Bruin 101: Enrollment
(Katelyn Dang/Illustrations Editor)
In this episode of “Bruin 101,” a Daily Bruin podcast about life at UCLA, Podcasts contributors Wendy Minn, Kyla Ventura and Sonia Wong discuss their experiences and tips for enrolling in classes at UCLA.
Wendy Minn: Hello and welcome to Bruin 101, a Daily Bruin podcast that is made by Bruins, for Bruins. In this series we hope to help students and prospective students learn about and adapt to UCLA by providing insight into the school, sharing helpful tips and discussing concerns. In this episode, we will be talking about enrollment and the general process as well as tips on building the perfect schedule. I’m Wendy.
Kyla Ventura: I’m Kyla.
Sonia Wong: And I’m Sonia.
WM: So first up, let’s explain the process. Every UCLA student gets two passes, which are assigned depending on the number of units completed. First pass is earlier, so you would enroll in the classes you want most. This is limited to 10 units, which is usually two classes. And your second pass, which is usually about a week later, you can enroll in up to your study list maximum, which depends on your units completed. How have your guys’ enrollments been this time around?
KV: I think this time was the easiest for me, because my classes were just less full. And then I had a lot of alternates, so it made it easier to sign up.
SW: For me, I would say I also had a really similar experience. I think only one of my classes were pretty competitive, which was a geography class. So I definitely put that as my first priority during the first pass. So after that, I didn’t really have to worry about the other classes. And I was really lucky that I was able to get a PTE code for one of my other classes as well. So I would say yeah, it’s gone pretty smoothly for me.
KV: So just to get into more of what a first pass is: So we’re all assigned an enrollment period, like a few weeks before, we need to register for classes. And then your first pass, like Sonia said, you sign up for the most competitive courses, and you can enroll in up to 10 units. So that’s usually like two classes, or one big class.
SW: And to add a little more to what a PTE code is, it’s actually a permission to enroll directly from either the professor or lecturer who’s teaching the class themselves. And they’ll give you a special code after you give them your UID, which is your university identification number. And they’ll be able to give you a code that allows you specific permission to enter into a class, regardless of whether or not the class has been filled up or not.
KV: So when you’re planning to sign up for classes, you go on to MyUCLA, which is our central website where we log in. And this is usually where I check my grades or just if I have any holds and things like that. So you make a class planner, where you put like a rough draft of the classes that you want to take, and that’s where your alternates would be. So you would put like, I’m considering these classes, and then if I don’t get those classes, then I’ll take these classes. And so that’s how that works.
SW: And I think the good thing with class planner would be because it’s just a rough draft, you can always change it. And classes are updated regularly a week, or even up to a month after the classes are initially posted. You can try out different combinations, you can choose out the colors that you pick for each individual class, and class planner gives you a really easy and detailed layout of how your week’s gonna look like. So you can also schedule regardless of whether it’s work or other arrangements that you have around classes that you want to have.
WM: Yeah, it’s definitely important to have a lot of alternates. In my experience, I never get the classes that I originally sign up for. I’ve been pretty unlucky with pass times especially. And I rely almost every quarter on someone dropping a class. I know there’s Coursicle, it’s like an app that you— it monitors when people drop things. I’ve personally never used that and I just kind of stay on MyUCLA for like the entire time that enrollments up and I just wait for people to drop.
SW: While I think the apps or the websites are definitely useful. I’ve also heard a tip from some professors or other lecturers saying that, during the first two weeks of classes, it’s most likely for people to drop their classes, because that’s when you can do it without any penalty without any petitions as well. So definitely don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get the classes even after your second pass. Because the first two weeks of the quarter to me are also really important as well.
KV: So do you guys use Bruinwalk?
