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The Carletonian

Overloading: My whirlwind of a experience

I’ve gotten the general idea that people view “overloading” negatively. I, however, saw it as an opportunity: I really wanted to take a Digital Editing class along with three other classes. Little did I know that I would be locked in a two-week-long email correspondence with the Registrar’s office, my advisor, the professor of the class and the Dean of Students.

The Digital Editing course I wanted to take was in the Cinema and Media Studies (CAMS) department. As a waitlisted student, I had attended the first few classes; I had then gotten off the waitlist and was excited to start learning Adobe Pro. I knew I could handle the workload, given that I had extensive experience in other video editing softwares, and I knew how much work I would be getting from my other classes. I didn’t want to drop my other classes, given that I enjoyed all of them. So, I decided to (try to) overload. 

For those who’ve never attempted to overload, let me break the steps down for you. You first have to fill out an overload petition and send it to the ASC (Academic Standing Committee) subcommittee. If they approve it, it goes to the main ASC. Within this petition, you have to acknowledge that you’ve spoken to both your advisor and the professor about your intended courseload, acknowledge some basic information, provide an explanation to help support your petition, and “request that the instructor and [your] adviser sign off on this request.”

I did all of these things, but as my advisor pointed out, I had one hiccup in the petition: “First-year students are not eligible for an overload, except in cases involving participation in musical and theatrical groups.” I find this to be a moronic rule. I understand that Carleton wants to ensure first years aren’t overwhelmed with work and other activities, but if a first-year is comfortable with taking four  classes, shouldn’t their petition be given a chance? That was my thought process, and as such I submitted my petition paying no mind to this rule; I found it a disservice to myself to not apply based on a technicality. 

I was confident my three-page essay would convince the ASC subcommittee that I could handle Digital Editing. This was a class that I was already attending, doing homework in and had gotten a flash drive for; plus, I was in good standing with the Professor. But the ASC subcommittee never read my essay. Remember how your instructor and advisor have to both sign off on this petition in order for it to go through? My advisor denied it. 

I understood that no matter how much I told him that I should at least be given the opportunity to try my best to combat the system, he wouldn’t approve of it. So, Dean Williams directed me to the ASC general petition to combat the rule I found unreasonable, and with that came warnings that this petition would be rejected based on the premise that no first year student (in a position similar to mine) had ever been able to overload. While disheartening, I believed that my situation was exceptional: I had put an immense amount of communication, reasoning, time and work into this process. My desire to take this course was incomparable, and I would just have liked a chance to state my case. Dean Williams asked me, “Why not take this class next year?” My response was simple. “If there’s an opportunity in front of me, I should take it.” Why wait to learn later if I can learn now, especially given my immense interest and ability to do so? Additionally, the professor teaching the class is a visiting professor, so the opportunity to take this class with them is unlikely to come back around. I would have liked nothing more than to take the class, and I was fighting to get that learning opportunity.

The ASC general petition now gave me a whole new set of problems. I had to, once again, get both my advisor’s and Professor’s signature IN PERSON. Why not make this process online? The registrar’s office then gave me a deadline to register for the CAMS class, otherwise the class would go to the next person on the waitlist. I asked for an extension, but was told that I missed the deadline and would have to submit yet another petition. So, I tried to speed things along. 

With the general ASC petition in hand, I informed my advisor that his signature would represent his acknowledgement of the petition, not that he agreed with it, according to my contact from the registrar’s office. After my advisor grudgingly signed, I then went to my CAMS professor, who now didn’t want to sign the petition, given my advisor’s strong pushback. I convinced them to at least write some comments (which I found more positive than my advisor’s), and submitted the petition.

An hour after doing so, I spotted Dean Livingston in Sayles, and asked her about my chances of overloading as a first-year. She asked about my grades, and the other courses I was taking. I walked away from the conversation with a bit more hope, and awaited a response.

Two days later, I heard back from the ASC subcommittee: “We have received your ASC petition and re-confirmed that petitions to overload from first-year students will not be considered by the ASC, except in cases involving participation in applied music courses and theatrical groups.” 

It’s a bit ironic, no? I come to school eager to learn, and when I want to learn more, I am denied the opportunity. Admittedly, this is an extremely simplistic way of looking at my situation, but my point stands regardless. Though not the response I was hoping for, I’m glad I stuck through this process. I learned much information that anyone can use to better their chances to overload. 

I wouldn’t suggest overloading as a freshman. Unless it involves participation in musical and theatrical groups, I don’t see how you’ll ever be approved. You can certainly try, but don’t be surprised if your efforts amount to nothing. Your chances to overload are higher as an upperclassman, and there’s no way around that. As far as I know, nobody has achieved it. Additionally, maintain good relationships with everyone in the process. Be appreciative of everyone’s help, and let them know it. 

Overloading is an interesting process, one that didn’t work out for me, but hopefully one that works out for you. Best of luck!

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