Indiana University's collaborative effort to pre-register new and transfer students

by Erica Morrical, Systems Analyst, Student Records, Indiana University System

Colleges strive to make the entrance process for new and transfer students smooth and welcoming.  At Indiana University, a Fall 2016 pilot to pre-register students into key classes before their initial orientation visits was the Office of Enrollment Management’s latest effort to that end.  At this year's Indiana ACRAO meeting, Oct. 17 and 18th in Indianapolis, Ethan Bernhardt, Associate Director of Reporting Services, described the office’s collaboration with two IU schools to pre-register approximately 3,000 new students.  

Why Pre-Registration?

Bernhardt explained that the traditional student responsibility of registration at the time of orientation can lead to certain frustrations for students whose orientation visits are toward the end.  Often many key classes are full by that time, at best leaving a bad impression on students and parents.  At worst, students may get behind in major or gateway classes, ending in a struggle to graduate on time. The hope was for:

  • Greater equity in access to courses

  • Filling courses more evenly across days and across the instructional day

  • Assistance for students to comply with the four-year state plan

  • Happier students

The Pilot

In a short timeframe, Bernhardt’s team worked with the Jacobs School of Music and the Kelly School of Business to identify students and courses for the pilot.  The groups included new and transfer students of both domestic and international origin.  Courses were tailored to the needs of the group.  Some considerations and lessons learned:

  • Pre-registration happened in May, prior to any student’s arrival on campus for orientation.

  • Partner schools provided specific students to be enrolled in specific classes, but the offices worked together to ensure a conflict-free schedule and deal with any specific data problems (e.g., holds on the record affecting service).

  • This process needs to be coordinated well in conjunction with Bursar, Scholarship, and Financial Aid offices to avoid any issues with fee assessment and aid disbursement.

  • Additional consideration is needed for students who never showed up.  How long to hold their reserved seat?

Next Steps

Bernhardt said Indiana University plans to continue the pre-registration effort for Fall 2017.  The hope is to expand the number of students and courses but continue the process as a pilot, while they work out the considerations above and more.  The offices are contemplating carrying on with actual pre-enrollments or simply developing a means to reserve student-specific seats without actual enrollment.  This would quash any need to coordinate timing with bursar and aid officials.  Whatever the process, the idea is promising and worth watching for Indiana’s long-term success.