Limiting Enrollment

Seminars, because they are characterized by limited enrollment, require the instructor's permission to enroll. This is hard coded and cannot be changed. Instructors have a little latitude to move slightly beyond the typical 18 student seminar enrollment cap. An instructor may also limit enrollment in other courses (lectures, studios, labs) after appropriate consultation with the department. In these cases, it is possible to include enrollment information in the course descriptions. 

It is helpful for students to know the selection criteria for limited enrollment courses, as well as the date by which they will be notified that they have or have not been admitted to the course. Please keep in mind that early dates are best. This information helps students decide whether or not to apply in the first place and may reduce the number of applications you have to read. Because there is no method to prevent students from enrolling, it is up to the instructors to let students know the course enrollment is limited. Such selection criteria can include:

  • A list of prerequisites.
  • A statement about the number of students who may be admitted to the course.
  • A declaration that that the course is open only to majors, or a statement specifying that the course is open, for example, only to juniors and seniors.
  • A form on the Canvas site from the instructor asking for more information from interested students.
  • A wait list created during shopping period.
  • An application available through the departmental office or on Canvas.

You can shorten the time of uncertainty during the course selection period by following these guidelines, and ideally exceeding them by acting as early as possible:

  • Before the course selection period, post syllabi on Canvas, and include in them detailed and clear criteria for admitting students.
  • As soon as possible post class lists of admitted students, and wait lists, on Canvas.

Many departments use the Preference Selection Tool to manage enrollment before the start of the term. The Preference Selection Tool is an online service for students to rank multiple sections of a course, or multiple courses of a particular family (e.g., first-year seminars). Seats are distributed to students through lottery and are often placed directly on the student’s schedule. To learn more about the Preference Selection Tool or to implement this service in your department, please contact the University Registrar’s Office at

The Registrar’s Office does not, student by student and schedule by schedule, verify that a student has received permission from an instructor to enroll in a limited-enrollment course. If the name of any student who does not have the instructor’s permission to take a course appears on the class list, the instructor should notify the Registrar’s Office to drop the student from the course. Similarly, the Registrar’s Office does not check whether or not a student has met the prerequisites for a course. It is up to the instructor to ascertain that a student has the appropriate preparation.