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As it currently stands, my department offers two necessary courses at the same time every spring. One of them I must take before I am a senior, and another I must take before I graduate (I will soon be starting my third year). So I must take the former next spring, and I will have to wait until the spring of my senior year to take the latter. The problem is that the latter is a course that is very relevant to what I wish to study in graduate school. I'd hate to apply to graduate schools before having taken such a necessary course in my desired field (I feel it would weaken my application), and at the same time, it bars me from taking more advanced courses in the field before I graduate.

Of course, these courses are always taught at the same time by established professors, so I'd hate to ask the department to change all of that for one student. Is there any course of action I can take? Or would this be regarded negatively?

I hope that this is not off topic (merely because I am an undergraduate), as perhaps the desired rescheduling of course times is something that would be relevant to graduate students as well.

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    One of them I must take before I am a senior, and another I must take before I graduate (I will soon be starting my third year). — You may want to consider explaining your case to the department and see if this particular rule can be bent for you rather than requiring your department to reschedule courses. – Mad Jack Apr 15 '15 at 2:51
  • Are you required to attend both courses? Could you learn for one course without attending, only using the course material provided (and by grouping up with other students that attend the lecture)? – Alexander Apr 15 '15 at 8:02
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This is an issue that can also impact graduate students, so I do think it's appropriate for this group.

Unfortunately, once a class hour schedule has been published for the next semester, and particularly after students have started to register for classes, it is usually not easy for a department to change class times. Thus it's important to deal with such a scheduling conflict as soon as possible and preferably before students start registering for the semester in question.

I would suggest that you send a polite email to the person in the department responsible for course scheduling (perhaps there is an undergraduate coordinator who does this, or perhaps the department chair supervises the scheduling) and explain your situation and desire to not have these two courses scheduled at conflicting times. This is a reasonable request to make, but don't be surprised if your request doesn't result in a schedule change- in many departments courses are scheduled to satisfy the desires of the faculty rather than the needs of students.

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    Agreed and +1, except that I think it's fine to simply e-mail the professors of these courses. (I'm guessing you don't know who is responsible for course scheduling?) If you are enthusiastic and a strong student, which it sounds like you are, I think there is at least some possibility the department will try to accommodate you. But, a variety of practical considerations could prevent this (as Brian explains). Good luck! – Anonymous Apr 15 '15 at 2:45
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    Having dealt with this as a department chair, I'll say that I did try to resolve such conflicts when they became apparent before students had started registering for classes. However, once registration had begun it was effectively impossible to do anything because moving classes would create even more conflicts for students who had already registered. – Brian Borchers Apr 15 '15 at 3:53
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I faced a similar problem at one point when I was an undergraduate, and chose to resolve it myself in a rather foolhardy manner: I simply went to the lectures for the class I was more interested in, and learned the other one through recitations, texts, problem sets, and friends. If your classes are small, you may not be able to manage this, but in a large lecture class the professor has no idea who is in the hall.

I would generally recommend against this practice, but in some cases it may be the best way to proceed---and in fact, despite how bad an idea it was, in my own particular circumstance it actually turned out to have been the right decision.

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    Be aware that your universities student information system might have safeguards in place to prevent students from registering for two classes at the same time. On our campus the system will prevent such registrations unless a special override is approved. – Brian Borchers Apr 15 '15 at 14:05
  • @BrianBorchers Good point... my university had no such safeguards in place in 1998, but a lot has changed since then... – jakebeal Apr 15 '15 at 14:19
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You should speak with each professor and understand their level of flexibility. When I was wrapping up my undergrad, I was already working full time in the auto industry. I had two instances where I was able to work directly with the professor (not the administration) to find working solutions. In both cases, I visited the professor before the semester started and explained my situation. I made sure the professor clearly understood the motivation and circumstances of my situation and as a result, I feel they were more accommodating then they would otherwise have been if I just showed up on test day.

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