Wait List Scenarios & Strategies

Students should be sure to understand that we cannot guarantee seats for all interested students when courses are in high demand.  Along those lines, note that if you play one of the "risky" strategies below, the risk is entirely yours. 

Below are some potential scenarios and some strategies to consider.

If one section of a course is more desirable to you than the one that you are enrolled in:

Recommended:  Stay in the section you are currently enrolled in, and keep a regular eye on the wait list for the other section.  Sometimes, especially after classes begin, students shuffle their schedules around significantly, and there might be significant movement on that wait list.  If open seats become available, you can then add that section. Risky (not recommended):  You could drop your current section and add yourself to the wait list of the desired section, hoping that with movement on this waitlist you will be in line ahead of students following the recommended strategy above. 

While this does increase your chances of getting into the desired section, note that it also increases your chances of not getting into the course at all.  Wait lists do not always move significantly, and are impossible to predict.  Note also that other students on this and other wait lists for the course in question could easily decide to play it safe, and enroll in your previous section.  All of the sections could fill up in this way, leaving you unable to take the course this term.  So, if you do take this risky strategy, you should make sure to keep an eye on the enrollment and wait lists for all of the sections of the course, and be prepared to move back into an open section.

If all of the sections that fit with your desired schedule are full:

Recommended:  Realize that you might simply not be able to get the desired schedule that you were hoping for.  Some of the other classes on your desired schedule might be electives, and you could consider taking a different elective to get into an open section of the needed math course.  Some of the other classes on your desired schedule might be required for your major, but could be taken in a different term, and you could consider taking a different course that would be equivalently effective for your major.

Or, it could be that the math course you are trying to get into might be the one that is of the lowest priority.  If you don't need to take math for your major, or if it can be postponed without serious consequence, you might consider arranging a new schedule for the semester that does not include math.  You can still add yourself to a wait list, and hope that you might get in, but you will have a fall-back plan in case you do not.

Note, if you are taking math classes because they are required for your major, it is very possible that those math classes are prerequisites for particular courses in your major.  If this is the case, postponing your math classes will delay your preparations for those courses.  For this reason, it is very often more desirable to prioritize your math classes, and choose other courses on your desired schedule to delay.

Risky (not recommended):  You could join a waitlist for a math section that fits your desired schedule, in the hopes that it will all work out.  Of course there is no guarantee that it will, and you might end up unable to take the course.  If the other courses on your desired schedule are sufficiently important that it is worth that risk, then this might be the right gamble.  If you do take this gamble, be sure to have a back-up plan in case you do not get into the math course for which you were waiting.

Remember though that math classes very often are prerequisites for other courses that might be important for your major.  So, for many students, this will be a gamble with a significant potential down side.

You are on a wait list, not sure if you should attend that section, since you are not yet enrolled.

Recommended:  Attend the lectures for that section as if you were enrolled!  It is also recommended that you let the instructor know that you are attending the classes and keeping up with the work for the course.  Instructors will expect you to do this, so that if you do get in to the class, you will already be up to speed and will not need to do any make up work.

Of course you should also have a back-up plan in case you do not get in to the math class in question -- you should be attending that class also, for the same reasons.

If you do not get in to the class, then your only loss is that you attended a few extra lectures.  Of course if you take that class in a future term, what you learned in those few lectures could still end up being valuable knowledge.

Risky (not recommended):  You might consider not attending the lectures, and then if you do not get in to the class you will not have spent time on something that did not have direct bearing on your schedule of classes for this semester. 

But, if you do get in to the class, you will be significantly behind on learning the material for the course.  The instructors cannot be expected to give you individual lessons on that missed material, and so you will have to learn it on your own, which of course is a significant disadvantage. 

You might also be behind on the assignments for the course.  While the instructor might allow you to turn in those assignments a little bit late, you will need to complete those assignments while also teaching yourself the material already covered, trying to follow the new material, and also doing the current class assignments (all of this in addition to all of your other classes as well).  At best, this significant extra load to an already full schedule will be an extremely difficult challenge until you catch up, and will hurt your understanding of the material in the course; at worst, you might find that you can never really fully catch up, in which case it would be expected that you would perform poorly on the exams and in the course.