If pre-reg was cruel to you last November (or you had an epiphany over break and decided to trade your economics major to pursue astronomy), you’re likely in for a stressful drop/add. We’ve all been there, pressing to the front of the room to get our names on the waitlist after one class before dashing off to the next one even though last time we looked, that course’s Wesmaps read “Seats Available: -12.”
(A quick interjection: if you haven’t been there and pre-registration has decided to shine its guiding light of benevolence upon you time and time again, you probably shouldn’t mention it. Good for you, and all, but seriously. No one wants to hear it.)
If you are one of the (many) people in this situation, you’re likely sending out a ton of frantic emails to faculty members trying to secure the promise of a seat in their classes. Good news: while it might seem like you’re grasping at straws, these emails do work. In fact, in most cases you shouldn’t even bother showing up to the first day of a popular course if you’re not enrolled and haven’t emailed the teacher beforehand. So to give yourself the best possible chance at lining up a full, fulfilling course load this semester, keep the following email best practices in mind:
1. Use the course name and title in your subject. For instance: “Seeking a seat in ARHA 180: Great Traditions in Asian Art.”
2. Address your email “Dear Professor ___”. This is not the time to be informal, even if you know this particular Professor well. Politeness is key!
3. Include your major, class year, and whether you need this course to graduate. This is particularly important if you’re a senior. Mention this right off the bat!
4. Briefly discuss what you can bring to the class, not just what the class will do for you. For instance: “As a history major studying Latin America, I hope to provide a different perspective in this English course; I have read some of these novels in Spanish and am eager to compare the two versions and share my experiences.”
5. Keep it simple. You might be tempted to launch off on a detailed retelling of your childhood summers spent in France and how they inspired you to take French in high school and how now you’d like to learn more about the history of this great nation that you never learned in your French language classes and how you’re thinking about possibly double-majoring in history and this course fits right into your schedule…but try not to. Professors don’t typically give their remaining seats to the most prolific student and long, rambly, over-personal emails might do more harm than good. Make your case, but be concise.
6. Indicate your plan from here on. Will you be attending the first day of class? Say so! (And make sure you introduce yourself in person.) If you’re enrolled in another class that meets at the same time and don’t want to risk losing your spot, you can politely explain your situation and ask whether the Professor will take your interest into account.
7. Follow up, but don’t be pushy. Getting in touch confirms your interest, but don’t act as though you’re entitled to a space.
8. No matter what happens, thank the Professor! If you don’t get a spot, don’t just drop off the ends of the earth; send an email thanking the Professor for his or her time. You can even promise to get back in touch during the next bout of pre-registration to express interest in a course he or she is teaching next fall.