Should I mail the professor? Should I meet him in person? I am a MS student in CS who wishes to take a graduate level course in Statistics department. The course is Machine Learning and I did cover most of the prerequisite course's content in multiple undergraduate courses so I want him to waive the requirement. I have budget for only 10 courses and wish to complete this degree in 2 years. Taking these prerequisite course would mean that I cannot take other courses that interest me.

The other reason I wish to have the requirement waived is because the prerequisite course itself is a statistics department course which also has prerequisite statistic courses and my college only allows me to take 2 courses outside of our department.

  • 6
    I would say that one of the biggest worries for the professor could well be that if you turn out not to have covered all the pre-requisite material then it will become their problem. I would imagine they would be more inclined to let you off the pre-requisite if you make it clear you take responsibility for your choice and will deal with the consequences yourself.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 6:33
  • 2
    Some universities do not force you to take the prerequisite courses, they are just recommended.
    – mmh
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 9:40
  • 1
    Some prerequisite courses can be waived if you pass a quiz or an exam. If the professor is willing to arrange such a thing it's an acceptable and relatively quick way of waiving.
    – Mast
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 12:25
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    It depends in which country you are studying, sometimes the prerequisites are a legal thing. The Ministry of education says that to make this government approved masters you need to have studied that an that and its not in the hand of the professor to change it. Real life example: Due to educational system changes, to be able to make a PhD in my home country I needed another MSc (after having studied a 3 years MSc already!). However, I moved to the UK and I have no problem. Legal stuff sucks sometimes! Good luck Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 12:34
  • There's no way to give a general answer to this. Some schools, including mine, don't even allow the professor to waive the prerequisite; it has to be done by a dean.
    – user1482
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 13:01

7 Answers 7


Go in person. Tell him what you told us. Be prepared for a few quiz questions about your stats knowledge. Answer them correctly. You might not get any questions, but you should be able to describe, at the very least, what your prior classes were about.

  • 7
    I don't know that this is so common, but you might also bring along a copy of your transcript to make the process smoother. (I seem to recall getting sent transcripts sometimes when I've received such requests by email.)
    – Kimball
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 5:23
  • 6
    A copy of the syllabus from the class you're trying to substitute for the prerequisite is also likely to be helpful.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 18:28

It depends on the department. In some university that I know, you need to fill a form and submit it to the head of the department and submit some supportive documents like the course plan of the course that you previously did. Then the head of the department will look at your overall academic background and contact the professor. Then the professor will check if you really have done everything in that prerequisite course. If yes, he will sign the form to waive the prerequisite. If not, he will not do it. In other university, it works differently. So you should probably just go to ask the secretary of the department about how it works at your university. Or if it is easier for you, you may also ask the professor and he should generally be able to also explain that process to you.


I doubt it matters whether you hold the discussion via e-mail or in person. Instead, the important thing is to give convincing arguments. You mention three issues: you already know most of the prerequisites, you don't have time to take those courses, and you can't receive credit for so many courses outside of your department. I'd recommend focusing on the first issue, and mentioning the others just briefly, if at all. There's no need to emphasize the fact that it would be inconvenient to take the prerequisite courses (that's implicit in the fact that you are asking to skip them), and it's not really relevant to the question of whether you are well prepared for this more advanced class (even if the prerequisites are terribly inconvenient, you might genuinely need them).

The two key pieces of information are how much you already know and whether you are able and willing to put in extra work catching up if you discover gaps in your background. If you can address these points convincingly, then there should be no problem.


In my case when I did my post graduate, I emailed to professor describing why and how I already have the knowledge that is taught in pre-requisite subject (maybe I have already done it somewhere, maybe I have real experience in that field or maybe there is something else that proves I have that knowledge).

And most of the time they were happy to waive it.

But until you apply, you'll have butterflies in your stomach and think that you are only one who is in the class with a waiver, but in most of the cases, after some interactions with other students, you will come to know many students are in with a waiver. So, be confident and just write an email.

  • Taking a course as a post-grad and as a master is usually two completely different things, I'd say...
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 10:41
  • Ok,what is difference between postgraduate(master degree) and normal master degree? I mean master as well. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 11:24
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    The difference is that if you come to a professor and you say: "Hello Jacob, I do my PhD here and I'll like to attend to your ABC course." Then he'll likely reply something along these lines: "Ah yeah that's fine. And how's your project going? Who's your supervisor, btw? ... (after a short chatter) ... Ah interesting. Well, yes, I'll be more than happy to see you there." At least this is what typically happens at the two universities where I studied (Czechia and France). This doesn't happen really with master students.
    – yo'
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 12:07

Ask your academic adviser if there is a preferred protocol at your college. Helping you with this type of issue is your adviser's job. If your adviser isn't very helpful or is difficult to work with, you can contact the professor directly. Personally, I would ask the professor in-person during office hours, but email or a phone call should be fine too.

When I was in college my academic adviser knew many courses for which the prerequisites were unnecessary, and it seemed as though the prerequisites for those courses were only required if you were majoring in that field, not if you were taking those courses as electives.

I didn't take any of the prerequisites for any of my 200- and 300-level psychology/sociology courses, or for my 300- and 400-level philosophy courses, and I did fine in all of them. At no point did I feel as though I had missed out on critical background information that would have been provided by one of the prerequisite courses.

The only time that I really messed up was when I registered for an animal science class as a fun elective, without realizing I had signed up for the advanced section instead of the beginner section. The beginner section was just horseback riding, but the advanced section also involved learning more advanced riding techniques and training horses. I was the only person who couldn't even begin to process the phrase, "go catch a horse and meet me in the stable." When I realized my mistake the first day and informed the instructor, she was very kind and let me stay in the advanced section, and made certain I received a little extra help when I needed it in the beginning.


Whichever you're more comfortable with would be fine.

If there's another step involved, such as communicating with a department head, filling out a form, etc., the professor should be able to point you in the right direction.


Based on the class I teach which is a prerequisite:

Students would need to follow several steps:

  1. They would have to tell the instructor of the prerequisite course that you believe you don't need to take the course because of x,y,z OR tell academic affairs (or the equivalent) and they will contact the instructor for you or give you their contact info

  2. The student needs to fill out formal forms based on what they told the prerequisite instructor that will be reviewed by the prerequisite instructor, the students advisor, and the course that will be taken if this gets approved

  3. If the forms are approved then the student will be given a test from the prerequisite course which if the student passes (I believe they need a B- or a B to pass this test). The instructor of the course to be taken will review the test to make sure you have enough knowledge the be able to take that course and not fall behind. For example: A student answered all questions about X correct but only 60% of questions about Y and 40 % of questions about Z and the course to be taken has a lot to do with Y and Z. Even though they passed the test with a B-/B for the prerequisite course the course to be taken relies on parts that the student didn't understand very well likely wended with a denial.

  4. If the course to be taken instructor believes the student can take their course then that instructor has forms to fill out (forms I'm not familiar with) these forms allow the student to enroll in the course.

  • At the other extreme, all the graduate courses I took that had prerequisites included "or consent of instructor". All I had to do was explain to the professor teaching the course I wanted to take why I thought I had the required background knowledge. There is no substitute for finding out the rules for the specific department. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 0:42

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