Carnegie Mellon University

Why do we?

March 17, 2023

Why Do We.....Have Surprise Registrations?

By Lyn Decker / Registrar and the Osher Staff

Every now and then one of our members will contact the office asking why we do things in a certain way.  

To provide members with a better understanding of why things are done as they are, the staff and I will share the explanation for why things are done as they are. If you have a question, please use the suggestion box on the Osher website and we will answer in order of submissions.

Sincerely, Lyn Decker / Registrar and the Osher Staff

Why do we...

“Why do we have surprise registrations? This is a great question, and I haven't seen it answered yet.  I would love to know. Is it to keep the system from crashing?” - A curious member.


Why do we have surprise registrations is an often-asked question. While there are many reasons the most important being that this is the best way to be fair to every Osher member. If a specific date and time were pre-announced, those who don’t have a fast internet service or more modern electronic device would be at an immediate disadvantage to those who do.  Having a spontaneous registration date levels the playing field for all. 

The second reason is that any registration system can become overwhelmed and crash if too many people try to access it at once. Remember what happened to the Taylor Swift ticket sales? Once the system crashes, we’d have to wait for the registration system’s IT department to reboot the system.  This could take a long time which would irritate the heck out of everyone. The good news is that since we started holding impromptu registrations, we have never had a crash.

As a result of our unscheduled registration process, we have found that the same people are not getting into all the more popular classes each term.  Yes, it can be irritating that the announcement comes out when you are in the dentist chair or are out to lunch with friends, but odds are that you will probably be in a better place to register the next time.  This contributes to making the registration process fairer.

Summer registration will be announced within the next couple of weeks. To prepare for this event it is important to have your desired courses picked out beforehand. You can plan by the day of the week, or the location, or by study leader. While planning, we recommend that you prepare a schedule to be sure that there are no course overlaps, that the locations are possible for you to get to in a timely manner, and that none of the courses are held on days you can’t attend.  To help you, the course catalog is divided into categories such as Zoom Courses, Community Site Courses, and CMU Campus Courses. There is also an index of courses by day and one by study leader.

Please know that we continually strive to make registration an easy process and we want everyone to get into as many courses as possible. Since we started holding our registrations the way we do, about half of our members hold off registering immediately when registration is announced.  Most know that regardless of when they register, they will probably get into most of the courses they wish to take (provided they went onto the waiting list).

We closely monitor the waitlists and do all we can to open seats whenever possible. This includes rearranging rooms and requesting study leaders to agree to larger classes than they originally agreed to.



If you’d like a question answered, please submit it in our suggestion box on our home page of our website.