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) early registration, and 2) add/drop period during the first 10 class days of the semester. Instructors may consult the “Course Enrollment” section of the Yale College Programs of Study for detailed information about Yale College’s newly revised course enrollment process. At this time, most graduate and professional schools will continue to register as they traditionally have, with the anticipation that most schools will eventually follow a similar timeline and approach to Yale College.

Early Registration Period

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

Add/Drop Period

During the first ten class days of each 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 their Canvas courses. 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 offical 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 10-15 minutes of class and suggest that any students who need to leave early depart at that time. 
  • Posting the syllabus online to Canvas and Yale Course Search for students to consider beforehand also prevents unnecessary disturbances by students. Students who show up to the class 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 all schedules are submitted.

  • Fluctuation in class size is unavoidable. There are many reasons why students cannot commit to a course for which they are visiting: some students may not yet know if they have been accepted into a selective seminar; others may not know what section times are available for another class they must take for their major. 
  • While some instructors set section time before the start of class, some instructors poll students to collect data on what days/times would be best for sections. The instructors then create section options based on student input. 
  • 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 course enrollment. Instructors might bring handouts to ground discussion or post slides and materials on Canvas, since some students may not have purchased required texts nor attended lecture yet.