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COLLEGE REGISTRATION IS A BRAIN STRAIN - WITH OR WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY

SHARE COLLEGE REGISTRATION IS A BRAIN STRAIN - WITH OR WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY

Whenever I ever think back on my U. of U. student days and the hellish registration I had to endure every quarter, I get the cold sweats.

After planning three or four potential class schedules, I got in line an hour before my registration time, then waited anxiously.At exactly the appointed time I broke through the ribbon and sprinted toward the table with the shortest line - and if I was lucky - officially registered for a course.

Bolstered, I would try for the next one on the list. Always by the third course, I would be turned away.

"Sorry, that section is FULL."

They were frightening, oppressive words. They meant I would have to grab a table in the center of the huge room and re-work my schedule - trying not to panic, trying not to think of the hundreds of other students who were at that very second registering for the courses I was penciling in.

As students, we used to say, "Surely, there is a better way."

Then came a miraculous breakthrough. It was called computerized telephone registration.

Students would use a touch-tone phone to register for classes in the privacy of their own homes.

They would punch in numbers that called up their names, then choose courses the same way, while waiting for the computerized voice to say, "Botany 101, Section 126 has been added to your schedule. Enter your next request NOW."

A student could never be brash and try to register before the appointed time, however. The disembodied voice would say, "You are not allowed to register at this time. Goodbye."

That's OK.

At least it is a more civilized process that takes a well-meaning, idealistic student out of the melee of ancient registration hell, the one favoring athletic types with quick feet and a hereditary gift for changing courses in midstream.

Or so I thought until I helped my son, Charlie register for BYU.

We spent a painful afternoon studying the catalog and the class list, projecting several potential schedules for his first freshman semester, then waited for his telephone time.

Because Marti's computer skills are obviously superior to mine, she agreed to sit by the speaker phone with Charlie while he punched in the numbers.

Sounds easy enough.

They knew they had to begin at exactly midnight on the first day he was qualified to register.

It happened to be the last day of freshman registration. Even with the redial button working constantly, they were not able to break through to the computerized voice for a solid 45 minutes.

Then they anxiously punched the buttons, only to hear the dreaded words, "The course you have entered is - FULL. Enter your next request NOW."

They started over, their train of thought occasionally interrupted by the voice, saying, "Did you forget to press the pound key?"

When they finally entered again, all of the courses on the original list were unceremoniously shot down, one by one.

When I poked my head in at 1:30 a.m., they were so mesmerized by the disembodied voice, that they barely acknowledged my presence. I discovered later they had been trying to outsmart an overloaded computer that was behaving irrationally.

By 2 a.m., they breathed a collective sigh of relief. Charlie actually had a schedule - and they could finally go to bed.

In the morning, with massive headaches all around, I found myself reminiscing about "those good old days" when I sprinted between tables - days that were not so bad after all.