Students gear up for spring term

Kinsey Grant

Students at Washington and Lee register for spring term courses this week, but the panic that precedes registration is already underway.

University Registrar Scott Dittman, who has been in the post for 30 years, said students should remain calm. Dittman said follow-up evaluations for spring term always reflect that even if students get their seventh or eighth choice, they’re always thrilled with the experience.

This year, the university is offering over 115 courses in every discipline. Students have the opportunity to travel around the world or stay here in Lexington, go on archaeology digs or examine the culture of the American south, read short stories or take part in labs.

Dittman said the most popular courses can never be predicted ahead of registration.

“It always surprises me,” Dittman said.

But he said science labs are a popular choice for students. Dittman cautioned seniors against waiting until their last spring term to take their required lab science.

“Seniors assume that they can get into labs, whereas most of the spaces are reserved for first-years and sophomores,” Dittman said.

Many of the seniors who aren’t saving FDR classes for spring term choose to spring option. Students who are, for example, preparing for a job or internship or studying for graduate school entrance exams choose to take the spring term off and take no credits, Dittman said.

Only first-years are required to take a spring term course. Any upperclassmen with a good reason can spring option. But the reasons vary widely.

“We had a couple last year who did a cross-country motorcycle trip,” Dittman said. “We’ve had students every year who hike the Appalachian Trail.”

More than half of the class of 2015 chose to spring option last year, Dittman said.

Seniors register first on Feb. 2. Next are first years, then juniors and finally sophomores. Dittman said the order is different than typical terms because first years are the only students required to take a course.

“Sophomores have a tougher time in the spring term,” Dittman said.

Dittman held office hours in the Marketplace last week to answer students’ questions about the spring term. He explained some of the helpful tools on WebAdvisor, such as course syllabi, P.E. requirements, fees for travel and technology and more.

“In terms of having the opportunity to actually look at the syllabus as you’re choosing your course, that’s pretty unusual and they don’t know about that.” Dittman said.

Professors are asked to post a syllabus on WebAdvisor in advance of registration so students can understand the requirements of the course they’re thinking of taking before registering.

This year, about 15 courses will go abroad, Dittman said. Isabelle McAlevey, ’17, spent the spring term in Ireland last year.

“It was a good amount of time to be abroad and a cool opportunity to explore a new place,” McAlevey said. “It was a great group of people and I brought back a lot of the friendships I made there.”

But not all students want to leave Lexington, or pay a fee for those four weeks.

“A lot of the economics and business electives require a fee or go off campus,” Cara Hayes, ’17, said. “That makes it a little harder to find one.”

Hayes was not alone in her concerns.

“I’ll probably be in a more random class because I don’t need anything to graduate, and I don’t want to pay a fee or leave campus,” Brooke Peccie, ’17, said.

The only major that requires a spring term course is journalism. Students graduating from the program are required to take In-Depth Reporting, typically during their senior year, when many other seniors choose to spring option.