is this even worth it
December 5, 2017 10:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm a re-entry student in a year-long academic program at a large university in NYC. I am being funded for this program through my work. The person who administers this program at the university neglected to inform me that registration for the Spring semester opened on November 13. I never got an email or any other notification from the school regarding this either. Now all of the class sections that mesh with my work schedule are closed. Do I have any recourse? Specifics below - looking for answers from Mefites who are college professors in particular.

The person who administers this program is basically doing the equivalent of shrugging at me over email and suggesting I just wait to enroll in the summer session. My work will only fund this program if I complete it in a year; I risk losing the funding if I take a semester off. (Please assume this is non-negotiable; I know it sucks but I've already asked and it's been answered; I receive a stipend for education that only lasts for a year, use-it-or-lose-it basically.)

I think the school really fucked me over here. I work full time and I'm only on campus once a week for my class; there was no way for me to know that registration had opened without being notified. I've combed through all of my emails and I don't see anything pertaining to Spring registration.

The person who administers the program has suggested I reach out to the professor in the closed class section that would fit my schedule best and inquire as to whether they'd grant me an exception to join their class. College professor Mefites: is this even worth my time to bother to do? What are the odds of a professor of a giant 60-person lecture class giving a shit about my situation and letting me in?

If you think I should give it a shot, how should I word said email in order to get the professor to agree to make an exception for me?

Also: am I wrong in thinking that the school fucked me over? This is immensely frustrating.

posted by thereemix to Education (15 answers total)
Prof here. Yes, I do this routinely, and would do it without hesitation (and gladly) in your case.

I deny registration overrides when a student has not passed a prereq with a satisfactory grade; when a student wants to take my class but leave 25% early for another class (the registrar won't let them do it automatically, so they think asking me will help); I am more space-restricted in the lab class that I teach (seat #s can play a role that I can't help). But I do give overrides routinely for good reasons, and this is one I wouldn't even think about, I'd just do.

Just explain that due to your enrollment status, you weren't alerted to registration, you missed the window, and the class filled up; and also that your company will only reimburse this semester, not the next opportunity.
posted by Dashy at 10:56 AM on December 5, 2017 [10 favorites]


Is this even worth my time to bother to do?

Yes, absolutely.

What are the odds of a professor of a giant 60-person lecture class giving a shit about my situation and letting me in?

Quite high, actually. We make exceptions all the time, especially if someone has a legitimate need, as you do.

How should I word said email in order to get the professor to agree to make an exception for me?

Do NOT talk about your perceptions of being fucked over. A simple, honest email is best. Something like:

"Dear Prof. X.,

I am a returning student in a year-long academic program at University X. Due to my full-time work schedule, this class is the only one that I would be able to attend, and I am only eligible to take this class this semester. However, I was unable to enroll in the course during the regular registration period. Would it be possible for you to make an exception so that I can enroll in the course?

Thank you,

I was unable to register for your class
posted by googly at 10:58 AM on December 5, 2017 [17 favorites]

Absolutely worth trying, and you are likely to succeed.

Do not bring up any feelings of betrayal. It's students' responsibility to look up and keep track of registration dates without anyone nagging them about it.
posted by metasarah at 11:06 AM on December 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

I'm a prof too, although at a smaller place than where you are.

I agree that it is very likely that you could joint this class. Particularly because it's a 60 person class. There's very little difference between 60 and 61 in a class. I suppose the only exception to this would be a course where you're resource limited. For example, if this were a pottery class and there were only 60 wheels.

I also agree that you should downplay any grievances about being fucked over, although I think you could mention them obliquely. I think you are right that the school should have been more up front with when registration deadlines/periods are, but I also think that you bear some responsibility for finding out the registration process (including deadlines). Depending on the personality of the faculty member, mentioning that you felt like you were screwed over could engender sympathy ("Oh yeah; the administration is really bad about publicizing the deadlines for classes!") or could reflect poorly on you ("The schedule is right there on the web site. Why wouldn't thereemix have looked at the schedule if they knew they wanted to take courses in the spring?!").

I'd do something like this for the email:

"Dear Professor X.,

I'm a re-entry student in a year-long academic program at [a large university in NYC]. I was not made aware [by the registrar's office] until recently that registration for the Spring semester began on November 13. Because of that, I was unable to register for your class before it filled. I cannot take the class at another time because of my work schedule. Moreover, I can't take this class in a future semester because of my work will only pay for classes I take during this academic year. Would it be possible for me to let you into the course even though it is currently full? If not, could I please be placed on a wait list?

Thanks so much.

posted by Betelgeuse at 11:15 AM on December 5, 2017 [9 favorites]

Thanks for the answers so far everyone.

And yes, I definitely wouldn't mention feeling like I've been screwed over in an email to a professor; that's more of a grumbly internal monologue...
posted by thereemix at 11:19 AM on December 5, 2017

Not a prof but I work at a college and I agree that this is the kind of situation that profs are pretty likely to look kindly on. You'd probably be allowed to sit in and get high priority if anyone drops, and maybe just get straight in. However,

>am I wrong in thinking that the school fucked me over?

You're wrong. The academic calendar is probably clickable from the front page of the school website, and it's not the staff's job to check that everyone is keeping up with the basics, unless you happen to be getting pretty specialized student support services. I screwed this kind of thing up plenty as a student. Sometimes it was fixable, sometimes not but either way it was my responsibility. If you're taking more classes in the fall, look up the signup schedule now and get it on your calendar.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:24 AM on December 5, 2017 [10 favorites]

Also: am I wrong in thinking that the school fucked me over? This is immensely frustrating.

