I absolutely have to take General Chemistry next semester for my major, as it's a prerequisite for nearly all of the other classes. However, all the sections are full. Only two of the sections would work with my schedule, anyway. If I can't take this class then I'll have to change my major. Should I just wait and see if a class opens up and only email someone if it nears August? I feel like they might just tell me to wait and see if something opens up. It's actually one of 3 classes I have to take next semester that is full, so I only have 2 of the 5 classes I need to take. I'm going to talk to my advisor tomorrow but thought I'd ask here to get some ideas first.

If I should email someone, who should I email? The professors of both sections or the Chair of the Department? Also, what should I say? I'm not very confident in writing emails.

Thank you.

  • 4
    If your institution has waiting lists, get on the list for that class now. – Bob Brown Apr 4 '19 at 1:53
  • 1
    How are you in your major without having taken the intro series? – Azor Ahai Apr 4 '19 at 17:39

Welcome to college. This is an exceptionally common problem.

You should e-mail the instructor now and get on the waiting list. They can advise about how to proceed. Be concise and don't go to town explaining how you absolutely have to take this course next semester -- they have heard it all and are well aware of the difficulties.

One "pro tip" is to find out whether the professor is willing to let you attend class, submit homework, etc. in the hope that a slot will open for you. While this seems risky (in that you waste two weeks of effort if you don't get in), it's actually very likely to work out for you -- there is usually a huge wait list at the beginning of add/drop, but two weeks later, the professor will have extra seats going unclaimed because all the students will have made other plans.


Send several emails, NOT just to the professor(s). Make sure that someone at the department level knows of the problem. The head/chair is a good person to notify. It is their job to manage such things and they have the power to open new sections, find bigger rooms, etc.. The instructor is limited in what they can do. In many places the professor is forbidden to allow extra people into class for a variety of reasons including liability.

If there is a waiting list it may be prioritized to give students in the major an advantage.

But, they have some sort of obligation to you if you have been accepted into the major and it was their actions and procedures that caused this issue and not something you did. Insist on that if you are able.


This is so common. Here are a few things I did:

  1. hit refresh every few seconds to see if a seat opened in the class I needed/wanted.

  2. email professor

    • they'd either tell me to sign up for the waitlist
    • or that I should show up to the first day of class and approach him at the very end because first day attendance is mandatory and if someone missed the first day then their spot would be mine.
  3. I've also emailed the department that offered the course. I found on their website a contact person and send them an email asking for one of the reserved spots. This was a class combined for undergrads and graduates so they gave me one of the graduate spots.

Also, there's nothing wrong with changing your major. I hate to say it but if this was a class you knew you needed and you didn't sign up for it the moment registration opened, then well, tough luck.

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