Hello Rutgers Camden, your Features Editor here. Welcome back, and welcome to 2011! I hope you made a good resolution (or at least lasted long enough to see the ball drop). Personally, my resolution was to graduate before 2012. Sadly, the odds are not looking too good. Why, you ask? You may have heard my reason before. It’s this lovely little thing called the RU Screw.
Tricky little bugger, the RU Screw. Think of it as Rutgers’ version of a rite of passage. It doesn’t hit everyone, and it can pop up at any time (like the ex you can’t stand who shows up at the most inopportune moments) to ruin your day. Scratch that, to ruin your year, if you plan on graduating in a timely fashion. Never heard of it? Ah, so you’re a new student. Well, as an RU Screw veteran, I’ll give you the rundown.
The RU Screw is the age old tradition of finding yourself in a ridiculous position based off something that makes absolutely no sense to you. It’s getting lost in the system at Rutgers and finding yourself staring at the second semester of your senior year and thinking, “What the hell just happened?”
Contrary to popular belief, it is not caused by the administration. They can usually help you beat the Screw, actually, but we’ll get to that later. No, you get RU Screwed by doing what we college students like to do best: skimming the fine print and hoping for the best.
For instance, someone tells you that the faculty parking lots don’t ticket after 4 pm, and so you move your car there, only to return after class to find a beautiful $50 ticket shoved under your windshield with love. We’ve all done it. Could we have just asked the nice security guard if they would ticket? Of course, but that would take an extra step, and we don’t like them. Granted, we don’t like tickets, either, but wishful thinking leaves us as parking optimists.
That’s a baby Screw, though it becomes exponentially worse when they won’t hand over that diploma because you have $380 in unpaid parking tickets and not a penny to your college-poor name. All the same, it is more easily explained than most.
Most people that have been RU Screwed will say it has more to do with them not being able to fit all their classes in or get their prerequisites done in time to graduate within the normal allotted 4-year span. This happens for a variety of reasons.
The most common is the misconception that you can take only 4 classes a semester, drop some, change your major 3 times and decide that a 4-year college career is still plausible. In your defense (and mine, as this is partially my problem), no one really tells you otherwise. This is college; no one is holding your hand as you register for classes, or telling you it’s a bad idea to drop them.
Likewise, no one is going to inform you that being horrible at math and science makes being pre-med a terrible idea. You want to be pre-med? Enjoy the coursework, and don’t whine when you switch to graphic design because that’s a better option than flunking out, and because the name sounds cool. And then don’t be upset when you come to understand that just because the name sounds cool, doesn’t mean you’ll be good at it, and you have to switch again. 4 years of college? Not likely.
So that is the most common issue, and also the one that is the most our own fault. A lot of the other RU Screwy problems come from going to a tiny school with a medium to small course selection in each major per semester. With most majors mapped out like a spider web, where you must take a prerequisite to move forward, and the prereq (some of which are offered just once a year) fills up in about 5 minutes flat, planning out your path to a graduation cap is daunting at best.
It also doesn’t help that most programs have more than one sheet outlining the major requirements, as they change from time to time. I know people that have grabbed the wrong sheet and 4 years later thought they were ready to graduate, only to find out that they took 4 classes they didn’t need and have 6 left to take. This is when the words, “I got RU Screwed,” tend to slip out of their mouths, usually accompanied by heat being emitted from the ears.
So how do we beat it? I don’t know how much you want to listen to me, since it looks as though I’ve moved on to the 5-year plan, but I really think I’ve got it down. There are a few simple steps that if you take, you should be able to avoid the RU Screw like the plague.
1.) Get a parking pass. Shut up and do it. If you don’t, I can pretty much guarantee you that you’ll pay more than it costs in tickets. Plus, no one wants to tell daddy when he shows up to watch you walk that he needs to pull out his checkbook.
2.) Pick a realistic major. What’s realistic? Something you like and are good at. If you can’t decide right away, use your first few semesters to get rid of your general education requirements.
3.) Once you’ve picked a major, go see your academic advisor. Don’t know who that is? Go to either Academic Advising (it’s not rocket science, we’re just lazy) or to the head of your department. ASK THEM for the major requirements worksheet you should use. ASK THEM for what classes you should take first. They will help you. You’re not annoying them, it’s their job.
4.) If a class you absolutely need closes before you can get in, immediately e-mail both the professor and your advisor and request to be let in. They usually keep a few seats open for just that reason that no one knows about. Use this to your advantage. However, do not expect them to open an art class to you if you are a bio major that just really likes to draw.
5.) GO IN PERSON TO HANDLE THINGS OF IMPORT! Note the capitalization: this is important. Technology really just prolongs issues and screws up communication. Most people in the offices really do want to help, so go ask. Don’t call, don’t e-mail, go.
Follow these rules and you just may beat the RU Screw. You may want to keep in mind, though, that with the terrible job market, dragging school out another year is not a horribly bad idea. Maybe that’s the real reason the RU Screw is a time honored tradition: our college comfortable subconscious minds just don’t want to leave.