‘Shopping’ Electives

New semester, new schedule, a host of decisions. When it comes to registration, I feel a lot of pressure to find the ‘perfect’ class. I hope my classes will help me see the world differently, stretch my writing and speaking skills, clarify What I Want To Do With My Life, begin to understand how non-scientists and non-engineers see science and technology, introduce me to like-minded people around the 5C’s, curate a list of brilliant and wacky readings, and have approachable teachers who take an interest in me as an individual.

It’s a tall order. So my natural response is to ‘shop’ electives: to sit through a wide range of electives in the first two weeks of the semester before the registrar’s Deadline for Adding New Courses. The stakes seem higher for me as a Freshman, since our Mudd Core requirements leave space for only one elective this semester.

I sat through eight electives in total, with departments ranging from psychology, cognitive science, engineering, religious studies, sociology, piano, and philosophy. And I considered even more: math, ballroom dance, gender studies, science technology and society (STS), and anthropology. The labor-intensive, cut-no-corners-approach I took warrants some revision for the next semester: these two weeks were mind-spinningly frantic because I had to do homework for the classes I sat through, not to mention the brisk walk between campuses. (A bike should help!) 

Moe smiling with a backdrop of palm trees.

In an effort to incorporate pictures into my blog, this is me looking relieved after agonizing over which elective to take for two weeks. The background is a real college campus, not a tropical resort I have jetted away to for the weekend, and shows a typical Saturday morning at Malott, Scripps’ dining hall.

Still, ‘shopping’ helped me be 100% confident in my choice of electives (taking Sociology of Poverty at Pomona and piano at Scripps; auditing a Religious Studies class), and also gave insight into different sorts of classes at the 5C’s. The remainder of this post will introduce some of the ways students at the 5C’s comb through the literal thousands of available courses, and how registration actually works!

Separating Signal and Noise: Online ‘Shopping’

According to the Claremont Colleges website, the Colleges offer more than 2,000 courses every year. The number of courses that a student takes before graduation is a tiny fraction of this: Harvey Mudd requires 43 full-credit courses to graduate, and the other Claremont Colleges (Pitzer, Scripps, Pomona, CMC) require 32 full-credit courses. What this means is that there’s a big chance that you will never come across the course title, description, and professor that might perfectly align with the questions you’ve been asking for six years. Luckily, there are many resources at our disposal to maximize our chances.

Websites: 5C Coders to the Rescue

All of the colleges have a Portal for searching and enrolling for classes, but it is not a secret that everyone hates the Portal because it’s slow and resets everything when you press the back button. In response, many generous people around the 5C’s have devised their own tools for searching, scheduling, and reviewing courses. My go-to’s are Hyperschedule and the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) Course Planner.

A screenshot of Hyperschedule.

A screenshot of Hyperschedule.

Hyperschedule lets you search for classes quickly by their title or professor, and can automatically generate a schedule depending on the weighted priority of your classes. It also distinguishes itself among other scheduler tools because it’s compatible with half-semester classes, and colorful and aesthetically pleasing, to boot.

Screenshot of ASPC Course Planner Website.

Screenshot of ASPC Course Planner Website, with detailed queries and course ratings.

The ASPC Course Planner is a powerhouse: you can search courses by time, difficulty, keywords, and reviews, in addition to the usual queries like the professor, department, college, and title. If you can get a Pomona student to log you into the ASPC website, you can also access detailed course reviews and teacher reviews (by categories of engagement, inclusivity, lecturing, etc.).

Word of Mouth and Auditing

Talk to upperclassmen, attend speaker events to find like-minded people. If there is anything I can add to the usual canon, it would be to audit some classes before the registration period begins for the next semester. For instance, I was interested in taking Introduction to Cognitive Science and Introduction to Neuroscience, both classes at Pomona. Last semester, I reached out to friends who were taking these classes and followed them into the class to audit. This way, I could get a view of the teacher’s style and class structure without the commitment of actually having to enroll.  

Registration and PERMS

Once I had a manageable (under 10) list of courses I was interested in, there is just one more step before showing up to the class: PERM. At the beginning of the semester, most high-demand classes are full or closed. A PERM is a 250-character message that you can send to your professor on Portal asking for permission to enroll in their class. After you send the PERM, the convention is to show up on the first day of class, where the Professor would probably take your name and (hopefully) approve your PERM. There is always a chance that the professor is willing to overenroll, or that other students might drop.

A meme making fun of PERMs at the 5C's.

One of the many memes about the 5C registration process.

My experience with PERMS has been unanimously positive. I haven’t had a PERM that has been denied, granted that I send a PERM within the first week of the semester.

Final Thoughts

So long as you’re a curious college student, you’ll never be able to take all of the classes that interest you. Still, it’s fun to ‘shop,’ research, and explore all that the 5C’s have to offer 🙂