Axess went down (again) during frosh course enrollment, but something good happened

Oct. 11, 2022, 10:26 p.m.

2 p.m. arrives, and nothing happens — not on the Lantana computer room monitor (that was supposed to have better Internet connection); not on my own laptop; not on my phone. Despite frantic clicks on the Axess page and incessant efforts to refresh the page, the Simple Enroll page still failed to load. I looked around and saw equally confused and frustrated faces from other frosh from the dorm, all attempting to enroll in classes after lifting the final enrollment hold on Sept. 22. But nothing happens. Not surprisingly, Axess crashed again immediately after course enrollment opened, and this time for frosh, on the third day of New Student Orientation.

Throughout the summer, incoming frosh have been envisioning the Stanford experience. Whether it was indicating their preferences for programs like SLE and ITALIC or applying for Introductory Seminars, frosh have been writing their Stanford story even before arriving on campus. And, of course, with choices and opportunities came uncertainty, excitement and anticipation mixed with fears and concerns. 

“I used Carta a ton over the summer to browse classes and find things that I was interested in,” said Katherine Lai ’26, “but that didn’t set me up for realizing how classes would be full, but I did get very excited [by looking] through Carta for classes.”

Even before the official enrollment, conversations about course selections permeated campus as students moved in: some were talking about math and chemistry placement tests, and others about whether to take CS 106B or CS 106AX.  Some had their entire schedule planned out on Carta, waiting for the one final click on Axess for everything to be set.

The minute before 2 p.m., every frosh sat in front of their computers (or like me, holding three devices at a time) impatient yet excited. We knew that Axess would crash, but we were also hoping for a miracle. When the time finally came, the world froze and time paused.

Everything was within expectations  — Axess crashed just like several weeks ago, when enrollment opened for returning students — but everything changed. The moment it hit 2 p.m. was a transformative point for frosh.

Axess crashed for all and it did not give anyone a free pass. Its crashing was a sign, sending a clear message. The line “Axess is temporarily down” screamed at each anxious student staring at the screen, telling them to slow down and take a break. As soon as Axess crashed, frosh started to notice the people surrounding them, now seeing them as peers instead of potential competitors. I left my three overheating devices behind and walked in the hallway, and, for the first time, I started paying more attention to the people in my dorms, greeting them instead of rushing to the next destination. More people stopped staring into the empty screen. In the Lantana lounge, a group of people started playing Mario Kart. My friends and I headed straight to the gym, refusing to worry over a momentary issue.

It was a rare and strange time of bonding. In fact, the three hours after Axess’ crash marked one of my most sincere interactions with some of my dormmates. It was when, instead of simply nodding and greeting, we asked each other questions and bantered about life. We all knew that it took more than Axess’ malfunctioning to bring us together. Far more important was a shared realization: that we did not need to win the extra seconds or minutes to succeed at Stanford. We did not need to win anything at all.

“I didn’t realize how bad it was going to be in terms of Axess crashing,” Lai said. “So my first week was so up in the air in terms of what classes I was going to actually take. It worked out very well in the end, so I think I definitely need to go into the future with that perspective. Eventually, I can find classes I like even if the ones I originally planned don’t work out.”

It was a moment of new students experiencing their very first Stanford tradition, a moment of detachment from the need to get ahead, a moment of connection, and a moment of growth. As frosh, we bonded over the shared experience of not being able to enroll in classes. When faced with the same screen that reads “Axess is temporarily down,” students are no longer worrying about having to fight for limited resources (or avoiding being on waitlists). In the computer room where I tried to enroll in my classes, the many confused and relieved faces said it all: we were all going through the same thing, and we needed to take a break.

We just got to Stanford, and we were excited. During Orientation, activities after another pushed students to socialize incessantly, if not aggressively. Questions like “What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major?” flowed in, meeting the same answer from the same person. But when the day ends, how many of those names and majors could we really remember? We just got to Stanford and the worst fear was missing out, which is why at 2 p.m., the only thing on our mind was to get into our selected classes, have our schedule figured out and, ultimately, feel the premature pressure to have our lives figured out. But it is impossible, not because Axess crashed — the Stanford experience lasts four years, not just the five days of orientation.

The unfortunate, inevitable and periodic crashing reflects the Stanford experience. It is also a mentality that we should all adopt. It warns us against getting caught up on small things (such as enrolling in a class whose waitlist is already 400 but will open up more spots in two days); it reminds us to be patient and appreciate what is more important in college; it tells us that there is no need to rush, that we will take the classes we want to, and eventually everything — even Axess — works out.

“A good advice for future me is to definitely keep an open mind,” Lai said. “There’s going to be so many classes out there each quarter, and I’m sure I will end up enjoying them. It is a good lesson to learn.”

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