A post by Bobby Craig and Oliver Gladfelter
Denison online course registration: a war that’s been raging since the 20th century. All Denisonians have fought, most have survived, and many have faced major setbacks in the pursuit of popular Gen Ed courses. The rules have changed several times, but the goal has remained the same: survival…or, getting all the classes you want.
How do we know if we’re ready? How do we equip ourselves for battle? How can we increase our chances of survival?
Denison’s course registration system rewards speed and decisive thinking…it’s a pretty clear survival of the fittest scenario. So how do you improve your chances? Lions are expert hunters, chameleons use camouflage, and humans rely on technology and weaponry. But Denisonians? We’ll use data to fight this battle.
Remember, every student registers in two different rounds. You have to decide which two classes you’re going to go for immediately in the first round, and which you’re willing to gamble will still be open in the second round. Additionally, if you type in those pesky CRN’s one at a time, you’ll have even more decisions to make. Which class will you try to grab first and foremost? Which can you put on the absolute backburner? With so many possible orders and choices to make, there are 24 different possible paths you could take during registration! (assuming you’re registering for four classes) But don’t worry – we’re here to help you pick the path that will maximize your chances of getting all four of your picks.
Denison provides all of the course information back to 1999, but we’ll only be using data dating back to 2012 in order to inform our decisions. While registration times aren’t available, we have enrollment and waitlist numbers to aid us.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll look exclusively at 100-level courses. Students typically have a harder time getting into desired courses when they’re exploring new departments or trying to fulfill GE requirements, which intro classes are commonly used for. For evidence of this, intro courses fill 80.2% of their offered seats, while 200, 300, and 400 level courses – which draw mostly majors and minors – all fill less than 70% of their available seats.
Figure 1 – Top 10 and bottom 10 percentage of available seats filled in 100-level courses by department 
Using Figure 1 as a guide, it’s clear that some departments’ intro classes are harder to get into than others. With this information, we can strategically prioritize certain courses over others. For example, it’s likely that many people will be vying for a spot in that Communication class you’ve been eying, so it’s probably a better idea to register for that as soon as possible – even if you want to take Latin American & Caribbean Studies more, it can wait until the second round.
So now you know where you stand with at least 20 of the departments. What about the other 29? To access the average number of seats offered and filled for every department you might be interested in, click the photo below.
Many students, both of us included, have selected courses scheduled early in the day because they thought it would give them an advantage when it comes to registration. Surely earlier courses will be less appealing and in lower demand, therefore easier to get into?
Figure 2 – Average Percent of Seats Filled By Course Start Time
As it turns out, choosing earlier classes doesn’t really give you much of an advantage. Morning classes as a group actually fill a larger percentage of their seats, with 83.4% compared to afternoon classes, which fill an average of 80.4% seats (although this difference isn’t statistically significant). So when strategizing for your upcoming battle, don’t feel pressured to choose the earliest available section.
You might have noticed that classes starting on the hour (like 11:00am or 1:00pm) dip in popularity. This has nothing to do with the time of day, but everything to do with if it’s a 50-minute or an 80-minute class. Courses starting on the hour are typically those which meet only twice a week and last longer, while courses beginning at times between hours – like 10:30am – meet three times a week but for only 50 minutes at a time.
This brings us to our last piece of advice: Denison students seem to greatly prefer shorter classes; MWF classes fill an average of 89.3% of their seats, while TR and MW classes fill 79.1%. So if you’re looking at a MWF class, we recommend registering for that one in the first round. Or if you’re really gunning for a specific department, you might want to consider one of those longer courses.
Although for all of our data and analysis, the best piece of advice comes from none other than Sun Tzu, a true master of war, who once wrote, “Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” Basically, this post is completely useless if you don’t act. Follow Tzu’s advice. Make a list of your courses and strategize, grab a coffee and some gummy bears from Slayter, and prepare to pounce the exact moment the clock turns.
Bobby and Oliver are both partially deaf in their right ear, have an affinity for Sour Patch Kids, and could live off of ice cream.
1. Some departments and professors had courses that largely skewed their overall percent yield. For example, Black Studies offers Gospel Choir which has 99 open seats but regularly fills around 30. Due to this, these numbers aren’t a perfect science. Advising circles were also omitted.