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Time slots: how they’re really assigned

Whether it’s to snag a single room in Phelps Hall for the housing lottery or a spot in an elective that’s only available every few years come scheduling time, everyone hopes for that coveted 9 a.m. time slot. But what can students do to increase their odds of getting first pick over their classmates?

According to Assistant Director of Housing Bryan Dunphy-Culp, nothing — at least not when it comes to housing.

“Time slots are 100 percent randomized,” Dunphy-Culp said. “It takes nothing into account other than x number of students based on gender for a given class year.”

After the College receives all of the applications from students wanting to live on campus, Residential Education and Housing splits the total number of students by gender.

“We split it by gender to make sure we have the right number of spaces for each gender for their class year,” Dunphy-Culp said. “We need to calculate what would be a reasonable number of people to select every 15 minutes, so we input the data, saying that we want x many females selecting every 15 minutes, starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m. Then we do the same for males and we see how many we have.”

Time slots for each day during the registration period usually begin at 9 a.m., but the final selection time each day varies by class size.

“Sophomore time slots usually end at five or six o’clock because there are more sophomores picking housing,” Dunphy-Culp said. “Junior and senior selection ends maybe around (3 p.m.) because there are fewer students selecting spaces.”

Typically, 30 to 35 students select a bed every 15 minutes, Dunphy-Culp said.

“It’s a good amount of time for people to get on and off the portal without overloading it,” he said. “And in 15 minutes, if someone makes an error, it gives them time to go back and fix it before the next group of students sign on.”

Dunphy-Culp added that room selection is entirely unrelated to the wait list.

“If we ever had a wait list, it would be after selection for those who forgot to apply, those who decided much later they wanted housing, transfer students or someone who was cut from selection,” he said. “But that will vary year-to-year based on spaces that are available.”

For the 2015-16 academic year, Dunphy-Culp said there is no wait list — an unusual occurrence.

“There was no student who applied on-time for housing that didn’t get a room this year,” he said. “There was no formal waitlist, either — just 12 to 15 students who applied late and were housed quickly.”

New housing provided by the apartments in Campus Town is a huge contributing factor to the lack of a wait list, Dunphy-Culp said. Many elected to live in the new apartments, leaving spaces open for other students who still wanted to live on campus.

For those students, the College utilized a software system to randomize and assign time slots to them, according to Dunphy-Culp.

“We have an entire database that controls what you see on the MyHousing portal, when applications are available, etc.,” he said. “It is quite extensive.”

According to Frank Cooper, executive director of Records and Registration, there is a similar software system in place to assign time slots for class selection.

“Students are prioritized first by ‘earned’ course units and then by GPA at the time the registration appointment process is run,” Cooper said. “When the College went live with the system in 2009, we were informed by consultants that beyond this criteria, the selection would be random.”

So, for instance, if two students in the same class have the exact same GPA and have taken the same number of courses, there is no telling who might get the earlier time slot. However, getting a higher GPA than a classmate could earn a student a better time slot to design their schedule.

Cooper added that the College places approximately 140 to 180 students in each class registration window, and there are about five windows during each day of registration.

Last semester, the College made the decision to grant student athletes priority registration while in season, so those individuals receive earlier time slots to enroll in classes in order to plan their schedules around practice times.

Rumors about the time slot assignment process have run rampant on campus over the past few years. Some believed it was based on last name, living distance from the College or solely based on a student’s GPA.

“The one thing I like to say is unless you hear it from us or from the materials we send out, don’t believe it,” Dunphy-Culp said.

So technically, a student can strive for Dean’s List each semester and pray for an early time slot, but it mostly comes down to crossing fingers and knocking on wood.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

*This story was originally published in The Signal.

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