Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois


Undergraduate Advising

Tips for Registration and DARS Management

1.  Try to register at the earliest possible opportunity (see your time ticket).  The longer you wait, the harder it may be to get into the courses you want, BUT also be aware that courses that are full when you first try to register may open up later when students are dropping and adding.  Keep checking the system and grab a seat when it opens up.  Feel free to ask people (instructors, departments) about the possibility of getting into closed courses, but don’t be surprised if you are often told you’ll have to wait and hope someone drops; it’s not personal, it’s just that instructors are firmly discouraged from overenrolling courses on the grounds that it’s not fair on them or their students.

2.  Use the Course Information System.  This is where you’ll find the full course catalog (all the courses that are currently “on the books,” not all of which are offered every semester) and the class schedule (all the courses offered in a given semester), with full descriptions and all the fine print regarding credit availability, pre-reqs, additional fees if any, and so on.  Do not assume that you have all the information about a course unless you have read the catalog copy.  When a course has “variable topics” the master description at the top of the catalog page will be generic.  For descriptions of the specific topics offered in a given semester, you must go down the page and read the additional description for each separate section (examples include ENGL 199, ENGL 274, ENGL 300, etc.).    

3. Know when courses are likely to be offered.  It may make a big difference whether a course is usually offered every semester, or only in the fall, or only every couple of years, or only once in the past decade.  You need to know when you’re likely to have the opportunity to take something in the future.  Use the course catalog (not the class schedule), select the course, and you should see a list of all the semesters in which it’s been offered in the last decade.  If you see that something has been offered every fall for the last five years, it’s a decent bet that it will be offered in the coming fall (but not a guarantee, unfortunately), so don’t expect to take it in the spring.  In general, don’t come up with an elaborate scheme for satisfying all your requirements without checking to make sure that your expectations of when things will be offered are reasonable. 

2.  Be aware of the possibility of duplication.  The registration system will not prevent you from registering for a course twice, even if it’s not repeatable, or registering for a course that indirectly duplicates another (e.g. ASTR 100 and ASTR 121).  The catalog copy tells you that you cannot receive credit for both of these courses, but if you’re not reading the copy you might not realize until later (or indeed ever) that credit has been reduced (in other words, you’re only receiving 3 credit hours for both of those courses together, not 3 credit hours for each one).  Always scroll down to the bottom of the DARS report to see the full list of courses you’ve taken, and which ones are counting toward graduation.  A course might show up on your current semester schedule at 3 credit hours, but not in fact be counting toward the total number of hours required for graduation (in LAS, that’s 120).  You need to look at the bottom of the report to see that.   

3.  If a course is repeatable up to a certain number of hours (a 3-hour course that can be repeated up to 6 hours, for example) with permission, then don’t forget to get permission!  This usually means that an advisor has to contact your records officer and ask that the original credit be reinstated.  This happens often in the English department, where we have a number of variable topics courses that can be repeated, with permission, provided the topics vary (e.g. ENGL 300, 455, or 274 or CW 202, for example).  Some courses (e.g. CW 404) can be repeated without special permission, but only up to 6 hours (that is, twice). 

4.  Familiarize yourself with ALL the parts of your DARS, and/or visit an advisor regularly and ask him or her to check for all of these things (requirements satisfied, hours completed, residency, credits received for each course, etc.).  If you don’t come in to the advising office or contact us with a question, then we’re not going to be combing through your report looking for lost credits or misplaced courses.  Neither your advisor nor your records officer has time to routinely check all the reports of all our students looking for any and all problems—something has to prompt us to do that.  Each of you will get an official degree audit when you file your intent to graduate (your records officer does that—what we do in the advising office is unofficial), but at that point it might be too late to fix a problem, or it might be very difficult where it would previously have been fairly easy. 

5. Be aware that the review we do in the English advising office is unofficial, and that we do sometimes makes mistakes (despite our best efforts to be on top of everything), so it pays to double-check everything, and it’s a good idea to check in, at key points during your degree progress, with your records officer just to confirm that you really are as close to completion as you think you are.  Because there is such a mass of information to deal with, and because we want to avoid mistakes as much as you do, we NEVER mind if you come in “just to double-check” something, even if we’ve already looked at it.  We’ll be happy to look again and to answer any questions. 

6.  If you have an anxiety dream about your DARS report, and feel compelled to come in to the advising office the next day just to confirm that you haven’t in fact mysteriously lost half your credit hours, you wouldn’t be the first!  We’ll be happy to reassure you.