The last thing all of us did before leaving for break, other than take a few finals, was select our courses for the coming semester. For freshmen it was infuriating, for sophomores it was disappointing, for juniors it was a joy and for seniors it was bittersweet. While the process isn’t perfect and doesn’t allow everyone to take what they want and when they want, for the most part it’s received as fair. But most students don’t enjoy the surprise of Professor Schreier’s Psych 111 course filling up four days before their registration time.

If you’re like me, you left freshman summer orientation vexed over your upcoming fall semester schedule and rushed home to pick the courses you would take for the rest of your undergraduate career. Before you even moved into your residence hall, you took great time and care in finding courses that you would select in your sophomore and junior (and maybe even senior) semesters, when you would have higher priority.

Unfortunately, once you achieve the prized honor of registering before seemingly everyone else, you will continue to find frustration in course selection. You will most likely not be disappointed in the professor or the curriculum, but you might be frustrated about your expectations of the course. Currently, the course guide only allows you to search by departments, distribution requirements, credit totals, keywords and other tags. While the technology works and people typically find the courses they need to take to complete their degree and fulfill their academic curiosity, the information in the course guide is arguably limited.

Unless it’s included in the brief course description, students are usually left clueless as to the number of papers in the course, the style of exams, the necessity of attendance and a host of other factors that would be helpful in fleshing out their next semester. Some students use older siblings, sorority sisters or other sources of course information to select classes based on unique criteria, but not everyone has these resources available. With this in mind, LSA Student Government thinks instructors should, and likely want to, provide more information and details in the course guide about the courses they’re teaching. The information will help students select courses based on factors beyond distribution and upper-level writing requirements, and instead look for courses based on teaching style, time commitment and instructor expectations.

Whether you select your courses because they’re not on Fridays, because they complete your humanities requirement, because the title sounds appetizing or because you read every description of the GEOSCI electives — and this one really spoke to you — LSA-SG is working to improve the course guide to better help you find the classes that fit your needs and wants. We’re working with LSA to indicate when some gateway courses will be offered in the future, so that you can plan when to take a course you cannot get into this semester. We’re petitioning for the incorporation of Michigan Student Assembly’s Advice Online right into the course guide, so you can make informed choices about how helpful and difficult your professors might be. Above all, we’re striving to attach draft syllabi to course descriptions so that you can know how you will be evaluated over the next 16 weeks of class and how your grade will be determined. These efforts will help you find the options you want more quickly and prevent you from choosing courses that don’t meet your expectations.

We need your help in making these improvements. In the November 2010 LSA-SG election, 1,846 of 2,031 (91 percent) LSA students who voted in the election said they would like to use a draft syllabus when choosing their courses. Though LSA students voted to tell us what things should be altered, we still want to hear from you to know what tweaks and changes can be made to make your course selection experience better.

We probably won’t be able to make freshmen register any earlier, and we can’t make Orgo any easier. What we can do is collect all the suggestions from students and partner with the dean’s office to improve the course guide and help you pick the best schedule possible. Please e-mail us at academics@umich.edu, so we can forward your thoughts and concerns about the course guide to those responsible for changing it. College administrators, faculty and staff all want students to have the best resource to find course options, so please tell us how you would like to search for classes.

Jeff Wojcik is an LSA-SG representative. He can be reached at jawojcik@umich.edu.

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