SW: I think so yeah. For me, personally, I just take it with a grain of salt because I know obviously, different people have different experiences. So I think each individual has their own really unique experience, so I take them more as a reference. But sometimes I find comments such as those who outline the finals and how they’re going to look like and what we should expect and roughly the amount of time they’ve dedicated to studying for the final. Those ones I find really practical and useful. So those ones I definitely would take note. And so if a lot of people are saying that this class is really tough, I’ll definitely make sure to make time for this class more in particular.
KV: I didn’t find out about it until like my third time registering for classes. So it’s operated by the Daily Bruin and it’s anonymous professor reviews. So students share, like, their reviews and advice about academics and housing. So if they liked this professor, if they didn’t like that professor, and why. And like Sonia said, I think just take it with a grain of salt, because every student has different likes and dislikes when it comes to professors and teaching styles; and what you like may not be the same as what someone else likes. And then I took a class thinking it was like less work, and then it ended up being really hard for me. So just keep that in mind.
SW: I definitely agree that enrollment can be a really complicated and intimidating process at first, like, for example, during orientation, even when there was somebody who was called an NSA who was guiding us through— basically a peer advisor who’s teaching us how to enroll for classes, I still definitely felt a bit of lost and was really nervous for it, as well. Wendy, do you want to talk a little bit about your NSA orientation or enrollment experience for the first time?
WM: Yeah, I mean, looking back, it wasn’t the most positive experience right then, but it ended up working out. So my NSA— you’re like grouped in within your major. So I started out as a pre-business economics major. And my NSA was not pre-business economics, he was econ. And I think they also have a certain script of what they’re supposed to say versus what their genuine opinions are about things. So he highly recommended that I did not take a major course immediately while entering my first quarter at UCLA. And so I listened to him, I didn’t take a major class. But in the end, that left me a little bit behind on my major. Most people I knew kind of just ignored their NSA’s remarks and kind of went ahead, and it worked out with their schedule a little bit better as well. Because if you take some major classes earlier, it leaves more room to have GEs in your upperclassman days, which is really nice, because it gives you a little cushion in between, like all your major classes. So I really wish that I’d taken more major classes to begin with. The only thing is it just ended up working out because I ended up switching out of pre-business economics. So it was kind of perfect that I didn’t take a major class that I didn’t end up needing to do.
KV: I think for me, like freshman orientation and signing up for classes the first time was very stressful. And I think the most stressful time that it’s been. But I think that’s just because like we have no idea what we’re doing. So my NSA really encouraged taking a cluster. And so I ended up being in the aging cluster, like, “Frontiers in Human Aging,” and I really enjoyed it. And what a cluster is, is a yearlong class where you get six units per quarter, so it ends up being 18 units. And then it is also three quarters of honors credit, and you’re grouped with only freshmen. And it’s just designed to transition you to UCLA and like get used to taking classes. And so I really appreciate that she pushed that. It was just— I had signed up for a different cluster at first that wouldn’t have gotten me any credit. And so then I got the last spot in the aging cluster. So that was like— that’s where the stress came from.
SW: Yeah, I definitely agree that it was more stressful than the other passes that I did after a few times just because, during orientation, to make things easier for everybody in the group, they intentionally assigned the group with the same enrollment times. But since everybody has pretty much a really similar major, a lot of people might be competing for the same classes. So it’s really normal for your screen to freeze up the first time around. So one of the tips I would say is just to not panic, and to just keep hitting refresh. And don’t hit refresh until you know the refresh thing has stopped loading. And just trust the process because everybody has been through the same thing. As for a little additional comment on what Kyla said as well, I definitely also agree with what you said about the cluster. So I also enrolled in a cluster that is no longer existent. It’s called “Mind over Matter.” It’s a neuroscience cluster. And I thought it was a really fun cluster. And obviously I did it so it would be easier and a quicker way to knock out my science GE requirements. But at the same time, I definitely had some reservations after the first quarter, since I would say the course load was definitely much heavier than the other classes. And you definitely have to be more prepared for that. And so I would just say for the first quarter if, especially if you’re taking a cluster, just try to take things easy, and just treat your first quarter as the time to experiment with different classes, different course loads and just getting used to UCLA in general.
