Tips from faculty on getting an Override

At registration time you may discover with dismay that a class you need next semester is full. What do you do?

The best thing to do is to avoid this situation. Work diligently and flexibly to satisfy your GE requirements during your first two years. If you put off taking a required class until your last year, or even last semester, you risk being put in a bind.

In this time of budget crises, most GE courses fill to capacity, with no funds available to hire more professors. Faculty dislike this situation as much as you do, as the proportion of state funding for the University of Wisconsin has declined considerably over the past few years.

It's tempting to rely on an instructor giving you an override for a class you're desperate to take, but you have to understand that instructors in English often have 100 or more students each semester. This is one reason that some teachers won't accept overrides under any conditions.

So how can you increase your chances of getting admitted into a section that fills before you're able to register? Here are a few tips:

  • Don't whine, vent your anger, or put the instructor on the defensive unless you're willing to listen to his or her problems in return.

  • If you're a freshman or sophomore, don't be surprised if you're asked why you can't try again next semester or look for another course that satisfies the same requirement.

  • If you're a senior, don't be surprised if you're asked why you waited so long to take this one class that stands between you and graduation. If a professor suspects that you've avoided taking this class because you dislike English, why would he or she want to add you to an already-swollen class roster?

  • A well-written email request showing genuine interest in the course is more likely to receive a favorable reply. If you sound as if you know nothing about the class except that its number appears on your SNAP report, don't expect to get an override. Phoniness and flattery are pretty easy to see through, too.

  • If the instructor can't give you an override, ask if you can leave your email address and be put first on the waiting list. Few students do this, so if you show you care enough about the class to come to the first session, you're probably the kind of student a good instructor will want to find room for, if at all possible.

  • Continue to monitor online the enrollment of any class you really want. A spot could open up at any time. Many students stubbornly beg for overrides but fail to take even a few minutes each day to look for opportunities to jump in after another student drops the class. A little persistence may yield your desired results without placing strain on the instructor.

Please understand that there are only so many seats in our classrooms, only so many textbooks, and only so many hours in the day to read student work. It may simply not work out this time. But try these suggestions and see what happens!