Managing Course Registration (enrollment)

Students use the Vergil and SSOL systems to enroll in courses at Columbia, and instructors use the SSOL system to manage their course rosters and grades.

"Registration" and "enrollment" have distinct meanings for the University and the Registrar's Office. The process of reserving a space in a class is "registration", so this section will refer to the process of building and managing a course roster as "managing course registration" (which some instructors may think of as "course enrollment").

Early registration periods

Current students first have the opportunity to register for classes during the early registration period in the preceding semester:  early registration for Fall classes occurs during one week in the previous April, and early registration for Spring classes occurs during one week in the previous November. 

After that initial early registration period, there are certain weeks before the beginning of the term designated for registration changes, when students can continue to add and drop classes from their academic programs for the upcoming semesters. You can find a complete list of registration periods here on the Registrar's website. During these registration weeks, students will have appointment times assigned for every day of the week.

Change-of-program period

The first two weeks of the Fall or Spring semester is known as the "change of program" period, when students can continue to add and drop classes in order to finalize their academic programs for the term.

The deadline for adding a course in a Fall or Spring semester will always be the second Friday of the term (i.e., the end of the second week of classes). 

Student registration appointment times

During registration weeks, students are assigned registration "appointment times", i.e. windows of time on weekdays when students can perform registration activities through Vergil/SSOL. 

  • During the week of early registration, these appointment times are assigned based on seniority, with the current seniors (in Fall) or rising seniors (in Spring) given appointment times on Monday; the current juniors (in Fall) or rising seniors (in Spring) added on Tuesday; the current sophomores (in Fall) or rising sophomores (in Spring) added on Wednesday; and current first-year students (in Fall) added on Thursday.

  • Within that structure, most students' appointment times are randomly assigned, and it is possible that a student's appointment time will begin while the student is in a current class meeting, leading to an unfortunate competition for the student's attention. While students are not encouraged to miss class time or to use time in class to attend to early registration, the competition for spaces in classes/sections makes it likely that students will give their attention to early registration, and we ask instructors to be aware that early registration weeks are particulately hectic times for students.

Further details about course registration processes throughout the year are available on the Registrar's Office website.

SSOL course waitlists

Most courses have electronic waitlists attached to them in SSOL (although some programs—for instance, Core Curriculum programs—may have reasons for not having electronic waitlists).

Instructions for managing these electronic waitlists, and technical details about what instructors and students will see on the waitlists, can be found on this page of the Registrar's Office website, including a printable overview of electronic waitlists and a printable Faculty Quick Guide about electronic waitlists.

Instructors should consider the following issues when managing the electronic waitlists for their courses:

  • The electronic waitlist for each course is optional. If an instructor does not wish to have an automated waitlist for a class, the instructor can disable it through SSOL.

  • If the waitlist is enabled, the instructor can opt for it to be automated, so that if a student drops the course and is removed from the course roster, the student at the top of the waitlist will automatically be added to the course roster. (This update will be reflected on the course roster the following day.)

  • If the waitlist is enabled, the instructor can opt for it to be self-managed, so that the instructor selects specific students off of the waitlist to be added to the available spaces on the roster. This option can be useful if enrollment should privilege certain populations of students—for example, declared majors in the program; specific populations of students (e.g., first-year students for introductory courses, or juniors and seniors for advanced courses); those selected through an application process. 

It is important for instructors to have a communication strategy to help students understand the specific waitlist processes associated with their classes. There are hundreds of faculty, and many different ways of managing course enrollments, so students need specific guidance in order to understand the particular expectations of a particular instructor. And while there are hundreds of courses open to undergraduate students, our students still face numerous challenges in getting into the courses they want or need to take, at the times that they want or need to take them—so it is very helpful to them to understand in clear and timely ways their chances for moving off of a waitlist onto the official roster in any particular class.

  • Instructors can create a customized email message through SSOL for the course so that students automatically receive the message when they add themselves to the course waitlist. This message can be edited to include instructions for additional steps (e.g., application processes), typical timelines (e.g., notes as to whether students are usually accepted off the waitlist as enrollments shift), or expected actions for the students (e.g., required attendance even while on the waitlist).

  • Instructors can also send an email at any time through SSOL to all students currently on a course waitlist, in order to provide updates or additional instructions.

Student requests for late enrollments

The "change of program" period for a Fall or Spring term is the first two weeks of the term. The deadline for students to add a course to their academic program in a Fall or Spring term is the second Friday of the term.

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering:  If a student wishes to add a course after that deadline, the student must not only have the permission of the instructor of the course, but the student must also petition the Committee on Academic Standing. The committee bases its decision on several factors, including whether the student has already been attending and participating in the class for a significant amount of time and why the student had not already registered for the course at the appropriate time.

If a student approaches you to ask to add the course officially after the first two weeks of classes, please refer the student to the student's assigned advising dean.

Student requests for overlapping course enrollments

Given the different class meeting times for lectures, seminars, language classes, and laboratories, it is possible that two courses that meet in different time periods could overlap by a certain amount of time, and if that time overlap is sufficiently modest (e.g., 10-15 minutes), students may wonder if it is possible to take both courses despite the overlap. Naturally, it is expected that students will attend the full class meeting of any course in which they are enrolled, so overlapping course enrollments are strongly discouraged. Occasionally, a student may have a compelling reason to make the request.

Columbia College and Columbia Engineering:  A student who wishes to enroll in two overlapping lcasses must submit a petition to the Committee on Academic Standing and must have the permission of the instructors of both courses.

  • Permission is rarely granted, and then usually only to seniors for whom both classes are necessary to graduate, if the overlap does not exceed 10 minutes.

  • The petition form to the Committee on Academic standing requires the signatures of both instructors of the relevant courses. Instructors should sign the form only if they approve the overlap -- i.e., if they believe that the lost minutes of class time will not adversely affect the student's progress in the course and if they believe that the student's early departure or late arrival will not adversely affect the experience of the other students in the course. 

  • Instructor permission is only one required part of the process; the Committee on Academic Standing will conduct its own review the petition and will determine whether the overlap can be approved for the relevant semester.

Student requests to audit

Columbia College does not permit students to audit classes. However, seniors who have completed all the requirements for graduation may be permitted to register for R (Registration) credit for a course, if the following criteria are met.

No point credit is given for R credit.  Students who take a course for R credit may be required to complete certain work as specified by the instructor. The exact nature of the work should be determined by the instructor when the student registers for the course. An instructor may fail a student who has not completed assigned work. Registering for R credit is allowed only when:

  1. the courses are in excess of the 124 points required for the B.A. degree;

  2. the courses are taken in the last two terms of the student’s attendance in Columbia College;

  3. the courses are not used to fulfill a requirement for the B.A. degree;

  4. the student has the permission of the academic adviser and the instructor involved.

Columbia College students interested in taking a course for R credit should consult with their advisers in the Center for Student Advising about the process and timeline for doing so; the deadline for applying to take a course for R credit is typically a few weeks into each term.