One of the biggest bummers at the start of the semester is realizing that you need a course, but finding out that the course is closed. You might think that if you need the course, you will find someone (Dean, Professor, Advisor) who will simply let you into the course (i.e., give you an override). However, as the expression goes Think Again! It is not a lost cause when you need a closed course, but getting an override into the course will require a certain way of approaching your dilemma.
Here are some pieces of advice:
1) Keep in mind that in most cases the only person who can let you into a class is the faculty member teaching the course. That means, at some point you are going to have to have some communication with this person. It is very rare that the faculty member will let you in to a closed course simply based on the recommendation of another person (e.g., an Advisor). For the rest of this post I will assume a faculty member must give an override into a class, but it may be another person (e.g., chairperson, advisor) who makes this decision.
2) I feel that you should talk to a faculty member in person. Contacting them initially via email is OK, but for something like this I feel a face-to-face meeting will work to your advantage. For one thing, I believe a faculty member will be more impressed with your desire to get into the course when you show up in person to talk compared to reading an email from you. I’ll be honest, in my close to 30 years of teaching it is doubtful I ever gave or would give an override to a student I did not talk to in person.
3) Be persistent. Getting an override for a course can be hard work that takes some time. Don’t try once and then just give up. In my view, you should try several times. You need to realize that ultimately you may not be successful, but I feel that if you really want the course you need to keep going for it.
4) Have clear in your mind why you need the course. This is critical for when you talk to the person teaching the course. Don’t just say to the faculty member that you need the course to graduate. Lay out in a very systematic manner why you need this particular course at this particular time. For example, maybe you need the course right now because your plan to graduate does not allow you to take this course during a later semester. Or, you need the course now because it serves as a pre-requisite for other courses that you need to graduate on time.
There are two quick things to keep in mind when you talk about why you need to take the course. First, needing to take a course immediately versus needing to take the course at some point in your college career are of course two very different things. Be prepared to answer why you need the course right now. If you do not have a good answer to why you need to let into the course right the Instructor may not be swayed to give you an override. They will simply say you can take the course later. Second, a faculty member may ask you why you did not pre-register for the course. Again, you need to have a good answer. Just saying you forgot or were not really sure you needed the course are sure ways to have a faculty member say no to your request.
5) Be civil. The worst thing you can do is to approach your discussion with a faculty member in a combative manner. If a student did this with me I would tell them to come back when they have calmed down or simply deny the request for an override on the spot. Before you talk to a faculty member it is important to calm down and be prepared to talk about your request in a mature manner. Getting angry will not help your cause at all.
6) Don’t beg. In my opinion, having talked to hundreds of students needing an override, I do not feel any student should be begging (cajoling or whatever you want to call it) to get into a class. You need to approach your situation in a mature manner and be prepared for the outcome—good or bad. I just do not see any place for begging, and quite frankly I can see it work against you in most situations.
My hope is that all of the advice I have just given you will get you the override you want. However, if there is just no way to get a faculty member to budge, keep in mind that you might need to (a) take another course at your school, (b) consider taking a summer course (c) try to take the course at another school (including online), (d) find out if there is any way to have another course substitute for the course you want, (e) keep checking to see if a slot opens up for the course—during the first week of the semester there is usually a drop-add period and someone may simply drop the course, leaving a slot open for you, and (f) put your name on a wait list if your school uses one. With regard to the wait list, that can work. However, I feel you should still see the person teaching the course regardless of whether you are on the wait list.
As always, good luck as you continue to navigate the ins and outs of college life!
Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.