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Students Getting Closed Out of Required Courses

brantlybrantly 4036 replies71 threads Senior Member
I'd like to start a discussion about being shut out of required classes. For the sake of this thread, let's assume we're talking about students who started freshman year and did not change majors.

I am on two different parent Facebook groups for two highly selective but vastly different colleges. In both groups, parents are complaining that their college students have been shut out of required courses, and the waiting lists are already 25-100-students deep. At one college, students might have to add a ninth semester in order to graduate, or might have to take summer classes to graduate on time—adding significant expense. Part of the problem is that many courses are offered only spring semester or only fall semester, so the next opportunity is the following year. The other, obvious part of the problem is that the schools are not offering enough sections.

At the other college, freshmen are being closed out of the required freshman English. It's a snowballing effect. They don't offer enough sections, so a lot of students have to delay the course until sophomore year. Then those sophs fill up spaces before the new freshmen get to register. At this college there are also SENIORS who are being closed out of courses they've waited three and a half years to take.

This situation is causing significant stress for students (and for parents when additional expense will be involved). Yes, the students are being told to be patient, the waiting lists will move, keep emailing the professor, beg the professor, show up for the class anyway, etc. STILL, the stress is enormous. And it's compounded by the fact that registration periods are always just before finals.

What have been your students' experiences? Is this a growing problem due to budget issues? Are colleges trying to expand too quickly without adding appropriate resources?
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Replies to: Students Getting Closed Out of Required Courses

  • milgymfammilgymfam 1082 replies16 threads Senior Member
    My daughter is a freshman at a small LAC and has gotten every class she wanted for both fall and spring with no issues at all.
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  • brantlybrantly 4036 replies71 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    milgymfam wrote: »
    My daughter is a freshman at a small LAC and has gotten every class she wanted for both fall and spring with no issues at all.

    Glad to hear that. Actually, my son is a freshman at one of the above-referenced colleges and got everything he wanted (was #1 on wait list for one spring course, but already got off WL). So it's not an issue that has directly affected our family yet. Nonetheless, I still find it outrageous that it happens at all.
    edited December 2019
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  • wis75wis75 14214 replies64 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Wisconsin addressed this problem several years ago with an added fee that supported incread sections of popular freshman courses. Consider this issue when ranking school choices. Large public U's may be as good a choice as smaller ones for getting classes in a timely fashion. They also may have several options to meet requirements- eg more than one that meets an English lit req.
    edited December 2019
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  • Erin's DadErin's Dad 33263 replies3997 threads Super Moderator
    My Ds attended LACs and had no problems getting classes. I have friends who attended the regional state school and did have issues (mostly in the music curriculum with its sequential classes).
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 8302 replies70 threads Senior Member
    No issues for my D at her big flagship but she's in honors college and has priority registration. I haven't seen anyone complaining about being shut out of a required courses on our parent FB group though. That group is thousands and thousands of parents strong, and plenty of griping about all kinds of other issues so I'm sure people would be posting if it was a problem. Students may not always get the timing they want for a required class, but they will get it.

    I will say that is one of the questions D asked while we were visiting with staff for her major. They told her if she was ever shut out to come talk to them and they would override the system and open a seat. They were very, very upfront that no one is taking a extra semester to graduate because of scheduling problems.

    The school also does limit the number of students within majors. That doesn't typically get a lot of love here on CC but it does help with eliminating overcrowding or being shut out of a required course.





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  • NhatrangNhatrang 489 replies1 threads Member
    My daughter is a freshman at a school that is notoriously difficult to get all the classes you want especially for freshman. She signed up for 4, got into 3, wait listed 1 and had to change to a different class that she needed anyway. For the Spring she got into all 3 classes for the first phase, she has 1 more class to sign up in the second phase but looks like that class already has a wait list, she plans on taking something else instead.

    She doesn't see it as a problem at all, there are plenty of classes to choose from. The student has to have back-up plans and flexible. From what I understand one should have no problem getting all the classes they need/want in 4 years. If they don't in 4 years, there was probably due to a tactical mistake somewhere.

    There was 1 class that DD needed to declare her major, she couldn't get it this fall, but she got in for the Spring. I could see that's where the problem could have been to declare major early. But other than that, really no big deal.
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  • wis75wis75 14214 replies64 threads Senior Member
    Likewise at son's orientation the professor/advisor had strategies son could use. He couldn't create more seats in an elective 1 credit CS course but knew about checking later. If it had required for his major there would have been work arounds (and this CS class was never a required one)- there would have been more sections (and if a popular class perhaps later years would have reflected this). I found that the professors were human and did care about students at the large school- despite what computers did.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79732 replies714 threads Senior Member
    Where demand exceeds instructional capacity, many colleges ration space in majors, making them additionally selective. For example, changing into the CS major at many colleges is a highly competitive process.

    Some other colleges ration courses. For example, Swarthmore limits the number of CS courses that CS majors can take.

    Note that LACs are not immune from overenrollment issues. There was a "no calc 101 for you" thread a while back where it looked like the LAC increased the prerequisites from the catalog ones to weed out the excess students.
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 1629 replies25 threads Senior Member
    My D had to swap the order in which she took two required Freshman engineering courses, but it didn’t have a long-term impact.

    She has also had to wait for the math department to add sections to courses required for engineering students, but that eventually was sorted out,

    It has added some stress, but the school has worked it out/provided alternative paths to get through the proscribed program on time to graduate.

