Sign up for courses sooner, not later

Course registration for Ivy Tech’s spring 2015 term began Sept. 15, even though classes do not begin until Jan. 11.

A fair number of students registered for courses opening day, but unfortunately, far too many students will wait until much closer to the start of the term to register. The reasons for waiting vary, but a delay in course registration could be a predictor of students’ academic persistence and completion.

Does the timing of when a student registers for a course really matter?

Anecdotal evidence from professors and advisers indicates students’ registration date matters.

The later students register the least likely they are to be prepared to start the course, or to successfully complete the course. There is evidence far beyond the observations of advisers and professors, though. Research confirms there is a correlation to when students register and their course persistence and completion.

My doctoral research examined students’ registration dates and how those enrollment patterns correlated to persistence and completion in a gatekeeper course. Considering the registration period of two weeks prior to the start of term as being late registration, of the 751 students in the study sample, 20 percent registered late.

Fifty-three percent of these students did not complete or successfully pass the course. Comparatively, 59 percent of the students who registered early persisted and successfully completed the course.

This doctoral research is one of several studies conducted on the phenomenon of students’ late course registration date and its correlation to their course persistence and completion. There are many variables associated with students’ academic persistence and success, or lack thereof.

Students face many obstacles during their academic journey, some of which cannot be controlled. However, students can change their course registration habits, which in turn could lead to better academic preparedness and success.

What are some differences between an early registering student and a late registering student?

Last spring Jane decided to register for classes the Friday afternoon before the term began. Many of the classes Jane wanted to take were already full, and those that were available did not fit her work and social schedule. Jane also filed financial aid documents late, so she was still waiting on funds to purchase textbooks. Jane arrived to her classes on time, but a week into the semester she still did not have textbooks; therefore, she did not complete assignments. Jane finally purchased textbooks during week four, but she was so behind trying to complete missed and current assignments that she became discouraged. Jane was not caught up with reading by mid-term exams and this was reflected in failings grade earned. Overwhelmed, Jane withdraws from her courses a week later.

John registered for classes a couple weeks after the registration period opened. The same day he made sure financial aid documents were in order and he visited with an academic adviser to review the remaining courses needed to earn an associate degree. Several weeks prior to the start of the term John purchased textbooks and read the first couple of chapters. He participated in lively classroom discussions and completed all assignments on time. At the end of the term John had successfully completed all of his courses and was already registered for the next semester.

There are many Janes and Johns registering for classes each semester. However, since the evidence suggests students’ early course registration date is predictive of increased persistence and completion, students should be registering earlier rather than later, like John. For many students, course registration habits can be predictive of their eventual course completion and success.