Waitlisted for a Class You Need? What to Do Next.

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You know the drill. It’s time to register for classes. You’ve checked the schedules, you set your alarm to wake up and make your choices as soon as registration opens online. Cup of coffee in hand, you type as fast as you can and hit that submit button and—uh oh, you’re waitlisted.

Yes, being waitlisted for a class you want or need is a letdown of epic proportions. Whether you just can’t get the teacher you wanted (we know you were checking out all the professors’ ratings before registration!) or you didn’t get into that pre-requisite class you need for the third time, we’ve got some strategies to help you get through.

First, don’t opt-out of the waitlist. A lot can happen between registration day and the first day of class. It’s a rare college class that someone doesn’t drop before the new term even begins, so it’s a very good idea to hang in there and hope for the best. Check out any recommendations, guidelines, or rules your school has for waitlists—sometimes teachers will even have a note ready for waitlisted students. Do your best to follow official recommendations and advice. Also, try talking to other students you know who are in the same major or college you are. Ask if any of them were waitlisted and how well they did eventually getting into the class.

Second, if there’s another class still available that you know you need for your major and it won’t cost you money up front to register, consider signing up for that class as a backup that you can drop if you get into your first choice. We’re sure this isn’t your first rodeo, so you probably had a list of possible backup choices ready to go, but if you didn’t try to work fast. Everything fills up fast once registration opens, so if you wait too long, even your second, third, or fourth backup choices may be gone!

Third, yes, you probably guessed this one, you need to send an email off to your academic advisor to ask their advice. They’ll know the ins and outs of your particular academic situation as well as have an idea of what’s typical for students in your major. It’s not your advisor’s first rodeo either! Ask their advice and follow it. They’ve got your best interests at heart.

Finally, do your best to keep in mind that if you didn’t get into a class this semester it’s probably not the end of the world. Most schools prioritize registration according to academic year, so if you’re a freshman or sophomore and didn’t get into your class yet, there’s no reason to panic—you’ve got time. Now, if you’re a senior registering for classes for your final semester the stakes are obviously different, but the good news is that at most schools your desperate need to get into a particular class in order to graduate will probably help you get those academic doors open. The best thing to do is to reach out to your advisor and, as long as it’s not prohibited, your hoped-for professor, and ask them what you can do to get into the class you need.