    She’s in the largest major on campus, in a program that significantly supports the school’s reputation, so I suspect that helps. Requiring summer/extra semesters with no alternative would be a much bigger deal.

    She actually had more problems scheduling courses in high school.
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  • WayOutWestMomWayOutWestMom 10367 replies216 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    My older D attended a large state U which had a serious problem with impacted classes. As part of the solution, juniors & seniors were given a limited number of "red cards" (I think they got 3 in total over 2 years ) which allowed them to override class size limits and get placed into a class.

    Red card use was limited to use only in classes required for their declared majors in order to facilitate on-time graduation.

    I know D1 red carded her way into a couple of chemistry lab classes.
    edited December 2019
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79732 replies714 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    Do most colleges with full classes do a multi phase registration process where everyone gets to register for a portion of the schedule first before anyone can fill in the rest of the schedule?

    I.e. everyone chooses his/her most important courses first, before those with higher priority fill them up looking for optional electives.

    Do they also reserve space for majors who need the course first before allowing others to register for them?
    edited December 2019
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  • bamamom2021bamamom2021 281 replies7 threads Junior Member
    DD has not had a problem at her large state flagship. She is in honors college and has priority registration as well. She has signed up for an app that alerts her to an opening in classes that were at more desirable times and has jumped on them when something opens up but she has never had the experience of being shut out any semester. She has not been in any extra large lecture classes and it seems like there are plenty of sections of those freshman and required classes. As far as I know it is not an issue at her school. She even relayed a story of a senior friend who needed a very specific course for a specialization and the school moved things around to make that class happen.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4551 replies17 threads Senior Member
    My kid will be a 2nd semester sophomore at a big state flagship. No issues with getting classes. There are always multiple class options with multiple sections available for each class option.
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  • brantlybrantly 4036 replies71 threads Senior Member
    sushiritto wrote: »
    My kid will be a 2nd semester sophomore at a big state flagship. No issues with getting classes. There are always multiple class options with multiple sections available for each class option.

    Actually, University of Michigan IS one of the colleges I am referring to. Are you on the parent FB page?
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  • momocarlymomocarly 941 replies11 threads Member
    DS did have a little trouble his freshman year at his big state university which was stressful. He just swapped two sciences (which ended up better for him anyway). It changed his original strategic plan but ended up working out. He did take English I in the summer at a CC but that was in his original plan. Since then I think he has had an elective or two he had to change because of scheduling conflicts (and there were other good options) but all his required courses he got in to.

    I know it took looking ahead and reading the catalog carefully to see what was only offered one semester or another (he had to fit everything in to 3 years) and making a good plan. He also talked to professors early if there was a possibility of an issue to see what they thought.
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  • sushirittosushiritto 4551 replies17 threads Senior Member
    @brantly Really? Huh. That's surprising. Maybe it's major specific?

    No, I am not on FB.

    If you were to look at the requirements of my kid's chosen major (and minors), there are so many class choices. So, if one is full, either it's a short waitlist or otherwise pick from the other 10 or 50 classes that are available.
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  • PrdMomto1PrdMomto1 248 replies5 threads Junior Member
    My D attends a smallish private school where she is a STEM major. At her school they have a registration period where the kids request their classes, then they are sent their schedules a few days later, and then an "add/drop" period opens where they can make changes. She is a freshman and has been fairly lucky about getting what she wants though many of her friends were not so lucky. In many cases if there is a long wait list the school will add sections or increase class size if possible. Contacting the professor and requesting a seat often helps too. It seems to work out in the end and I have not heard of anyone having to graduate late because of course scheduling. But I will say it was a little stressful this year as a freshman since she's worried about getting required courses out of the way.

    I think one of the issues at her school is students aren't required to declare a major until end of sophomore year and it's not uncommon for students to change majors several times, especially those who change focuses in Engineering or leave Engineering all together. So it's a challenge for the school to plan ahead.
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  • myrna97myrna97 135 replies10 threads Junior Member
    I understand it can happen, especially with in-demand majors that have specific course sequences. But I'd be pretty upset if my student were shut out of a requirement that everyone has to take, like the freshman writing example. Presumably they know how many students they have, so if there aren't enough sections of a class they require, they need to open up some more or allow another way of meeting the requirement.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 29908 replies179 threads Senior Member
    This was definitely not my kid's experience. She had a not-popular major, so she always got the classes she needed when she needed them.
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 4110 replies28 threads Senior Member
    edited December 2019
    My D is a junior at a state flagship. She is in honors and gets priority registration - they register before everyone except grad students. And my D was a senior by standing by second semester freshman year so gets the first registration slot among honors students. She always gets the best profs and times.

    First semester of freshman year required a bit of work to get into the courses she needed (they were upper division courses), but it worked out. My D was in the last orientation group to register and most classes were full. A few emails to profs, and she received the overrides to register for the sections she wanted. The profs like having top students in their courses and often make exceptions for them.

    I’m in a group with about 40-50 parents of college students in a variety of colleges - publics and privates (LACs and universities). Parents report every semester that their students at even the most elite schools have trouble getting the classes they want and often have to settle.

    Edited to add that my D wanted to take a course that is offered irregularly and wasn’t being offered this semester. She simply talked to the prof and he added it just for her. One other student ended up joining her for the course. With only 2 students, the two agreed on when they wanted to have classes, and that’s what the prof scheduled. Class is held in his office 2x per week. Can’t beat that level of scheduling.
    edited December 2019
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