I’ve heard many myths about how to register for courses faster. For example, someone told me that the stairs by the second floor of LSP has the fastest internet. I understand that in the competitive arena of course registration, every millisecond counts. In fact, optimizing your computer correctly not only gives an edge in securing desired courses, but it also enhances the overall experience for everyone, because correctly setting up your computer can also reduce the workload on the server side. Let’s explore several primary sources of latency and how to minimize them effectively in a measurable and testable way. 

Varies situations that may prevent you from register

Before talking about how to register faster, there are several factors that may prevent you from registering at all. Double-check the following at least one day before the registration starts, so if there is anything wrong you have time to email the registrar’s office or your advisor to fix it.

  • Make sure you get your registration PIN from your advisor.

  • Ensure your account is not on hold. Go to MyDiplomat – Academic -Student Record & Registration to see if there is any hold. It might be caused by not paying tuition, for example.

  • On the same webpage, check your class standing for registration purposes is correct. In the spring of my freshman year, because I transferred 11 credits from my high school curriculum, I was considered a junior by the system, which prevented me from registering for several courses that were only open to freshmen and sophomores. 

  • This year, 2-factor authentication (2FA) is required for course registration. You can try logging into id.fandm.edu to check if you are enrolled. If not, this guide from ITS may help you set it up correctly. 

Clock inaccuracy

Timing is critical when it comes to course registration. If the clock you’re referencing is off by even a fraction of a second, you could find yourself at a disadvantage. Modern computers regularly communicate with a time server to synchronize the time, this allows Desktop computers to control clock inaccuracy within 100 milliseconds. Laptops and phones sync less often with the time server to save power, significantly reducing accuracy, sometimes by more than 10 seconds.

Solution

A simple fix is to use a webpage clock. Search “my time” online a minute or two before registration time. This narrows the inaccuracy to around 100ms. Windows users can achieve the same accuracy by navigating to Settings > Time & Language > Date & Time, and clicking “Sync Now.”

However, aligning with the official time alone isn’t sufficient. You need synchronization with the course registration server’s time at F&M, considering the server’s time may also be 100ms off from the official time. you’d better sync your computer’s clock with the server’s time server (ntp.fandm.edu), preferably an hour before registration begins because your local clock will continuously drift.

For Windows, go to Control Panel > Clock and Region > Date and  Time, choose the “Internet Time” tab, click “Change settings,” input ntp.fandm.edu, and click “Update now.” Mac users should open Terminal and type sudo sntp -sS ntp.fandm.edu, entering your password when prompted.

Human latency

After the clock shows the time arrives, your brain takes about 100-300ms to react and initiate a click via the mouse, keyboard, or touchpad. Wired input devices, including built-in laptop keyboards, transmit the signal to the computer within 1-10ms,  while wireless variants range from 2-50ms, and touchpads lag at  50-150ms. Then it will take several seconds for you to enter those CRNs.

Solution

A practical tool for assessing this loop’s latency is available at humanbenchmark.com. Testing before and after implementing optimizations can provide tangible feedback on the effectiveness of your efforts. For laptop users, employing an external wired mouse can significantly trim input latency compared to a touchpad. Typically, a budget but branded mouse or keyboard can minimize latency to around 10ms. 

Improving brain response time quickly is tough, though it’s essential to note that alcohol consumption and sleep deprivation can markedly impair it.

Besides, here are some non-tech tricks that could accelerate your input process:

  • Prepare your CRNs and registration PIN before registration is open. 

  • Prioritize keyboard shortcuts over mouse navigation. For instance,  utilize the Tab key to shift between input boxes when entering multiple CRNs; use Control+C and Control+V to copy and paste CRNS.

  • Initially focus on securing a spot in one or two high-demand courses rather than attempting to enroll in all desired classes simultaneously.  Less sought-after courses are likely to remain available for a longer duration.

Network latency

Network latency is the duration it takes for data to travel from your computer to a course selection server and back. On a well-functioning wired local network, this time is typically less than 100ms. For a wired Internet connection, you can expect latency to be in the range of 50-500ms, while a wireless network can range from 50ms to as much as 5000ms. Obtain a faster, more stable internet connection with a dedicated server

Solution

A practical approach to minimize network latency is to use a wired connection whenever possible. Additionally, accessing the campus network directly on-site often results in faster connectivity compared to off-campus usage.

One can assess network latency using the ‘ping’ command. Mac users can search and open Terminal as mentioned above, and Windows users can search and open Command Prompt. Once opened, type in ping prd-reg9.fandm.edu (prd-reg9.fandm.edu is the address for our registration server). The output will display a ‘time=’ value, and the goal is to let this value be stable. An insatiable connection not only increases your loading time but also creates more stress on the server and may worsen other people’s experience.

If a wireless network is your only option, you can search for an area with optimal connectivity by walking around with your laptop while running a ping command. Sometimes, manually disconnecting and reconnecting to the Wi-Fi can lead to improvements as well.

Ending Note

The measures outlined above focus on optimizing your computer’s side of the equation, which should provide a significant edge during the course selection process. But please don’t be overwhelmed by those technical details. A difference of a few hundred milliseconds is more of a placebo. It’s also crucial to remember that optimizing your computer won’t create additional seats for in-demand courses. Inevitably, some students will miss out on their preferred selections.

Even if you cannot get your desired course, there is nothing to worry about. Taking a course that you’ve never imagined to take could be both worrisome and exciting—it may lead you to an academic path that attracts you more than any other options you have considered. If you really don’t like the result of the registration, your advisor is always there to help you.

Last, let remind it again: please ensure your 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication) is correctly set up for an uninterrupted course registration experience.

Senior Santure Chen is a staff writer. Their email is hchen2@fandm.edu.