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By now you should be pre-registration pros, but what comes next? If you remember from the first part of this two-part registration series, you’ll actually have to do a bit of waiting— pre-registration only confirms your sections for Lit Hum and UWriting/FroSci (Columbia College), UWriting/Art of Engineering (SEAS), or First-Year Writing/Seminar (Barnard). You’ll finally be able to register for the rest of your classes during NSOP, and then you can add or drop any other courses through the fall shopping period, which covers the first two weeks of classes.

The tl;dr of the shopping period

Like a lot of other colleges, Columbia and Barnard offer a shopping period during the first 10 days of classes to help you finalize your schedule for the semester. This is the time to attend the first lecture to see if the class is really for you, figure out if the workload is manageable, and approach the professor and beg them to let you into the class if you’re on the waiting list.

If you go to a class and like it, keep it on your schedule. If you go to a class and hate it, drop it. If you’re trying to decide between two classes that meet at the same time, try them both out during the first week to see which one you prefer. Unfortunately we don’t have time turners, so you’ll have to choose between one of them, but at least the shopping period lets you get a little taste of each before committing.

When does this all happen?

Once you’re given access to Barnard and Columbia’s respective registration portals, you’ll be able to add things to your registration wish list. However, you cannot actually register for those classes until your specified registration time rolls around.

As a Barnard student, I get to the registration portal by going to myBarnard → Home → Web Advisor → Academic Planning → Student Planning. At the very top of the page, you’ll see the yellow box which says that my registration time is not until July 31 at 9:30 a.m. I can add as many courses as I want in the meantime (as you can see from the yellow and green mess, I’ve taken the liberty of doing so), but I cannot confirm my seat in any classes until the end of July.

Columbia students can get to their registration portal via SSOL → Registration. Just like Barnard students, you can plan whatever classes you want through the wish list, but you won’t be able to register for those classes until your designated registration time.

Note: Your registration time will be different than mine, because they are allocated based on class year. Remember that you can still show up to a class without being formally registered for it and talk to the professor about getting in. If there’s a class you desperately want to be in, set a reminder on your phone or computer with your registration time—spots fill up quickly for popular classes, so you’ll want to add them to your schedule as soon as you can.

Method to the madness

As you can see, my schedule above is pretty hectic, but I’m not planning on taking all 56 of those credits—I’m planning for all the different classes I’ll want to try out during shopping week, which begs the question, “Is the shopping period really as chaotic as it sounds?” Not necessarily. Here are a few ways to approach it:

Add everything but weed most of it out

Many underclassmen add way more classes than they can take and don’t make any decisions until they actually attend the class. You might have an upward of six or seven classes per day in the beginning, some of which meet at the same time, so to keep everything organized, use this handy dandy spreadsheet (created by Spectrum’s fabulous former editor, Sophia Hotung) to manage all your options.


  • You have plenty of options. Even if your first choice classes don’t work out (expect to not get into all the classes you want as a first-year), you’ll still have classes you like to choose from.
  • You’ll get to sample a little bit of everything so you know you’ll actually be happy with the classes you’ve picked.


  • Several of your classes will probably end up meeting at the same time. Unfortunately, you aren’t able to register for classes with overlapping meeting times (even if you only plan on taking one of them), so you won’t be able to save your seat in either of them until you decide.
  • You can only be on a maximum of three official waitlists, so you’ll have to do your fair share of picking and choosing.

Never in two places at once

It doesn’t seem so by the looks of my schedule, but this is the method I usually use: Never plan for two classes that meet at the same time. (I’m dropping 50 percent of my classes during my next registration appointment.) You won’t be able to register for either if the meeting times overlap, and you can still fill your schedule with a decent number of classes, even if they are one right after the other.


  • You’re dealing with fewer hypotheticals. (“If I get off the waitlist for this class and drop this other one, then perhaps I’ll be able to register for...”)
  • Your week-at-a-glance is more set by the time school begins, which can be comforting if you’re anal-retentive like me.


  • Slightly more limiting than the previous option.

Start with the bare minimum and add once you get to campus

In contrast to the first method we suggested, this method lets you plan the absolute minimum of what you’d like to take during pre-registration. For the first two days of school, attend those classes. If you’re not happy with what you’ve picked, browse the Course Directory for one or two potential replacements. Plan them on your schedule and shop them. If you like them better than your original selections, add these and drop the others. Simple and pain-free.


  • You won’t have to fuss as much with adding or dropping classes to your schedule. (Neither Columbia nor Barnard’s registration portals are that user-friendly. They get the job done at the end of the day, but it can be difficult to search and add courses.)
  • Since about half (if not more) of your schedule will be mandatory first-year classes or pre-requisites, there are fewer opportunities for you to experiment anyway.


  • If you wait until you’ve shopped the class, you run the risk of ending up on the waitlist.
  • Less room for experimentation and trying before buying than the previous two options.

Final words of wisdom: Choosing which classes you’ll take your first year may seem intimidating now, but try not to worry about it too much. Even if you’re not completely happy with what your schedule looks like after pre-registration, there’s still plenty of time change it during the first week of school, and then plenty of opportunities to find what you love during the next seven semesters.


Have any other questions about pre-registration or regular ol’ registration? Ask us here, or on our Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

Veronica Grace Taleon is Spectrum’s editor and a Barnard junior. You’d think you’d be able to figure out her major by looking at her schedule, and yet you probably still don’t know. She doesn’t either. Reach her at

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