One of the surprise occurrences for college students is when they suddenly discover that they have a hold placed on their student account. I’ve had many students who felt that they could wait until the last minute to register for classes only to find that they couldn’t, because of various reasons, they had to do something to have the hold (or multiple holds) on their account removed. In some instances having it corrected was easy, but others required a seemingly impossible task to be done which made them register late and miss the classes they needed. Colleges tend to have similar reasons for placing a hold on a student’s account and there are some that I encounter often. For new students there can be reasons that are unique to getting started at a particular college, while others can occur at any time.
Common reasons for a hold being placed on a student account for freshmen (and transfer students):
Forgot To Turn In Immunization Records
Amid the hurry to move to campus, attend orientation, schedule for classes, and get ready for the term to start there is one thing that is often overlooked by students and parents that is required by colleges: childhood immunization records. Forgetting to turn in immunization records can prevent the student from attending classes either due to a hold being placed on their account or a mandate from the college that they simply are not allowed to do so until the records are received. Some colleges will offer a grace period, ranging from weeks to a full semester, but others do not. I’ve seen parents have a terrible time tracking down those childhood records if they did not have them in their possession since the student’s pediatrician may have relocated or retired. Finding these records before the student even moves to campus is best to keep the student going forward.
Didn’t Complete Orientation
For freshmen, orientation to campus is an important function. It is typically where they get to learn about the campus, meet other students or staff, and they often schedule their first semester classes before they leave. Most colleges consider orientation to be mandatory, and some will even require students who cannot attend to still do a make-up or online orientation. If the student does not complete some form of orientation a hold can be placed on a student’s account until they do, thus preventing them from registering for classes. Some students, especially transfers or those who already know the campus, seem to think that they don’t need orientation, only to find out later that they did. Discovering at the last minute that orientation was mandatory can keep students from having a schedule for the first week of classes and practically guarantee they get classes or meeting times they do not want.
Must Meet With An Advisor For Scheduling
Most colleges require freshmen to schedule classes directly with an advisor. This could be true for only their first semester, but some schools require that students register through an advisor for their first full year. Part of student thinking is that most things for school can be done online, which is generally true, unless the college states otherwise. Not accepting that they must schedule an appointment with their advisor in person can lead students to procrastinate, assume the classes that they want will still be open, or otherwise cause themselves problems by waiting. College advising centers are usually overwhelmed at the beginning of each semester, and students may find themselves with a two hour wait in line for even walk-in advising. For freshman at any college, is is a safe bet to assume that you will have to register for classes through an advisor and should make an appointment early to avoid the rush.
Common reasons for a hold being placed on a student account after the first year (but can occur then as well):
It’s surprising how many little things can come up during college, and small fines for overdue library books, parking tickets or other things can be part of that. Student’s normally don’t think much about overdue books at the library and sometimes don’t take parking tickets seriously when they are issued by the campus police. But the fact is that the college will take these seriously, so seriously that they will place a hold on a student’s account until they are paid which will prevent them from enrolling in classes. In order to avoid this situation, students must be conscientious about returning books, paying fines of any kind, and should check their account for any problems throughout the semester.
Not Scheduling Classes Through An Advisor When Required
Just like freshmen, other students may be required to schedule classes through an advisor for different reasons. This could be due to a student declaring a major, so now they are required to meet with a departmental advisor to ensure that they are taking the classes in the correct sequence or to fulfill certain “track” requirements. But by far the leading reason that I see for students who are not freshmen but are required to schedule through an advisor is because they have been placed on academic probation. When this happens, an ongoing hold is usually placed on the student’s account and the advisor must authorize their class enrollment personally, so it forces the student to meet with them. In addition to scheduling through an advisor, students on academic probation may need to meet with their advisor regularly, attend special meetings, or take special classes as part of the terms of being on probation and eventually the ongoing hold on their account removed.
Not Completing A “Conduct Penalty”
Colleges routinely issue conduct-related penalties to their students for a variety of large and small reasons. A student might incur one for a simple reason such as playing music too loud in their dorm room or due to more serious things like penalties that go with campus police citations for underage drinking. These penalties can come in many forms, and I’ve seen students have to complete a written assignment, make “awareness” posters, or even more. Failure to complete these penalties can cause a hold to be placed on a student’s account, and if they are not clear about their obligations for the conduct penalty problems can come at the worst time. One student I know found out he couldn’t register for classes due to a hold on his account which he realized was from the mandated community service he avoided doing and required meetings he never attended. In order to register for the next term, he had to squeeze in 30 hours of community service and make-up meetings during the week before finals. Since he needed specific classes that were filling up fast, he had a crisis on his hands because he didn’t ensure that his obligations were complete.
In order to make sure that things go smoothly and that there are no obstacles to registering for classes, students should check their school-based email and online portal accounts for any problems. There can be multiple holds placed on a student’s account for different reasons, and most colleges will not allow them to enroll in classes until they are all removed. Being aware of the even the small reasons why a college will place a hold on a student’s account can help to prevent surprise problems that can effectively keep a student from registering for classes.
Jeffrey Ludovici, M.A., is a national-level higher education consultant based in Pittsburgh. He has worked with students, families, colleges, and other professionals for more than 10 years. He specializes in understanding why students can end up doing poorly in college, as well as what can be done to address the issues.