What does it mean to be on a course waitlist or waiting to add a course?

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When students enroll in college / university courses, there is often a waitlist to get into the class.  This means that there are more students interested in taking that course than there are seats available for the class.  While different institutions, and even departments within the same institution, may differ on how they manage the course waitlists, typically seniority takes priority.  Most professors and departments will add students from the waitlist into the class based on who is closest to graduating: seniors first, then juniors, and so on.  This is set up to ensure that those students who need to graduate are able to complete the courses they need in a timely manner.

If you are not a senior, don’t despair.  Typically, several students drop the course during the first week of classes due to scheduling conflicts, work-related responsibilities, etc.  As those seats become available, professors will add students into those slots.  In most cases, students are added into a class during the first few days of class only, so it is important to attend the class you would like to add.  Also, at many institutions, missing the first day of class will mean that a student will be dropped from the class roster to make room for another student who is present and on the waitlist.

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Get on the waitlist for your college courses.  There are benefits to being on the waitlist.

At times, if the waitlist for the course is quite long, the department may become authorized to open another section of the course so it is always a good idea to stay on the waitlist unless you have already found another course.

Tips & Strategies When on the Waitlist…

If you are on the waitlist for a class you need for your major, you may want to consider doing the following:

  1. Email the professor to see if she / he will be adding students from the waitlist into the course.  Additionally, you may want to contact the department office manager to learn about the waitlist policies for that department (Again, the policies can vary by department even at the same university).
  2. Attend the first day of class to see if students drop the course and to see if room will be available.
  3. Have a backup plan for other courses that will fulfill another requirement in case you cannot enroll in this course for this academic session.
  4. Plan ahead.  Pay attention to which courses are offered regularly and which are offered only sporadically.  Some courses may be offered once a year during a specific time.  If you plan ahead, you will know to take it next year when it is offered in a given quarter and you will not be surprised that it is not offered at another time.  The department staff can usually be your best friends since they are usually aware of scheduling patterns for that department.
  5. Don’t give up.  In the first few years of college/university, there are many course options.  Students may choose to begin with their general education (GE) courses first and then begin taking some major courses.  Academic advisors can definitely provide assistance in developing a plan toward graduation.
  6. Visit the academic advisors regularly.  Academic advisors for the major and for the general education (GE) requirements can answer many questions and save you from making costly mistakes. Visit them regularly.

The college experience can provide so many memorable experiences and instill valuable skills.  Navigating the higher education process is not difficult, but it does require a little bit of assistance in maneuvering. Please don’t hesitate the ask.


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