • Lottery Classes

  • What is it? This isn’t actually a tool. You just should sign up for lottery classes. These are classes that are so popular that it’s no longer reasonable to register first-come first-serve, but rather only on a random basis. They’re usually upper-level humanities courses. When you’ve finished your frosh hums (which I advise doing as quickly as possible) you should start signing up for class lotteries.

  • How do I find it?Sign up for lottery classes online starting about two weeks before and ending the Sunday before class registration. The link to do this is on the front page of REGIS.

  • When should I use it? When you need to fill your advanced/additional humanities requirements.

  • Upperclassmen

  • What is it? Older students. We know things. Find an upperclassman in your major who has their life together (read: is going to graduate on time, or on a similar time scale to what you’re expecting) and get all the advice you can. We’re good at giving advice, like whose Ma1a section to go to, which hum professors are the most fun, or which electives to avoid like the plague.

  • How do I find it?Walk on campus and yell. No jk don’t do that. On your Class of 20xx (I forget what we’re on at this point) Facebook group, look for an upperclassman who frequently responds to posts. PM them if your question isn’t something the whole group needs answered. When you get on campus, upperclassmen will be rampantly available, from your UCC (UpperClassman counselor) to your FCC (frosh camp counselor) to your neighbor. If they can’t answer your question, odds are they know someone who can.

  • When should I use it? Every time. All the time. Always. Not sure if you should stick with CS1? Ask an upperclassman. Deciding between a Howgen and a Gilmartin humanities class? Ask an upperclassman. Want to know where you should get dinner? You guessed it. We’re pretty good about answering questions, but try to spread out the questions between upperclassmen. This helps ensure that they won’t be annoyed by your froshiness and makes sure you get a better, more balanced perspective.

Overall, don’t overthink it. If you want to add a class, do it in the first two weeks because otherwise you’ll be too behind on the work. In the first week don’t worry at all about adding/dropping. Everybody carries around their yellow (Add/Drop) cards and waits to find out what’s good. I don’t remember when you take your placement tests and register, but I’m sure it’s right around the corner!

Until next time,