Wait Lists FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about wait lists.
Please note when you're registering:  Sections with the character 'W' in them (e.g., 2W1) denote wait lists. 

Academic Advising info  

The CPSC course that I want to register for is full. What should I do?

If there is a wait list for a course that you want and have the prerequisites for, you should register for it right away. The wait lists appear on the Course Schedule website (they are the sections whose number contains a "W"). You can register on a wait list in the same way that you register for any other course using the online registration system. As space frees up in the course because of students dropping the course, students not having the prerequisites, additional seats becoming available, etc., we will manually move students from the wait list to the lecture section. We do not do this every day.  It is your responsibility to check SSC to confirm if you have been added to the lecture section, and if so, to register yourself in a lab and/or tutorial section (where applicable).  Note that you cannot register for a lab or tutorial section until you are off the wait list and in a lecture section.  The department will contact you by e-mail to inform you when you have been moved into a class.  Please note that it may take up to 24 hours to see the registration changes reflected on your SSC record.  (Note to fourth-year students who are graduating in May, and require one or more CPSC course(s) for graduation, and are waitlisted for those courses:  Please see the last question on this Web page for special instructions.)

The CPSC course that I want to register for has only restricted seats available and I do not qualify for those seats.  What should I do?

When all the general seats in a section have been taken, the department will open a corresponding waitlist.  You can register on a waitlist in the same way that you register for any other course.  Once registration is complete, the department will fill any remaining restricted seats with students who are registered on the waitlist.  Please note that we may not do this until close to the start of the term in which the course runs.  

In what order are students moved from the wait lists?

As seats become available, students are moved manually from the wait list into the course by the Computer Science department (not by the registration system) on a priority basis, in the following order:

  1. Students in a Computer Science specialization (including majors, combined majors, honours, combined honours, and approved minors), and this includes students in the Cognitive Systems - Computational Intelligence option (this is also a CPSC specialization)
  2. Students in certain other non-CPSC specializations which require specific CPSC courses
  3. Everyone else (and this includes students with self-selected (unapproved) CPSC minors)

In some cases, higher priority may be accorded to students in a certain year or specialization.  Within the above 3 categories, students are prioritized in the order of their timestamps, that is, according to the date and time that they went on the wait list.  In all cases, students must have the proper prerequisites for the course.

From the time classes start until the add/drop deadline, most courses will continue to use this policy. However, some courses may use a different policy.  For example, some instructors will have wait-listed students sign an attendance sheet at lectures, to make sure that students who are on the wait list are also attending class.  If a student hasn't been attending class, then that lowers the likelihood of being admitted to the course.  You should check the websites of individual courses to see whether they have a special policy.  For example, students on the wait list for CPSC 110 should be aware of its distinct policy.

After the first add/drop deadline, no further students will be admitted to courses.  Before then, our staff will move as many people from the wait lists into courses, as possible, sometimes on a daily basis in the days leading up to the add/drop deadline.  Keep in mind that our staff usually do not work at night; consequently, when it comes to the day of the add/drop deadline, the wait lists will be processed and purged earlier in the day (and not shortly before midnight). It would be nice if UBC's drop deadline preceeded the add deadline; however, we have to deal with the realities of UBC's registration system.

There is room in the course, so why is the wait list not moving?  Can somebody jump the queue and register through SSC?

Once a wait list is created, nobody can register for the course through SSC, even if a bunch of students drop the course.  Thus, there is no point in constantly refreshing your browser window waiting for a student to drop the course.  Similarly, it is not possible for one student who is already in a waitlisted course to drop the course and simultaneously have his/her friend get added to the course without going on the wait list.  We move students from the wait list into the course in batches; therefore, a course may have seats available for several days before we fill it from the wait list.  In the meantime, keep attending the lectures.

Can I contact the course instructor to improve my priority?  Can I contact a department advisor to improve my priority?

Until classes start, all wait lists are managed according to the priorities described above.  Do not contact instructors or advisors to ask about your wait list position or to request the ability to jump the queue.  (Read the rest of this web page for special cases.)

CPSC xxx is already full, but I really need to take it in order to register for courses in subsequent terms. What should I do?

Unfortunately, you can only register on the wait list and hope for the best. We accommodate as many students as possible in our courses and we will move students off the wait list after space frees up in the course. You might want to consider making an appointment to see one of the department's advisors to discuss course planning for future terms, in case you cannot get into the courses you want/need in the current term.  We strongly urge all students to plan their courses well in advance, taking into account prerequisite chains and any co-op terms, and recognizing that many upper-level CPSC courses are only offered once per year.  Also, be sure to register for your courses as soon as your registration date and time permit.

How do I know what queue position I am on a wait list?

There is no way for you to determine this. However, you can estimate your position by noting how many people are on the wait list when you first registered on it.  Please note that the course instructor is not able to determine your wait list position.

What are my chances of getting into a full course, assuming I've registered on the wait list?

Each course and each term is different, and your chances of getting in can be hard to predict.  Generally speaking, a number of seats (5-15%) in almost every course become free for various reasons (e.g., students want to take fewer courses, their interest in the course changes as they learn more about the content of the course, they are dropped because they do not have the course's prerequisites, they got a co-op job at the last minute, etc.)

The wait list in CPSC xxx is enormous.  Why don't you add more seats and/or another section?

We are attempting to do so.  However, additional seats require additional teaching assistants, bigger lecture halls, and, in many cases, more lab space.  Furthermore, new sections require an additional instructor.  Thus, it may not be possible to meet the demand in all courses.

Do you have any tips about what I can do to avoid getting on a wait list during the next school year?

Be sure to register for courses as soon as your registration time becomes available.  Students register, by year, in descending order of GPA:  4th year, then 1st year, then 3rd year, and finally 2nd year.  Your best chance of avoiding a wait list is to improve your GPA.  When your GPA goes up, you register earlier.  Furthermore, if you are in 2nd year this year, note that you will likely be in 3rd year next year, which means you will get to register before any of the 2nd year students.

If you are a non-CPSC student, and you really like computer science, you may wish to consider transferring into a CPSC degree program, such as one of our CPSC combined majors.  A greater number of seats in CPSC courses is reserved for students in a CPSC degree program (and, where applicable, for students in other programs who require CPSC courses as part of their degree); but, in most courses, we still reserve some seats for students who are not in a CPSC degree program.

Finally, note that we almost always offer our first- and second-year CPSC courses during the summer; so, if you have trouble getting into a CPSC course in the fall or winter, you might want to consider the upcoming summer term.  When registration for the summer opens in March, priority is in descending order of GPA according to one's current year: 4th year, then 3rd, then 2nd, then 1st.

I went on the wait list for CPSC xxx during Term 1, but didn't get in.  Since SSC wouldn't let me go on the Term 2 wait list for that same course, does this mean I have to go to the "back of the line" on the Term 2 waiting list?

Yes.  Under exceptional circumstances (for example, we intend to open an extra section but we're not sure if it will run in term 1 or term 2), we may preserve your term 1 registration date for the term 2 waitlist.

I am a 4th year student waitlisted for courses. I need them to graduate. Will I be given priority?

You need to apply in order to be admitted to these courses. Note that you will not necessarily be admitted to your first choice of courses. For example, if you need one 4th year CPSC course to graduate, we will try to put you into a 4th year CPSC course that meets your degree requirements, that you have the prerequisites for, that fits in your timetable, and that has the shortest waiting list (or highest probability of a seat opening up). It may not be the course you want. You can find the application form here. Please read it carefully, and then attach the completed document to the 'Request for Registration Assistance' webform.