Registering for Classes: What you need to know
If you’re anything like I was the summer before my first year, you’re probably super excited to choose your classes for your first semester in college! [Insert wholesome words of encouragement and “the world is your oyster” like phrases here]. Now onto the good stuff!
First, I would recommend getting comfortable with YES (Your Enrollment Services)
YES is home to almost every resource you’ll need in your time as a Vanderbilt student. But we’ll focus on the Student Registration section (highlighted in the red box). As a side note, that is definitely not what my actual student ID looks like because I edited the screencap (RIP @ my high school photo from three years ago), which also reminded me that somehow I’m a senior next year? WHAT.
Anyway, once you click on the Student Registration link, it will take you to a search page. From there it’s fairly intuitive – you search the classes that you would like to enroll in and click the light blue plus button to add to them to your cart.
Some general tips on how to choose classes and professors for said classes:
- Download the Rate My Vandy Professors chrome extension – this extension places the professor’s rating right next to their name, so you don’t have to search for each individual professor on Rate My Professor. When you have the option to choose a professor, always try to get the one with a higher rating because it is often for good reason and will translate to a more enjoyable class experience.
- Download the Vandy Scheduler extension or create a separate excel document in order to organize your different class combinations to maximize free time and avoid class conflicts. The YES schedule is good, but it can get a little convoluted once you have 20+ hours in your cart. Here’s what my schedule currently looks like – green = classes I’m enrolled in, blue = classes in my cart
But how do you know what classes to take? Especially with the sheer amount of classes offered + your personal academic goals + desire to try new things + your concerns about taking college classes for the first time and achieving the balance needed to thrive. I have a few tips and advice on how to make your choices with these thoughts in mind, however, this will probably only be useful for A+S students, since Engineering, Blair, and Peabody have different requirements and advising systems.
First-year Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Over the years, I’ve gotten tons of emails from excited incoming students about how they “need to take 17 hours which include Gen Chem, Bio, Calculus, Neuroscience and their first year writing seminar ALL IN ONE SEMESTER because otherwise, they’ll be behind!!!”
My recommendation is DO NOT DO THIS – there is no reason to take such a heavy course load your first semester. I understand you may be pre-med and want to double major, but I promise you will have time.
- There is no reason to take 17/18 hours your first semester. I would say stick to 12/13/14 hours if possible. There is definitely an adjustment period to college life, so it’s important to give yourself a buffer zone to transition and figure things out, and from there you can definitely move on to take a heavy course load your second semester if necessary.
- Do not take more than 2 STEM classes. I think most CASPAR advisers recommend that you take one (Gen Chem – CHEM 1601 + Lab), and I think that is good advice, but it also depends on your strength in science classes. I went in with no AP Chem experience and had last taken Chemistry my sophomore year of high school, so I would have been overwhelmed if I had taken multiple science classes that first semester. However, I know tons of people who took AP Chem and really thrive in STEM classes, so they were able to handle taking Chem and Neuroscience or Chem and Bio, for example. If you are pre-med, I personally think it is really smart to take Chem and Bio together (if you feel prepared to do so) because Chem is a lot more problem-solving/math focused while Bio is memorization heavy so there is a balance there, whereas if you were to hold off on taking Bio until your sophomore year you would be in two memorization heavy classes – Bio and Orgo – that often have exams in the same week, so that might be hard to manage. My biggest tip is to know your strengths and your study habits. Doubling up on courses will be really hard if you’re a major procrastinator regardless of how you did in high school and how smart you may be. But also, don’t be afraid of your classes – you can definitely handle it if you’re smart about planning it out. My first year, I knew my heart wasn’t really in STEM, but I wanted to try things out so I took just Chem and Chem Lab, and the work was very manageable for me despite being a horrible procrastinator who disliked chemistry. To succeed in pre-med courses, you need to have the foresight to plan ahead and look at the classes you’ll eventually need to take. Chem will be hard, but Orgo is harder, and Biochem is harder than both, but you’ll build up the work ethic over time – just make sure you put in the work to make it there.
Now that we’ve covered the classic first year dilemma (that despite a multitude of warnings year after year, many first years still fall into, so I hope you’re not one of them after reading this post!) we can move on to more general tips on how to find cool classes!
Use Advanced Search to sort through classes by subject or by AXLE requirements – this will make it easier to find classes with general attributes instead of having to scour through the 100s of available classes or find a specific course number. This is often how I find fun/random classes to take. My first year I looked through available classes in areas like Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, History, Sociology, and Political Science, which helped me find classes I probably would not have searched for myself.
Side note: It’s alright if you are unable to register for a first-year writing seminar your first semester. They will be offered again second semester, and if you really want to take a writing class, I would recommend taking a 1000 level writing class because they are basically like the first year classes.
What to do on Registration Day
Registration happens in waves, with different randomly assigned groups registering each week. If you are in the first week, congrats you lucked out and will have first dibs on classes. Despite that, don’t be complacent and make sure to register immediately at 8 AM when registration opens because popular classes like Gen Chem with Todd or writing seminars fill up almost in the first minute. In my personal experience, despite being on the page at 7:58 AM and reloading as soon as it turns 8 the page will never immediately load and will buffer for a minute. Instead, I open up a new tab exactly at 8 and type in the link (yes.vanderbilt.edu) and it takes me to the page much more quickly. After 8 AM, you’ll notice that the page looks different because there will be a drop-down menu next to each class and a new button that says enroll. On the drop-down menu, select Waitlist if Full for each class, which will guarantee that even if in the process of loading the course fills up, you’ll be on the waitlist with a good chance of getting off. Make sure that you are enrolled in at least 12 hours. For the classes you would like to drop once you’ve gotten a spot off the waitlist, make sure to click the brown arrow button and set up “drop if enrolled” which will replace a class of your choice with a waitlist class when necessary. A common mistake people make is registering for 18 hours and forgetting to set up the drop if enrolled feature, so when they do get off the waitlist, they are enrolled in too many hours to add the new class so they lose their spot in the class and on the waitlist.
I hope these tips and tricks have answered any and every question you have about registering for classes. In the past, I’ve received many emails asking similar questions, so I hope I’ve covered everything here. If there is something I have not mentioned and you think I would have an answer, feel free to send me an email. If you would like to hear more about how I decided to choose my classes first year – check out this post.
Good luck with registration and see you in the fall! – Farah