Last Updated: Jun 20, 2018
So you’ve been waitlisted for a college course; don’t fret! It’s not the end of the world. I’ve been waitlisted in at least one class every quarter since I started at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
My first year, the night after summer orientation, I decided I wanted to switch around my schedule, so I logged on to my school’s class registration portal. But every course I wanted was full. As a naive freshman, I had no knowledge of how to work the system, so I stressed out about the waitlist for the rest of the summer. The day before classes started, I received an email stating that I had been added to the classes I wanted. I can’t tell you what a relief that was.
Unfortunately, it’s never been that easy since. The next quarter, I was waitlisted again and spent three weeks crashing that course, showing up every day, keeping up with the course work, and essentially begging the TA to let me in. At last, on a rainy Friday morning, my TA emailed me an approval code and I was added to the class.
Now, I could complain that I’ve consistently been on the waitlist due to terrible registration times, the lack of space in classes, and the popularity of certain classes. However, my registration time has gotten increasingly better, the school is building more classrooms, and the classes that I want aren’t necessarily competitive. The fact of the matter is, no matter how stressful being waitlisted is (it’s unnecessarily overwhelming), it happens to almost everybody.
Because it’s practically inevitable, here are six tips for what to do when you’re put on the course waitlist.
Related: How to Choose College Electives
1. Talk to someone
Call the department head or email the professor for the class you want before the quarter/semester even starts. This can be during your registration period or any time before the first week of class. If possible, leave your name and email with the person you contacted so they remember you when it comes times to take people off the waitlist.
I once tried to enroll in a class that had specific requirements I didn’t meet. But during the first round of class registration, I emailed the professor and she added me to her waitlist. A few days before the quarter started, I was in. The lesson is, it never hurts to ask!
2. Crash the class
…even if it overlaps with the backup course you’re already enrolled in. The professor will see that you’re determined to get into the class, and if you do get in, you won’t be scrambling to catch up on course material for the rest of the quarter/semester.
3. Approach the professor
At the end of the class you crash, stick around and talk to the professor. Whether they mentioned the waitlist or not, introducing yourself and explaining your situation will help them put a face to your name when deciding who to add and drop from the waitlist. Remember, the professor is likely busy with other responsibilities, so be respectful and appreciative when talking with them.
4. Be persistent
Keep crashing the class for the first week. Not only will you stay on top of the course work, but the professor may drop people who don’t show up, creating room for people who have shown up (you)! Most professors wait until week two to add students because they gauge how many people to admit from the waitlist based on a number of factors. If you’re still determined to get into the class, continue crashing for the second week—check in with the professor again and see if you can’t get off the waitlist.
5. Have a backup class
It’s 10-times more stressful if you’re trying to crash a class and have nothing to fall back on. If possible, attend a lecture or section for the class you’re currently enrolled in. At the least, email the professor and briefly describe your circumstances so they don’t drop you from that class in case you don’t make it into the other one.
6. Know the system
Check the deadlines for adding and dropping classes—typically, this is the last day of week one. Usually there’s a fee for dropping classes after the deadline, so if this happens (i.e., your professor begins adding people at the beginning of week two), it may be a good idea to talk to your school’s registrar and see if the fee can be waived.
Be patient and persistent. This process can be long and stressful for everyone involved. Have faith that you’ll get in and things will work out!
Need more tips about college classes? Check out our Majors and Academics section.