Pre-Registration Uncovered: University Registrar Elaborates on Course Selection Process

Strategies to game the system abound, but it’s often unclear what does and doesn’t work.

By Camille Kirsch, News Editor

In just over a month, it will be decision time again: pre-registration week. During the eighth week of each quarter, students in the College use an online system to bid for courses they hope to take the following quarter.

Many students say they find the process frustrating and unclear. “It’s not awful, but it’s a little confusing,” said Rose Pierce, a first-year in the College.

Confused students often turn to their advisers and to each other for pre-registration tips. As a result, strategies to game the system abound, but it’s often unclear what does and doesn’t work.

To clear up the myths surrounding pre-registration, The Maroon reached out to University Registrar Scott Campbell.

Myth: Upperclassmen always have first priority for classes.

Fact: Students in their first and second year get preference over upperclassmen when bidding for Core classes. Whether students are in their first or second year does not matter—both get the same degree of preference.

When it comes to non-Core classes, however, fourth-years are in luck. For these courses, students get preference in order of seniority.

Myth: Your major matters during pre-registration.

Fact: According to Campbell, students majoring in a particular subject do not get higher preference for in-major courses. This means that a fourth-year majoring in Computer Science has the same odds of getting into an upper-level programming class as one majoring in English, assuming they’ve both completed all necessary prerequisites.

Myth: The order in which you rank your bids doesn’t really matter.

Fact: Campbell says that the pre-registration system fills courses with students who ranked that course as their number-one bid. If all the people who ranked that course first are added to the course and it is still not full, the system moves on to people who ranked that course second, and so on. That means that if you didn’t rank that really in-demand class as your number one bid, your odds of getting into it will be low.

However, preference still matters. A fourth-year student who ranked a non-Core course first will be placed in it prior to a first-year student who also ranked that class first.

What about ties? If two students have the same level of preference and both ranked a course equally, the enrollment order is decided randomly.

Myth: You should only bid for four courses—you’ll have higher odds of getting into them.

Fact: The number of courses that a student has bid for does not affect the preference he or she is given for any individual course. In other words, whether you bid for ten classes or four does not affect the likelihood of getting your number one class.

That being said, you might want to bid for more classes rather than less. If you only bid for four classes, there’s a possibility that your first four courses could all fill up.

Myth: You could wind up in classes that meet at the same time.

Fact: The system will not enroll students in courses that have schedule conflicts with courses in which they are already enrolled.

Still confused about pre-registration? Campbell says that students who have questions about the process should go to their advisers or visit the Registrar’s website.