I mean, you can absolutely feel anything you want to feel; they're your feelings and it's okay. But I'm not sure the school fucked you over. The academic calendar for any given institution is usually pretty findable on its website. So I don't really think it was the school's responsibility to inform you individually as to what the sign up schedule was.

[on preview: agree with tchemgrrl]
posted by cooker girl at 11:26 AM on December 5, 2017

I teach a lecture course of that size and field requests like this often. I'm tightly constrained by the actual number of seats in the room (including seats in the associated smaller discussion sections) and loosely constrained by the amount of grading my TAs can handle. But I will often cheerfully grant permission for enrollment in a full class (at my university it's called a "permit") so long as it's not already over-full. One of the reasons I am happy to let students into a full course is that I know some students will drop as the semester starts. So even if you aren't able to get permission from the professor, there's still be a very decent chance of you getting a spot within the first week or two of classes. If you're going that route, you could attend the class even before you're officially registered so you don't fall behind.

Googly's email is a good template; my only other suggestion would be to make it sound a little more like you are interested in taking the class rather than it just fitting into your schedule. You don't have to gush about your passion for the topic but do frame it as, "I was looking forward to taking your course but have been unable to enroll."

I strongly agree that you should not share your feelings of being hard-done-by with the professor. It does sound frustrating! It's a shame that there was no direct communication of registration dates, because that would have been a helpful thing for the university to do. I'm sure it would be extra helpful to students who don't fit the typical undergrad mold in some way, which would be a good reason for universities to strive for helpfulness on that front. But in the end, I do consider it my students' responsibility to know about things like the timeline for course registration, and to make it their business to find out if they don't already know.

On that taking-initiative note, if you can't get permission now and are hoping to snag a spot that might open up between now and the first few weeks of the semester, you will increase your chances by making it your business to obsess about getting a spot. Find out the dates for the add/drop period (add and drop dates might be different). Assuming online registration, start checking the registration site regularly, I'd say daily now and a few times a day once the semester actually starts. Be prepared to grab a spot immediately if it opens up (make sure you aren't missing a prereq, for example). Be especially attentive right before the end of the drop period. Etc.
posted by somedaycatlady at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2017 [6 favorites]

I agree with those who say it doesn't sound like the university particularly screwed you over here...I suppose individualized information about registration windows would be nice, but ultimately this is something it's your responsibility to find out through the university website. As a professor, if a student emailed me complaining about this sort of thing, I would be worried they'd end up being high maintenance (i.e. Is this student going to expect me to email them every time an assignment is due? Or are they going to be capable of checking the course website and/or syllabus to find out this information?) I'm not saying this to shame you here -- this does sound like a frustrating situation -- but I do think you want to avoid the impression that you'll need a lot of hand holding when asking for an exception.

I like googly's wording, with an added sentence on why you're particularly interested in joining this class. I think you have a reasonable chance of success, although there are some factors outside of your control that could influence things -- for example, the classroom might not have extra seats, or the course might be taught by adjunct faculty or a grad student who isn't allowed to teach overloads (this has been a policy at some universities I've worked at, though not all). If nothing else, see about getting added to a waiting list -- it is almost always the case that a few people will drop at the beginning of the semester for some reason or another, opening up seats. You may need to be pretty proactive to grab one of these spots, depending on university and professor policies, so find out everything you can about that process now.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:31 PM on December 5, 2017

Thanks again guys. I hear you on the issue of whether or not the school screwed me over and that's not something I would ever dream of saying to a professor regardless and I'm kind of wishing I hadn't put it in the question as my main concern is whether a professor would even entertain the idea of making room for an extra student.

FWIW the last time I was in school for my BA 10 years ago the registrar used to send everyone a reminder email about a week before registration started even though that information was also available in other places and I didn't go to a particularly fancy college, hence my surprise that this information completely passed me by. I get it, I get it, I was irresponsible. I'm a low-maintenance student who turns in homework on time and doesn't skip class, I'm just trying to do this while also working full time and I'm only on campus once a week. I won't do it again.

Thank you again for those who have responded with suggestions of email verbiage.
posted by thereemix at 1:07 PM on December 5, 2017

Professor here nthing that it is the students' responsibility to know their registration times. It has been this way for years. No one screwed you over.

And like others have said, we routinely put people in classes like this.
posted by k8t at 4:20 PM on December 5, 2017

But absolutely, if they can’t add you (because of whatever) and you’re on the wait list (or even if you’re not), show up to the first day of the class you’re trying to get into, and make sure you keep up with the work while you’re trying to get in off the waitlist. In a big class like that, students will drop. So you want to be ready at the point you can (hopefully) get in.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:52 PM on December 5, 2017

Prof here. Talk to the administrator in person. Also the profs teaching the classes you want to add. I add additional students for these sorts of reasons all the time.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:04 AM on December 6, 2017

Also: don’t phrase it in terms of the university screwing up. Just say you’re new to this and didn’t realize registration had occurred and you’re in a tough situation because of how you’re funded.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:06 AM on December 6, 2017

I'm currently a prof and have been a dean.

If your first attempt doesn't work (i.e. speaking directly with the instructors), consider going to the dean. A conversation with the dean would actually be an appropriate place to discuss the communication lapses with the program director.

Also, as people have mentioned, all of this is worth doing face-to-face. It's much harder to say no to someone in person. It's much easier by e-mail.
posted by yellowcandy at 2:59 PM on December 6, 2017

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