The course registration process can be stressful for college students. Admittance into preferred classes is far from a guarantee at many institutions, particularly for underclassmen.
“Freshmen may not always get the classes that they wanted, or the times that they wanted,” says Christine Anne Royce, a professor of teacher education at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. “There’s a limited number of seats in certain courses.”
Because upperclassmen have fewer remaining terms to fulfill graduation requirements, they typically get to choose classes first.
“We normally try to make sure that if a student has to have something for graduation, they get into it,” Royce says.
Students who are unable to get into prerequisites may risk delaying their graduation and, as a result, paying extra tuition. Experts say students can increase the chances of getting into their preferred courses by prioritizing timeliness and seeking guidance from faculty.
Here are six tips for students hoping to optimize their class schedules:
- Speak with an academic adviser.
- Register on time.
- Get on a waitlist.
- Stay ready.
- Look for alternatives.
- Try again next term.
Speak With an Academic Adviser
Before the course registration process begins, academic advisers can help students map out a long-term enrollment plan and determine which classes they should aim to take, experts say.
“Make sure to talk with your academic advisor about your course plan to graduation so that you can make sure that you are getting the right prerequisites and courses to progress to graduation,” Marianne Young, assistant vice president for student development and support at the University of Kentucky, wrote in an email.
Register on Time
“The best advice that I can give is to be aware of the dates of enrollment, and the deadline dates for registration,” says Kassie Flanery, a compliance analyst in the registrar’s office at the University of Louisville.
Underclassmen may find that by the time it is their turn to register, some classes have already been filled. But they can increase their chances of finding an available seat by starting course registration as early as possible.
“Be prepared to log into the registration system just ahead of the go-live time in order to submit choices as early as possible,” Kristen Ball, registrar at the University of Richmond in Virginia, wrote in an email. “Registrar’s offices are constantly monitoring course demand and offerings and work with departments to adjust course capacity and offerings to meet student needs.”
Get on a Waitlist
Lots can change between the end of the registration period and the first day of class. Students enrolled in a course may decide to drop it, transfer to another school or even take the term off.
Schools will let waitlisted students into a course when possible, Flanery says.
“Departments do what they can to help waitlisted students,” she says. “Students will add and drop classes to their schedule based on whatever’s happening in their life, and that gives an opportunity for students to get off the waitlist.”
At some colleges, students hoping to gain late admittance into a course need to do more than just join the waitlist. They need to be ready to accept an open seat when one becomes available, experts say.
This means that students should understand their institution’s policy about course waitlists so that they can capitalize on an opportunity to get off a waitlist.
“Most wait lists are automated and give a limited amount of time during which to accept the offered wait list seat,” Ball wrote. “Students should check their emails/texts often for notification of open seats so that they can register within the limited window.”
Look for Alternatives
Colleges typically offer courses over the summer. Additionally, they may give students credit for transferable courses taken at a local community college or other nearby school.
In some instances, Royce has advised Shippensburg students to take courses elsewhere for needed credits.
“We obviously would love to have a student stay at our institution” for a course, she says. “From a practicality side, with limited resources, it’s not always feasible.”
Try Again Next Term
While some electives may only be offered for a limited time, courses that students need to complete for graduation are typically offered regularly, sometimes every term. If a course is offered once, experts say there is a decent chance it will be offered again.
“If a student is not able to get into a desired class one semester, it will probably be offered again in a future semester, and they can try again to register,” Ball says.
When all else fails, students can hope for better luck in the future. After all, they may end up enjoying a substitute course.
“Having to take an alternate class can be a great way to discover new passions and even a potential new course of study,” Ball says.