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I'm a first year math Phd student. I'm undecided between focusing on mathematical computer science (MCS) and pure maths, so I'm taking courses in both. To keep my workload light enough to avoid stress, I've opted to audit one of the courses in MCS. The course is not in my research interests, so I'm taking it primarily to prepare for an exam required by my program later. My hope is to just drop into classes and be exposed to material, without taking the time to do all homeworks/prepare for exams, etc.

However, I'm interested in the professor as a potential advisor later, so it has the double benefit of helping me see if that would be a good fit down the line. My question is: could my auditing, rather than taking the course for credit, be perceived as lack of interest, laziness, etc? How is auditing a course perceived in general? Do I have the right attitude towards auditing?

Note: The course is not in the professor's research area either, so not being interested in the class doesn't contradict my interest in the professor.

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    One less exam to mark!
    – avid
    Sep 14, 2020 at 21:37
  • What do you mean by "just drop into classes"? I don't know about your university, but I'm pretty sure just dropping into a course for free is not seen as auditing by the university. I had to pay to audit courses at my university.
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 14, 2020 at 22:57
  • @DKNguyen, I mean attend classes as I am able/interested. Since everything is online these days, this amounts to me having the zoom link to the classroom. In any case I have a tuition waiver, so it doesn't seem like it would make a difference. Thanks for making me think of that point though
    – Square
    Sep 15, 2020 at 2:28

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It is fine. If it makes you feel better though you could clarify that the reason you're not taking it isn't just worry about the class. I have used the line in an email before "I have an amateur interest in learning the material" which I think deflects any concern about why you're not committing to doing the course 'properly'. When I said it, it was true, and even if you think it might be a field you wish to participate in later, technically you're currently just dipping your toe in the water right? So perhaps the same line would work for you.

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You should talk to the professor in advance. Explain your reasons. Then they will understand why you are not on their class list, miss class occasionally (don't do this too often) and don't turn in assignments. If you can ask interesting questions in class, do.

There is a small chance that you will be told "no" and a small chance that there is an enforced university policy discouraging audits for which no fee is paid.

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