You thought the arduous U.S. college application process was over when you got your acceptance, only to discover that this was just the beginning. Once you're finally accepted as an international student, you'll likely need to assemble a class schedule before you arrive at college in the fall.
In this age of technology it's fairly standard that this is done online. You'd think it would be simple; everyone knows how to work the Internet! Not so.
Although college websites normally provide an online how-to manual for class registration, the process can be confusing and convoluted. Here are ways you can navigate arranging your timetable from a different country.
First, know your time zone. The odds are that most online school systems won't run 24 hours a day, but will stick strictly to their business hours or school days.
For me, with the eight-hour time difference between the United Kingdom and the U.S., I was left with a very narrow time window in which to battle with University of California—Berkeley's class application Web program: the notorious "Tele-BEARS."
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Before you delve into the class entry codes, make sure you set up an extra clock either on your desk or on your computer, so you can start to get the hang of the time difference. It will prove useful when it's time to move out as well!
Second, while you're struggling with the course registration website, make sure you look at the faculty sites as well. These days, all departments are bound to have some sort of Web presence, and if you do a quick search you should find contact details for the professors.
These are invaluable. There are some classes for which you may have to prepare a special application or submit some pieces of work in order to get a spot.
Twice this year I missed the deadlines for such classes. But I got in touch with the professors, explained my predicament and, after a series of emails, managed to secure a place in the courses I wanted.
This is a huge bonus to being an international student, particularly if you're only studying in the U.S. for a limited period of time such as a semester or a year. When you're in a tight spot you can play your trump card.
Let your professors know that you are only in the country for a short time and that you are really committed to this particular course, and with any luck they'll make a space for you in the class.
Are you still so lost among the unfamiliar jargon that you want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs through your browsing history? Are the days slipping by with you still finding yourself unable to sign up for a single discussion group? Guess what – you're not alone.
A simple Google search will often point you toward online student forums – such as on College Confidential – where equally baffled students, both international and American alike, will be trying to navigate the system.
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Either join pre-existing discussion threads or set up your own to get help. All I had to do was type in the word "Tele-BEARS" and 628 results appeared. It's a great way to find some more experienced students who can guide you through the process – or at least you'll be baffled as part of a group instead of on your own.
Finally, get help from students from your home country or university who either traveled to the U.S. in previous years or are still studying there. Not only will they have had experience with the registration system, they'll also be able to communicate it to you in a way you understand.
Emily Burt, from the United Kingdom, is currently studying at the University of California—Berkeley on an exchange program. She will graduate from the University of East Anglia in 2014 with a bachelor's in American literature and creative writing.