Unprecedented Enrollment Leads to a Difficult Add-Drop Period

For many students, this semester’s registration process was chaotic and complicated. Due to severe over-enrollment and reduced course offerings, students struggled to register in their desired courses.

After returning to in-person classes following a year-and-a-half of learning primarily on Zoom, many students felt let down by the myriad of complications surrounding the fall semester’s course registration process. In addition to being randomly dropped from classes weeks before the semester began, students struggled to register in their preferred courses due to severe over-enrollment and reduced course offerings.

The unprecedented increase in student enrollment this semester, in combination with reduced faculty availability due to Delta variant concerns, led to a stressful add-drop period for many students. The administration has not addressed the student body’s ongoing concerns about registration difficulties, exacerbating students’ concerns since the end of add-drop is Sept. 8.  

Phoebe Eccles ’24 is currently enduring such registration difficulties. “During the first round of registration, I registered for Statistics 135-02. The Registrar’s office asked me to switch into the third section, which I did. Then in July, they emailed everyone in the third section and said [that] it no longer existed. [They said] that we would have to register for another class during add-drop but didn't really give us an opportunity to change it.”

Eccles continued, “At this point, I couldn’t find any other classes that fit into my schedule because all of them had already been filled up during pre-registration.” Eccles then received an email from the registrar that she was required to enroll in another class.

“How can I do that when almost all the other classes are filled up? Very few classes fit into my schedule on Tuesday and Thursday,” she said.”

Eccles feels frustrated with the lack of support offered by the administration. “They didn’t even tell me that I was under-enrolled until [Sept. 3] and add-drop ends on Wednesday [Sept. 8].” She has continued to email the Registrar in hopes that the office can help her find a class that works for her schedule.

“It’s too much for me to drop another course and add two new classes to my schedule, and now there’s a week of work that I’ve missed for those classes anyway,” she said.

Jake Rosenbluth ’24 also expressed discontent with the course registration process this semester after changing his major over the summer. “The process was really stressful because I didn’t know if I would be able to get into the classes [that] I needed to meet the requirements for my major, so that was definitely trying. I mean, it all worked out well, but there was such a short time frame to figure it all out.” Among the classes that Rosenbluth had shopped, had between ten or fifteen people competing for spots in the class. These individuals were competing for seats in courses that were already at capacity, if not completely overenrolled.

Similarly, Lauren Weil ’23 noted how difficult  it was to get into her desired classes. Out of her four class choices, Weil got into three — the fourth had too many people. “It’s a little frustrating because as an upperclassman, you feel like you should get into the classes that you want.”

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein explained that the large fall enrollment is due mainly to students returning from leaves taken in last year, as well as fewer students studying abroad due to Covid restrictions and uncertainties. Course offerings are also reduced due to a larger number of faculty than usual being on research sabbatical or other leave.

“Departments have also had to make decisions on offerings that appeal to a large incoming first-year class and the needs of the larger number of [upperclassmen] majors than is usual,” she said. Although the combined size of the classes of 2024 and 2025 is the usual size for the sophomore and first-year classes, “the fact that the first-year class is so large place[s] additional enrollment pressure on classes that are popular with first-years.”

Going into future semesters, Epstein said she cannot guarantee that course registration will be easier. She is hopeful, however, that students will not face the same difficulties as they did this semester.

“There are currently 76 seniors who are scheduled to graduate after the fall semester as members of the class of 2022E. That should provide some immediate relief this spring. It is more difficult to predict whether study abroad will be more readily available this spring. The Office of Global Education is monitoring the situation carefully,” she said.