Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Course Selection Period

Course Selection Period refers to the timeframe just before and for the first days of the semester (roughly 10 days) wherein students “visit” courses as they finalize their schedules. Instructors should consider flexible strategies when planning their courses to account for shifts and changes in student population and preparedness during this time.

For Fall 2021, Yale College students will have a slightly different process for their course selection period including a newly implemented Early Registration period happening in the May/June so that students can select courses well in advance of the Fall term.  Registration will re-open for Yale College students in August for students to finalize their schedules during the add/drop period.  At the end of the add/drop period, students’ schedules will automatically close and finalize so that no additional changes can be made.

At this time, other schools will continue to register as they traditionally have - with the anticipation that most schools will eventually follow a similar timeline. 


NOTE:  As Yale College students register for courses via Yale Course Search, they will have 2 worksheets to add courses to:

  1. Registration Worksheet - used to officially register for courses - Students will be enrolled in the Canvas sites for these courses with the role of “Student”.
  2. Canvas Worksheet - used to select courses they would like to visit but are not ready to register for yet - Students will be enrolled in the Canvas sites for these courses with the role of “Visitor”.

Examples and Recommendations

Below are some common classroom occurrences during Course Selection, followed by strategies and approaches for handling them: 

Interruptions - Students frequently visit 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 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 - Many 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 selection period. Instructors might bring handouts to ground discussion, since some students may not have purchased required texts nor attended lecture yet.
  • Many instructors also simply make section optional during the first two weeks.