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Getting in the Door of Waitlisted College Courses

College is almost upon you. And if you think the battle ends with getting admitted, you're majorly mistaken.

Getting the classes you need once you embark on your educational endeavor is the ultimate goal when you register. Sometimes, however, you may hit a hitch along the way -- what we call "Lock-Out 101."

Picture this... After you've drawn up your dream schedule for the semester, you try to register but find that one or more of your classes has been filled to capacity. Now you have to scrap your plans and scramble for open sections. You may even have to start from scratch if scheduling conflicts arise.

Or Do You?
Before you start panicking, keep "safety" courses in mind. In other words, just register for those classes you can get into with no problems. If you receive financial aid, you may be penalized if you don't take enough credits, so fill up your schedule with whatever courses you have to. (The last thing you want is to have to pay money back to the Feds.)

Once you acquire enough credits to keep you in good standing, you can start your quest to get into the classes you really want. Here are some key scholastic secrets revealed!

Seek Someone New
Consider taking a course you need with a different professor. Just because some professors are more popular than others doesn't mean the rest aren't any good. The change of pace and lack of familiarity can be refreshing. After all, college is supposed to be about new experiences, right?

Test Your Friendships
If you need a class in order to graduate or complete a sequence for your major, you may be able to convince a friend who is already enrolled in the class, but isn't desperate for its credit, to drop it for you. Be sure to have your paperwork ready, though, so you're the one to register when your friend's withdrawal opens up a spot.

Whine
Go straight to the registrar's office and find out if a class is really filled. Sometimes computer glitches give out contradictory information, and a half-empty class only seems to be full. At the registrar's office, you can also find out if any new sections have been added. Sometimes late additions to the semester's schedule don't make it into the course bulletin; finding out about them may require some further investigation.

When even jumping through the hoops of bureaucracy doesn't help, however, you may have to do a little more legwork...

Meet the Prof
Seek out the professor of the class you want into. It doesn't hurt to ask if you can be signed into the course. Most schools have procedures for this and they often tend to work, if you're lucky. In fact, the general consensus among professors is that if a student needs to get into a class, he or she should see them directly.

Oliver Arnold, an English professor at Princeton University (Princeton, NJ) recalls when desperate students would camp out the night before at the registration site to get a jump on everyone else. "[Students] don't consider the possibility that just talking to the professor will help them get in," he explains.

Make it Worth Their While
Should you just show up for a class you can't get into? Yes! Sound pushy? Well, it could be, but sometimes it's not enough to simply say that you're interested in a class. You have to demonstrate that you want to be in there, too.

Princeton English professor, William Gleason, says he likes to actually meet a potential student so he can gauge their educational enthusiasm on the spot. "If you really are interested, you need to show that interest," he says.

Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) philosophy professor Fred Neuhouser agrees. If a student attends class in the hopes that a spot will become available, then "the time investment made makes it difficult to turn the student down." He also suggests that explaining any extenuating circumstances can be of great help to you.

Put on a Sad Face
Don't think it's enough for your name to be placed on a waiting list. Even being the first name on that list doesn't mean a thing if the professor is too busy to call you or you're not around when the light turns green. If you desperately need to get into a course, go the extra mile by visiting the professor. There's that old maxim that you can't say no to someone when you've put a name to a face. For insurance, put on a sad face.

Don't Be a Bother
Calling and regularly checking up on the availability of your course, however, can backfire, too. Your persistence may end up irritating the professor you need on your side. The last thing you want is an angry professor holding your future in his or her hands. It's OK to be persistent, but make sure you're also courteous and polite.

Once You're In...
When you've got your notebook in the door, remember that the first class is important. It gives you a feel for what you're getting yourself into and adds credibility to you, as a new name on the attendance sheet. You're not going to want to miss it.

Make a good impression from the get-go. That means not wearing your Grateful Dead tie-dye T-shirt or your favorite pajama pants when you go to see your professor. You don't have to deck yourself out in your Sunday best, either -- just dress presentably. After all, you're the one in need here and you're going to need everything running in your favor. You can dress down later in the semester when you've established yourself as someone worthy of all the trouble the professor went through to get you a seat in class.


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