KV: I think the last quarter with my cluster was my favorite because we didn’t have a discussion, which is like when you meet with a TA, usually once or twice a week to go over what you learned in class. But we didn’t have a discussion, and it was just a seminar. So it was our professor and 20 students in a small room. It was a health promotion seminar. So I think health promotion is good for everyone to know. So that’s why I really enjoyed it.
WM: Yeah, I did not take a cluster. So I, at times, think it would have been a good idea, especially if you’re in College of Letters and Sciences— we have the most GEs and the clusters take out a lot of those. I just think me, I didn’t end up choosing that personally, because I wanted a little bit more freedom to choose my classes. Because with a cluster, you have like your set. And I kind of just wanted more diversity, with being able to choose my own classes, and essentially the schedule as well. Whereas you’re already kind of put into certain scheduled classes.
KV: Have you guys taken Fiat Lux classes?
SW: Yeah. For me, personally, I’ve taken two Fiat Luxes so far. One of them is from the English department, and it talks more about animal rights. It’s called “The Silence of the Lambs.” Whereas I also took a second one, just this last quarter. It is a political science one, it’s just international relations through film. So for me, personally, I really enjoyed Fiat Luxes. Because Fiat Luxes, to briefly explain, is basically a one unit class that doesn’t really fulfill any requirements. It’s seminar-based, people usually read up on the materials at home and go in class just to discuss the materials. And it’s pretty low stress, because it’s pretty low expectations, and there’s no grade attached to it. It’s just a pass/no pass class. And for me, I would say for both of the Fiat Lux classes, I really enjoyed both of them. Firstly being because there was no need to worry about grades. So obviously, I was more able to immerse myself in the content, and I was actually discussing things that I personally found interesting. And I think the second thing is that, unlike some other bigger classes that might be held in say, like a bigger class size, like even up to 200 or 300 people, you really get a really small group of around 20 people to just go around and talk about what they thought. So it really provided a really flexible, really free environment as well as a really small circle where you don’t feel like you’re being judged, even if you’re just seeing what you think about the material, whether or not you agreed with what everybody said. Have you guys taken any Fiat Luxes or even other like seminar-style classes?
WM: I’ve only taken one seminar class. And I thought it was really interesting because seminars are those small discussion-based courses. And in my experience seminars tend to be like once a week, and three hours, at least the ones that I’ve previously looked at. The one I took as well was once a week, three hours. And it’s nice to only have that one thing in your schedule versus consistently every day. And mine, I took a K-Drama class, and I think it was offered only that one time, and it disappeared to never be found again. But seminars can be really interesting and they fulfill GE requirements. The only thing about them is, in my experience, I feel like they disappear a lot. There are a couple of seminars, I think that come back. But otherwise, they’re kind of just one-offs, and you have to get kind of lucky in a quarter to get them. So I wouldn’t rely on seminars, even though they are fun classes to take to fulfill your GE credits.
KV: I think I really liked my seminar too because it felt like high school a little bit with just one teacher who actually got to know us over the quarter. And so if you’re like searching for that familiarity, it is good. So do you guys use the DARS to figure out which classes you’re going to take? Or do you meet with your advisor?
