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Posted on Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Michigan Memories: How U-M course registration has evolved over time

By Kellie Woodhouse

Another fall of classes is upon us, and with it is an estimated 6,000 University of Michigan freshmen who will be orienting themselves to the college lifestyle for the first time.

Students will unpack belongings into the dorms and get acquainted with the landscape that will surround them for the next four years.

Over the years, the course registration experience has modernized as schools adapted to technology. Instead of filing into a noisy gymnasium and using a No. 2 pencil to fill out course sheets, students now register for classes online, usually in a matter of seconds.

New freshmen usually register for classes during their summer orientation. Returning students register online, usually during the winter semester.

Here's a look at how the registration experience has evolved over the years.


U-M Bentley Historical Library

Registration wasn't always so simple. Instead of going online and clicking away, students had to go in and register in person. In this 1940s-era photo, signs indicate which classes are still available and students hustle to make their selections. Interestingly, students could still sign on for Portuguese and Mineralogy at the time this photo was snapped.


U-M Bentley Historical Library

Students discuss their selections as they register for classes in September of 1951. Orientation took place at Waterman Gym, a structure torn down in 1977.


U-M Bentley Historical Library

In this photo, dated 1964, students sit at long tables as they registered for classes in the Waterman Gym.


U-M Bentley Historical Library

In this photo, probably from 1968, students used IBM cards to sign up for classes. Students punched their selections into the cards, which were read by a computer. The cards were an outgrowth of the school's academic computing facility, which was established in 1959, according to archives.


U-M Bentley Historical Library

Even in 1981, students had to carry around identification cards. In this picture a student gets his class schedule in order with the help of a clerk. Next, he'll go down the street to get his student ID validated.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Mon, Aug 27, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

Registration at Waterman Gym into the early and mid 1970s was the norm in my day. Great photos. I don't miss those keypunch machines.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

The only ones who need to care about this are the international students or the out-of-state students that U-M targets for enrollment.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 10:08 p.m.

Mineralogy, I love it! The class where I met my wife.


Tue, Aug 28, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

Bet she rocked.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

I registered in Waterman from 1959-1963. I was also Manager of Systems and Programming for Student Data Systems from about 1980-84. I actually did not have much first hand knowledge of the early on-line systems, even though they were my ultimate responsibility. However, I do remember the punch cards that we used in the early 1960s. Contrary to the article, the cards were not "punched" by the student. Each class section had a deck of punch cards equaling the available slots in a class. When one chose a class at the tables you see, one of these punch cards was given to the student. The registering student assembled his pack of course cards, with a lead card identifying the student, and turned this package in. That became your class schedule, when processed. No more cards at the table, no more seats in the class. Prior to that, you had a 3x5 card with lines for the faculty at the tables to write your selection. They also wrote your name on the class section list. I also remember that my tuition as an instate student in 1959 was $125 for the semester! Jim Thomson, retired UM administrator.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 9 p.m.

I remember registering for classes in Waterman Gym. It was very easy and quick. As I recall you were pre-registered in courses by your counselor and then just had to make adjustments. Adjustments were typically to avoid time conflicts or to make last minute changes to class selections.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

1985-88: Long lines in Angell Hall, down towards the Fishbowl where registration took place somewhere (can't remember the room.); in line at certain times based on your last name; ID cards; the thick booklet of printed course listings from which to choose; the slip of paper on which to list your classes; waiting to sit with the person at the computer (as in one picture above) who would input your choices-only to then find some weren't available and you had to make other quick choices which might mean the entire redoing of the schedule-OR WORSE-a need for an override or a previous class you hadn't yet taken and then the need for professor permission-all which meant leaving and coming back with signed slips of other papers at another time that was opened to stand in line; then FINALLY-the courses scheduled and printed. Then you took that come Fall or Winter to the bookstore, handed it over to a clerk, who gathered the books from behind the sales desk, stacked them on the counter, and then you paid for them at the cashier. It was a lot of time and effort and dreaded each semester.

Jeff Renner

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

I could be in that 1964 photo - my freshman year. Trying to get a decent schedule, or get in closed classes or get an override took patience, but I agree with the other comments, there was a comaradery and it was part of the excitement of a new school year. Not so much fun in January, though.

Haran Rashes

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 4:54 p.m.

I was in the last Summer orientation group to "CRISP" at Lorch Hall in early August 1984. When we returned a few weeks later, Computer Registration Involving Student Participation had moved to the ground floor of Angell Hall.

Roger Rayle

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Ah yes, I remember registering in Waterman Gym as a freshman in 1965 and, during the process, picking up my Regents Scholarship that paid for a whole year's tuition... in cash! ... with a single US denomination bill ... $500 (can't do that these days) ... $240/semester for engineering tuition meant I still had money left over to buy a couple of textbooks! ... (not just part of a book.) The amount of debt that many of today's students accumulate to get a college education is a national disgrace.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Good article but I think the author needs to bring us up to date and say how students register nowadays. They no longer have to carry around a student ID card, really? Tell us more!


Mon, Aug 27, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

great point. why stop the article 31 years ago?

Kellie Woodhouse

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

Thanks. Most course registration is completed online, through the web-based Wolverine Access program. Students can be given priority registration based on major and class. For example, seniors usually have the opportunity to register before underclassmen. Advisers are assigned to counsel students about course selections. Students can also place themselves on waitlists for closed courses. That's just a general view. Read more here: Thanks for reading.

Anne Carbone

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Yes, I remember the lines winding around Waterman Gym, and the creaking floors...

Sandra Samons

Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 4:18 p.m.

Yes, and the lines snaking all across the Diag from Waterman to State St. Someone would volunteer to take orders and go for carry-out food and beverages! It was horrendous but had a camaraderie side.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

I guess these two classes are no longer relevant? Nobody speaks Portuguese or studies rocks? " Interestingly, students could still sign on for Portuguese and Mineralogy at the time this photo was snapped."


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

This was a horrendous process much more recently than the 60s. I see DDOT remembers CRISPing, as do I; in 1990, everyone sitting on the floor (in was it Angell Hall? I think when I CRISPed it was in the lower floors of Angell Hall). Between 4 and 9 hours. I'm kind of surprised none of these pictures captures the scale of people in line; when I CRISPed there were like hundreds of us. The phone system GoNavy mentioned was, to me, a leap of lightyears into the future; to be on the phone in the comfort of your dorm room for only an hour or two was like sience fiction. I tell you, these kids today ...*shakes cane*; they just don't know how good they got it.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 4:53 p.m.

Yep!! Pack a lunch and WAIT and re-do ("sorry class closed out!") and WAIT some more!!!!


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

Ah yes, CRISPing at the old Econ building on Monroe St.. Good times....good times...


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 11:53 p.m.

I went through this type of registration in '58 and '59, and as I remember all undergrad course registrations were done at Waterman Gymnasium (present site of the new Chem Building). You can see the mezzanine level running track in pictures 1 & 3.


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 12:23 p.m.

Old Architecture Building, no?


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 : 11:41 a.m.

The arcane phone system...