With over 1500 spring courses across the University to pick from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With registration week underway, it’s not a bad idea to browse the CU Directory of Classes and make a list of courses you want to take. Barnard and Columbia academic department websites are also good places to look for classes for majors, minors, or concentrations you’re interested in.
Seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-years begin registering on Dec. 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. From Dec. 7-11, registration is open for all students to make any last minute changes to their schedule and join waitlists before the start of spring semester. The shopping period, which allows you to explore and attend various classes, will last for the first two weeks of the spring semester, ending on Jan. 22, 2021.
Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of General Studies:
Students in Columbia College, SEAS, and General Studies register for their courses using SSOL under the “Registration” tab. SSOL’s integration with Vergil allows you to import classes from Vergil’s Planner straight to the SSOL Registration Wish List. Remember the class’ call number (5-digit identifier) to make sure that you don’t accidentally register for the wrong section.
A sample of what the Registration tab on SSOL looks like with a course imported from Vergil.
Barnard students register on MyBarnard through Student Planning. Once on the website, accessing the course catalog will allow students to filter classes according to their needs based on Distributional Requirements, Modes of Thinking, and department-specific courses. You can also check Snowbird, which lists classes that fulfill the Foundations requirements. On Student Planning, you can also find a degree-progress audit, which can be used to see what Foundations and major requirements still need to be completed. The Barnard registrar also has a YouTube channel with video guides on how to register online.
The Student Planning website is accessible from this location on MyBarnard.
The Student Planning website allows you to apply filters to narrow down your classes to majors or Foundations requirements.
At the start of your registration period, if you’ve already chosen your courses, simply click on the “Register Now” button located at the top right of your screen.
What are some general tips regarding registration?
Keep in mind the waitlist limit
Remember that you cannot join more than three waitlists. Make sure to factor this in when planning your courses—the last thing you would want is to miss the credit requirement because you are stuck on waitlists. If you have been waitlisted in a class, you can check your position on the waitlist on SSOL. Check out Spectrum’s waitlist article for more information.
Plan the timing of your courses
When browsing through potential courses, make sure to add classes you want to take to your course plan. Vergil’s planner and Barnard’s Planning Overview tab allow you to see your possible courses on a calendar, which is particularly useful when making sure that courses don’t overlap. Alternatively, you could also create your own Google Calendar, which would allow you to change time zones if you are not living in Eastern Standard Time or to compare your classes to other events you have during the semester.
Manage any overlapping classes
Sometimes, classes or recitations have unusual time slots that may not match up with the typical schedule most classes follow, leading to some overlap in your planned course schedule. Although you should try your best to work around these irregularities, you might be faced with a dead end if these classes are major requirements. For Columbia College and SEAS students, if the overlap does not exceed 10-15 minutes, you may petition for the course overlap to be approved by filling out this document and submitting it before the end of the change of program period. Barnard students should contact their class dean for information on the equivalent petition, along with its deadline.
Take advice from your advisers and peers
Before registration begins, you might want to talk through your plan with your adviser to make sure you’re on track to graduate and taking an appropriate number of classes. If you don’t have the time to meet with them, send them an email. For Barnard students, talking to your adviser is a requirement to get registration approval for courses. Alternatively, talking to your friends, especially upperclassmen, can provide good advice for selecting a course toward the same major or for general comments about certain classes.
Check professor reviews
Use CULPA and Rate My Professors for classes with multiple professors to narrow down whose teaching style would work best for you. On both sites, you will find student reviews of the classes, along with explanations of the homework and test schedules, as well as the professor’s teaching style and personality. On CULPA, look out for professors with silver or golden nuggets, which signify that the professor has a number of good reviews and is highly recommended. Vergil also provides a feature for faculty evaluations with comprehensive reviews and data from past students.
Use class Facebook groups
Check out your class Facebook page for recommendations and advice from other students. Since these class pages are also open to students from higher years or students with shared interests, it’s easy to find additional information and advice on approaching certain majors, professors, or courses.
Beware of the credit limit
Be aware of your undergraduate school’s yearly credit limit. For example, this year, Barnard students can take a maximum of 45 credits from Fall 2020 to Summer 2021. For students in Columbia College the maximum is 40 and for SEAS students it is 42. There are also limits on how many credits a student can take as pass/D/fail per semester. Students choose to pass/D/fail classes for various reasons. Some may want to lessen the pressure of their heavy workload, while others are just experimenting and taking the class for fun. These credits, when ‘passed,’ do not count towards a GPA and therefore cannot be used for any honors such as Dean’s List. If you want to know what honors you are eligible for, check out Spectrum’s article on the University’s honors. For more information about the University’s current grading policies, read Spectrum’s breakdown of the academic news.
Narrow down and plan your classes
When narrowing down which classes to take, start with courses that you have met the prerequisites for. While prerequisites are sometimes not strictly enforced, they’re a good judge of whether or not you’ll be successful in a class. Starting with the introductory courses for the major(s) that you’re interested in will also help you narrow down your future class choices. If you’re an international student with a time difference for the upcoming semester, it’s also a good idea to check whether your professors will let you take the course asynchronously.
Make a four-year plan
Having a four-year plan can be very helpful to keep track of your credits, making sure that you are within the credit limit for each semester while fulfilling your major and distributional requirements within four years. Here is a four-year sample spreadsheet that you can fill out with your planned courses. Make sure to choose your undergraduate school’s tab at the bottom of the document to see the right requirements for graduation. We’ve filled in a potential first-year schedule for each sample, but simply make a copy of the document to customize it to your personal needs. In addition to seeing your requirements laid out, the four-year plan can also highlight schedule opportunities to take non-major, minor, or concentration courses that you may be interested in.
All in all, choosing classes for a semester can be a daunting task. Many of the classes that you’ll find incredibly interesting will often count for a core or major requirement, helping you to stay on track and fulfill your requirements for graduation. Regardless, if you are feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out to your adviser or your class page.
Staff Writers Swethaa Suresh and Nirutti Charupaisankit were struggling to narrow down the classes they wanted to take, but have since made use of the above advice. They can be contacted at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org respectively. Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.