Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Course Enrollment Process

Yale Course Enrollment Overview

Course enrollment at Yale refers to the two time periods during which Yale College students may select their courses: 1) registration and 2) add/drop period during the first week of  each semester. Instructors may consult the Course Enrollment section of the Yale College Programs of Study for detailed information about Yale College’s course enrollment process. The Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and many professional schools follow a similar timeline and approach to Yale College given the number of courses cross-listed; however, if you teach in a professional school exclusively, it is best to consult your specific school’s course enrollment process.

Registration Period

All students (except first years and some students returning from a leave) select a course schedule during Registration in the semester prior to the term in which they will be taking the courses selected. Registration for first years begins a few days before classes begin. For limited-enrollment courses that run a selection process, preference selection opens a few weeks prior to the start of classes for first years and a few weeks prior to the registration period for returning students.

Add/Drop Period

The day before classes begin each semester and continuing through the first seven days of the semester, all students may add or drop courses. Instructors should anticipate their roster number in Canvas will fluctuate during this time until students have finalized their schedules. During the add/drop period, students may appear as “visitors” in your Canvas courses. Students who are officially registered in your courses will appear as “students” in Canvas. At the end of the add/drop period, the registration system will close and no additional changes can be made to students’ schedules. Following add/drop period, visitors will be dropped from official course rosters and Canvas sites.

Student Registration Worksheets

As students register for courses via Yale Course Search, they use two worksheets: the Registration worksheet and the Canvas worksheet. The Registration worksheet is used to officially register for courses; students will be enrolled in the Canvas sites for these courses with the role of “student.” The Canvas worksheet is used to select courses they would like to visit but are not ready to register for yet; students will be listed in the Canvas sites for these courses with the role of “visitor.”

Teaching Recommendations during Add/Drop

Instructors are encouraged to consider flexible strategies when planning their courses to account for changes in student population and preparedness during the add/drop period. Below are some common classroom occurrences during this time, followed by strategies and approaches for handling them.


Students may want to consider multiple classes that meet at the same time. Instructors are therefore likely to have some students leave or arrive midway during their first lecture or first-day-of-class seminar.

  • To minimize disturbances, instructors can announce that there will be a break after the first portion of class and suggest that any students who need to leave early depart at that time.
  • Posting your syllabus online to Canvas for each course you teach will ensure it is available two hours later in Yale Course Search for students to consider before classes meet. This practice  leads to students attending the class who are more likely to be serious about staying and taking the class.

Size Fluctuation

The size and makeup of the instructor’s class or section(s) will also likely fluctuate until the week of add/drop period is over.

  • Fluctuation in class size is likely. There are many reasons why students do not initially commit to a course for which they are visiting: some students may be trying to get into a selective seminar; others may not have finalized which discussion section time they will enroll in for a course required for their major.  
  • Some students will also visit sections. Since Teaching Fellows (TFs) and sections account for a significant part of the course experience, some students will sit in on multiple sections until they find a preferable TF and section environment.

Missing Work

During the add/drop period, some students will attend a later class section having missed the first lecture or come to a later seminar without having caught up on all of the readings.

  • For some seminars and many sections, instructors and TFs provide extra structure for discussions during add/drop period. Instructors might bring handouts to ground discussion and should post slides and materials on Canvas, since some students may not have purchased required texts nor attended lecture yet.