Friday, October 21, 2016

Practical Matters: Priority Registration

by Sarah Kain Gutowski, Chair, New Member Program

On Tuesday, October 25, I'm going to be advising Honors students on the Eastern Campus about the classes they'll be taking next semester. One of the benefits to being an Honors student at Suffolk is that they're allowed to register for their classes early, ahead of the regular Priority Registration schedule. It's a pretty sweet perk, as students in their first semester of college are usually registering last during the Priority Registration period: but because they've been accepted into the Honors Program, they get to take advantage of one-stop shop faculty advising in the Honors Lounge, and at the end of it, once they've decided on their classes, they can take a form over to the registrar's office knowing they won't have to worry about course sections being full yet.

There’s usually some form of “priority registration” at any college or university, so you may already have an idea of what I'm talking about. Just in case you’re still a little fuzzy, though, about what Priority Registration at SCCC encompasses – and what your role in Priority Registration is supposed to be– allow me this attempt to clarify.

October is #domesticviolenceawareness month.

In recent years, particularly after the award of a Title III grant, the administration has spent a good deal of time attempting to clarify the role of advising faculty when it comes to registration. Teaching faculty are required (again, like most important tasks, contractually) to set aside eight hours per semester, in addition to their regular class time and office hours, for advising students. This doesn't mean you have to cram all eight hours into the next two weeks -- although the administration does encourage you to spend more time in November answering student questions about their schedules, helping them decipher their SAIN reports, and guiding them to take classes that will fulfill their program requirements AND requirements for graduation.

Great, you must be saying in response . . . so who am I advising?

Good question! Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, there is no formal assignment of students to faculty advisors for the majority of our students. Some of our programs formally assign advisors, but most do not, and General Studies students are definitely left to fend for themselves. So, in order to make the most of your advisement hours, and in order to actually meet with and help students who would like to be advised, you have a few options.

The first option you have is to canvass the students in your classes. If you haven’t done so already, schedule some of your advising hours over the next month (since Priority Registration officially begins on November 7, and continues until Open Registration begins about a week later). Then make this into some sort of chart using Excel or the table function in Microsoft Word, or simply use the form you find here,, the official, college-wide Faculty Advisement Resource for SCCC. (The link to the PDF form is the first link at the top of the page). Announce your availability to your classes, post the hours on your door, and if you're particularly ambitious, post them to your Blackboard course space.

Another option, which you may have discovered already, is to participate in your department’s efforts to hold department-specific advising sessions. Also, you can volunteer to spend some of your hours advising in the Academic Advising and Mentoring Center. (For example, come November, I'm signing up to spend two hours in the Eastern campus center on a Friday. Sometimes a change of scenery is nice.)

Keep in mind, too, that any hours you spend or have spent counseling or advising students before November (or after!) counts toward your advising commitment. We're not often required to turn in an official record of our time spent advising, but just in case the administration does ask for such a record, it's a good idea to keep notes about whom you advised and when and where.

Also, particularly because you’re new to the college or the full-time teaching faculty gig, you should visit the link above to find videos that demonstrate useful information like “How to Read a Student’s SAIN report” and “Using Banner for Advising Purposes.”

So that’s my heads-up . . . and be prepared to receive a maelstrom of emails concerning Priority Registration at this time of year. As overwhelming as they may seem, you should pay attention to them, as they’ll help you fulfill your advising duties as a faculty member.