Registration in Rec Hall, old-school

August 20, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Today's Internet-saavy students might find it hard to believe, but registering for college classes at Penn State was not always done online.

This mid-to-late 1960s photograph shows students waiting in long lines in Rec Hall to try to enroll in their pick of classes, a laborious and often stressful ritual endured at the beginning of each term (before today's semester system) by generations of students.

Each term every student would receive a pre-registered list of courses. "The actual registration was accomplished using IBM punch cards," said Lee Stout, University historian. "Each 'seat' in a class section was represented by a pink 'number 6' card, which you needed to acquire in order to fill out your schedule. If you were okay with your pre-registered schedule, you breezed through the arena and didn't need to try to trade number 6 cards for more preferable sections or classes."

Those who wanted to add or drop courses brought their packet of cards and waited in term standing order -- seniors and grad students first, freshmen last -- in a process that didn't always mean a student would get the exact courses they wanted.

"The registrar's office began using IBM punch cards and data processing equipment -- card punch machines, sorters and line printers -- in the 1930s, and continued with the cards as computing evolved, probably into the early 1970s," Stout noted.

Students since the 1920s had registered using paper and pencil in the Armory, which was located where Willard Building is today; it served as a gymnasium before the construction of Rec Hall. Later on the Intramural Building also served as a registration spot. In 1987 phone registration replaced in-person registration, and in 1995, the University took the system online.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 21, 2015