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How does college course registration work?

Published April 17, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Picture this: You went through the college application process and succeeded in finding the right college for you. Now it’s time to choose your classes. You know which courses you want to take for the upcoming semester, but you’ve heard from your peers how fast some of them fill up. You’re stressed. Not only that, but you see that some of the class limits are only 30 people (or less).

    As a freshman or a transfer student, registering for classes for the first time at your college always feels stressful. After all, so much of your college career can rest on the classes you take. Because of that, it’s good to be as prepared for the process as possible. Here are some tips so you can get a head start.

    What's college class registration, and when does it start?

    College class registration is when you enroll in classes for the upcoming semester, and it occurs before each semester begins. If your college starts in August, you’ll most likely register in May or June. If you’re registering for the spring semester, registration will likely occur in November or December. These dates vary from college to college, so it’s important to find out when registration opens and closes and to circle those dates on your calendar . Registration dates are often posted on college and university websites. Still, you can also contact your school’s registrar’s office to get the right dates ahead of time.

    How can I prepare for registration?

    Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you register for college classes.

    1. Speak with your academic advisor

    During orientation (and going forward in your college career), you’ll likely have the opportunity to speak to an academic advisor. Depending on your school, the advising system may vary. Still, typically you’ll be designated an advisor based on the major you’re studying. Your advisor can help you map out a long-term plan for your time at your college. And this can be helpful when you pick classes.

    2. Check for prerequisites

    Some classes require specific prerequisites, so if you’re interested in taking a particular class, ensure you have completed the requirements (if any) to ensure you don’t have any difficulty during registration.

    3. Ensure your class schedule works for you

    Look at your class schedule built out with all the classes you’re interested in and ensure the schedule will be feasible for you to manage. Work-life balance is important. So is making sure the timing of your classes will work for you. Not a morning person? Don’t sign up for 8 AM classes. Stressed easily? Don’t pack all your classes into one or two days.

    4. Register on time

    Write down the classes you’re interested in and the course code. This’ll help you when you’re registering. Note backup courses, too, in case you can’t register for your top choice classes.

    5. Get on a waitlist

    If you can’t get into a class, you want when you go to register, and there’s a waitlist option, get on the waitlist, as a lot can change between when you register and the first few weeks of classes. Students may drop classes or transfer to another college, and a spot can open.

    6. Stay ready

    Depending on your college, if a spot opens for a class you’re waitlisted for, you may need to actually join the class (it won’t necessarily happen automatically). Stay ready and familiarize yourself with your school’s waitlist policy so you’re prepared.

    How do I complete my registration?

    Here’s a checklist to keep in mind as you go into course registration:

    • Your college will let you know its registration deadlines
    • Set an alarm for five to 10 minutes before registration opens
    • Ensure you have the correct course registration link and make sure you have a stable internet connection
    • Make sure you have all the correct sign-in information you’ll need to register for classes
    • If you don’t get the classes you want, see if there’s an add/drop period to make amendments
    • Go to the registrar’s office in person if you encounter any issues. Dealing with issues earlier rather than later can be helpful in this process

    Final thoughts

    Good luck with your class registration! Registration can be stressful, but if you do your research and prepare yourself, you’re more likely to get the classes you want. Remember, even if you're unable to, don’t stress – there’s always another semester.