SW: Yeah, so for me, I think both are really useful resources. So to explain a little more, DARS is basically a website where you can click, or even model a new plan just to see what classes you have to take for specific majors so you can better decide what to take or how to plan out your major. If you’d like to make a three- or four-year plan, that could really come in handy. You could see how many classes you’ve already finished so you can have a rough estimate on how far you are on your academic path. Whereas for departmental advisors, they are usually specific to your department. There might be around two or even more assigned to your major specifically, and they’re able to answer different questions on general course requirements or even career-related questions. So for me, I’ve used both of the resources myself. But for me personally, I found DARS maybe a little more useful, simply because, for now, I’m planning on double majoring in English and French. Since there are two majors, I obviously have to go back and forth between different departmental advisors, and they may not always be available during the times I might be. So I think DARS has been a really useful resource just because it gives you all the details on all the classes you can take for a specific requirement. It’s also helped me really narrow down what classes I have to take for each quarter, and I was able to make a really detailed plan for my three-year college plan. But, even if I personally prefer DARS, I also think it’s really helpful to just talk to somebody in-person who’s maybe had more personal experience, and able to tell you things in-person, rather than just list out really technical, you know, information on classes that you have to take. What do you think, Wendy?
WM: Yeah, I agree that DARS is the more helpful resource for me as well. I think it’s also because they might have a pre-planned schedule. But in the end, you know your own limitations, and your own preferred schedule. So if they recommend you to take three, but you can handle four, or the other way around, they recommend you take four, but you think you can only handle three, I think that’s also very valid. I think especially this kind of goes into us being a big public school, it is hard to reach an academic counselor. And because there are so many of us, it’s hard to be a little bit more personalized. In the end, I’ve had a lot of people with bad experience with academic advisors not giving the best advice. So I think it’s definitely an experience that differs from person to person.
KV: Yeah, so my neuroscience counselor was really helpful. She has a lot of drop-in hours, and there are two of them, so you can just go talk to them through Zoom if you need to. And then she told me about— I just look up pretty much “four-year plan for a neuroscience major at UCLA,” and then they have different templates for most majors. If they don’t have your major, they have a custom template. It pretty much just tells you which classes that you should be taking at that time, or what you should have taken already, so I think that is helpful to just meet with them at least once.
SW: Yeah, and I think another really valuable resource after you’ve gone into certain classes would definitely just be people in your class, whether they be classmates, TAs or just the professors in general, because they have the same experience— if not the same, but really similar experiences to you. Being in the same class, you can definitely rely on each other for advice. And since your classmates could be your peers as well, they’re usually more likely to be just honest, without having to, you know, have a filter about what they think of a certain class. So you can also get really useful advice or help from them. And one thing I’ve definitely learned over the year that I’ve been at UCLA is to not be afraid to ask for help, especially knowing or— as when you mentioned, being such a huge public school, it’s definitely really hard to take the initiative at first to admit that you need help. But when you do, a lot of people are there to support you and they’re definitely there to just help you succeed. So lastly, if we have to talk about tips, or just give one final tip on enrollment, or just anything you want to say to incoming freshmen, what piece of advice would you guys give?
WM: I think mine is to really not worry about enrollment. For me, everything’s worked out in the end. That K-Drama class that I mentioned earlier, I ended up picking up that class after I dropped a class. I think things will work out. Originally, I was really stressed about not having my major classes done when I was in pre-business economics. But then I ended up switching majors, so it ended up being perfect for me anyways because I didn’t end up taking classes that I didn’t need to graduate. So definitely don’t stress, things will work out in the end.
SW: For me, I think one thing I learned is that enrollment is not the be-it-all for any of your classes. Because sometimes even if you think the description, DARS or whatever class website that you have might sound really appetizing, maybe after a week or two, you might decide to switch to another class instead; or have to drop a class; or add another class that you originally didn’t intend to. Like Wendy said, I think everything will work out in the end, and enrollment is just part of a process that everybody has to get used to. And after a while, it definitely gets a lot better, so don’t stress too much. If you get the classes that you want, that’s definitely great. But if you don’t, you still have two more weeks after the quarter started to get everything sorted out, and I think everything will work out in your favor as well.
KV: Yeah, I agree. Good luck on signing up for classes, all freshmen in it, everything works out.
WM: Bruin 101 is brought to you by the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student newspaper. You can listen to this show and others by the Daily Bruin on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and SoundCloud, and a transcript for the show will be available at dailybruin.com. Thanks everyone, see you next week.