Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors will now have to register for fall courses at the end of the spring semester. Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced the new registration timeline for the fall 2021 term in an email to undergraduates on March 8, following the pandemic’s acceleration of a long-planned change to an early class registration system.
In the past, course registration has taken place in the weeks immediately preceding a semester. But this year, Yale College is joining many of its peer institutions and shifting to an early class registration system that will take place the semester before the term in question for currently enrolled students and students returning from a leave of absence, with first years, reinstated students, new Eli Whitney students and transfer students registering during an add/drop period in the fall. The change was made in response to what Chun described as long-standing student and faculty frustration with the previous registration system and shopping period.
“We are responding to long-standing requests from students and from faculty to have a process that gives students more certainty about which classes they are in or not,” Chun told the News, adding that the plan has been over five years in the making. “In particular, it matters the most for limited enrollment classes. In the past, when we tried to do it at the beginning of the term, it was very rushed, stressful and somewhat disorganized because everyone was on their own timelines. Another big part of early registration is to organize and align registration so that everyone can count on having the best information available.”
According to an email sent to undergraduates on Monday, Yale Course Search will go live on April 1, and the deadline for professors to post expanded course descriptions for classes next semester will be April 5. Following that, the student application period for courses with limited enrollment will run from April 6 to April 21. For the spring semester, preregistration for seminars lasted from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9.
According to an email sent to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and other faculty teaching Yale College classes on March 5 by Chun, FAS Dean Tamar Gendler and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Lynn Cooley, the application process for limited-enrollment courses will not be standardized and is “largely up to individual departments and individual instructors.” Instructors and departments must give selected students permission to register in limited enrollment courses by April 30.
In that same email, administrators explained that the April 5 date is the “keystone to a schedule that allows the bulk of early registration to take place prior to the summer, enabling faculty to have a true break from registration- and advising-related work during June and July.”
Rising sophomores, juniors and seniors will then have from May 3 to May 28 to engage in early course registration.
According to an email sent to undergraduates from the University Registrar’s Office on March 8, students will not need to register for discussion sections during the early registration period. Instead, students who will need to register for a discussion section will do so in August when the course add/drop period begins.
Finally, during August, student schedules will open up again for a second round of registration during which students will be able to edit their schedules and register for any courses that may have been added in the interim period between the end of early registration and the beginning of the add/drop period in August. The incoming first-year class — as well as reinstated students, new Eli Whitney students and transfer students — will register for courses at the start of the add/drop period, according to the email sent to faculty.
Initially, the email from the Registrar’s Office stated that students returning from a leave of absence will not be allowed to register for courses until the start of the add/drop period in August. That information was a “miscommunication,” and students returning from a leave of absence will be able to register for limited-enrollment courses in April, according to a Wednesday afternoon email from Chun to former staff columnist for the News Eric Krebs ’22.
In a Wednesday evening email to the News, Chun said that “together with their enrolled friends, students currently on a leave of absence will also be able to sign up for limited-enrollment courses in April.”
In another departure from the previous course registration system, the March 8 email from Chun also announced that a new “user-friendly registration system will replace OCS,” the website that previously hosted student course selection. The change will happen through an expansion of Yale Course Search, a tool that allows students to search for courses and add them to their worksheet.
“Yale Course Search (YCS) will be enhanced to allow Yale College students to officially enroll in courses in real time and to provide temporary visitor access to Canvas course sites,” the email from the Registrar’s Office said. “Students will still be able to fill out preliminary worksheets prior to the opening of registration on May 3. This information will not populate to the Registration or Canvas worksheets.”
The updated YCS will feature two default worksheets — a registration worksheet that will allow students to officially enroll in a maximum of 5.5 course credits and a Canvas worksheet of up to 10 credits in which students can use to explore courses and plan tentative schedules. When a student enrolls on the registration worksheet, they will appear on Canvas rosters as a “student,” but when they add a course to their Canvas worksheet, they will appear on Canvas rosters with a “visitor” status.
According to Chun, this new early registration system has been a long time in the making. He explained that the planning for an early registration “caught momentum” around five years ago amid frustration with the challenges that accompanied registering for courses in the weeks immediately preceding a term. Early in his deanship, Chun put into motion planning for an early registration system that would align Yale with the vast majority of its peer institutions and address these concerns.
The plan was approved last year, before the pandemic, and was originally scheduled to begin this spring, with registration for the 2021-22 academic year. But because the benefits of an early registration system could help the University meet the unique uncertainties and enrollment fluctuations brought on by COVID-19, the implementation of the early preregistration system was accelerated and introduced for this academic year, beginning with last December’s early course registration for the spring 2021 semester.
However, despite the plans intending to relieve student stress concerning course registration, the new early registration system was immediately met with frustration from some students.
Yale College Council Vice President Reilly Johnson ’22 told the News that she is “disappointed” with the shift to an early registration model that will require students to make decisions about their course schedules months before those classes begin.
“Although [YCC President] Aliesa [Bahri] and I recommended to Dean [of Academic Programs George] Levesque and Dean Chun that very few students are prepared to make decisions about their fall semester classes in April and recommended making this process occur over the summer or during the beginning of the fall semester, they had already decided to move to an early registration system similar to that of peer institutions,” Johnson wrote to the News. “Ultimately, we were able to extend the application deadline and simplify the timeline originally presented to us, but we understand that these are insufficient to address students’ deep dissatisfaction with preregistration being so early this year.”
Johnson declined to specify the exact timeline but added that Levesque’s original proposition involved two distinct timelines and processes that depended on the major a particular course was affiliated with. Following YCC advocacy, according to Johnson, the processes were consolidated into one.
Chun said the timeline announced Monday is “similar” to the one proposed in his meeting with the YCC. According to Chun, conversations with student leaders over the course of the planning period for the change lengthened the period for students to express interest in limited-enrollment classes and extended the deadline for early registration by more than a week beyond the end of final exams, allowing students to postpone course registration until after final exams end.
Honor Thompson ’22 told the News that because the registration process for this current semester also took place in the previous semester, “It was predictable that there would be a change for next semester as well
Although Thompson said she understands that the administration is facing logistical difficulties, she said she thinks there must be a way to collaborate with the student body to create a better solution.
“Most students do not know what their living and learning circumstances will be in a month, let alone six,” Thompson wrote to the News. “It is extremely unreasonable to ask us to make these decisions this far in advance. Additionally, the proposed timeline overlaps unacceptably with finals period, only adding to the stress most students are feeling during this unprecedented time. And this is all on top of feelings of burnout, constant anxiety about the pandemic, and decreased interaction with friends/loved ones.”
The spring term is scheduled to end on May 19, giving students over a week after the end of final exams to complete early registration.
Julia Bialek | firstname.lastname@example.org
Update, March 10, 11:45 a.m.: The story has been updated to include additional comment from Chun on the original timeline for the early course registration rollout.
Update, March 10, 6:07 p.m.: A previous version of the story stated that students returning from a leave of absence will not be able to register for courses until the add/drop period in August. According to a Wednesday evening email from Chun to former staff columnist Eric Krebs ’22, that information was a miscommunication, and students returning from leaves will be able to register for limited-enrollment classes in April.
Update, March 10, 7:45 p.m.: The story has been updated to include comment from Chun confirming that students on leave will be able to register for limited-enrollment courses in April.