Course Registration Challenges

Emira Sabanovic reports on the unprecedented waitlists during course registration for Spring 2017.

During November 2016, the registration for Spring 2017 was challenging for many students. It was the first time at NYU Shanghai that all four classes were present and registering for classes. This increased number of students, as well as the students’ shared interest in certain classes, increased the competition among them, resulting in surprisingly long waitlists at NYU Shanghai.

Registration times are always stressful for college students. At NYU Shanghai, students are assigned a precise date and time for class registration, and after that, it’s pretty much a battle for the classes. The assigned time is priority based and depends on the number of credits you already have; for example, freshman will have a slight disadvantage as compared to seniors whose registration will open first.

When contacted by OCA, the administrators explained that the school was unable to predict the general interest of the students for certain classes. It is very hard to determine students who haven’t declared their major will want to take a certain class. Instead of declaring one’s majors as soon as one comes as a freshman, one has the opportunity to browse among classes and explore his or her interests before they commit. This year, problems seemed to have arisen in classes that don’t have prerequisites but are both high demand classes among undeclared students and required classes for certain majors.

Examples of such classes are Interaction and Communication Lab. The waitlists are the longest for these IMA classes, and Assistant Provost John Robertson and Registrar Duane Voigt noticed that as well. When OCA asked about students’ concerns about waitlists, their words of advice for students was to “wait for the next semester to take the waitlisted class and [instead] have the pleasure of taking small, interesting class” they were not planning on taking.

Because classrooms and class sizes at NYU Shanghai are typically very small, there was concern that small class sizes were too limited and hurt the course selection process.  Mr. Robertson said that “sometimes when you take a course that’s smaller you get much more ]out of it], you take on something different, [and] we recommend [doing] this in liberal arts education.” Voigt seemed to agree with Robertson, and he also added that there is a possibility of another section of Communication Lab opening. After registration, Voigt also looked into general interest of students in classes, and said that “there is the need to look for what is popular” in the future. After evaluating, other sections of Developing Web, Introduction to  Programming and Introduction to Computer Science were opened because of their high demand.

However, both the Robertson and Voigt made it clear that tracking the popularity of the class and considering opening another section for the popular ones, brings the possibility of another class cancelling because of the low interest. Robertson clearly stated that NYU Shanghai wants to avoid situations where classes have to be cancelled and will continue “to offer a wide range of elective courses”.

Another class that is delaying students in their fulfilment of requirements is Econometrics, a class for the Economics major that is waitlisted with 22 students, Voigt explained that “prerequisites for taking this class have changed since last semester”, while also pointing out that Spring 2017 is only the second time this class is being offered at NYU Shanghai. The interest of taking this class was not considered in advance, so in the future, there might be a chance it will be offered during Fall semester as well. In regard to waitlists, some people will be taken off the list and be able to take the class Spring semester, in order to fulfill their major requirement.

In the end, both Robertson and Voigt clearly stated that there are no seniors who will not be able to graduate because they couldn’t get into certain classes. They stressed that the whole process of registration is deeply planned and complex process, and in the end, if you didn’t get into the class you wanted this time — wait for the next semester. As Dean of Arts and Science, Maria Montoya, said, “as we grow we will discover that there are pockets of demand that we had not anticipated.  We will deal with those effectively as we are flexible in how we meet student demand.  Students need to understand that we monitor the waitlist carefully — we know the circumstances of each student — and we make sure that everyone can meet their requirements.  As I told the Econ students today: they should not worry because we do all the worrying for them.”

This article was written by Emira Sabanovic. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: NYU Shanghai

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