Note to new students and their parents: Students are advised in person and register for courses at Swarthmore during Orientation, not ahead of time. Please feel welcome to familiarize yourselves with our web pages about Registration and Requirements, but please wait to ask your questions when you come to campus in August. (We want to help you, but many of us are not available to do so until then.)

First Year Student Advising & Registration occurs during Fall Orientation August 23 to August 28, 2016.

"Academic Advice: Here's the Scoop"

LPAC, 10:30 am, Wednesday
Learning goals for the Wednesday meeting (and your reading of this web page): Introduce key supports: deans, SAMs, rules, tools and processes. Introduce the vocabulary and methods of advising and registration at Swarthmore, especially the "lottery" system and the "Credit/ No Credit" (CR/NC) semester. Introduce the graduation requirements and recommendations for the first semester and the first year of study.

Karen Henry

Karen Henry
Dean of First Year Students

Diane Anderson

Diane Anderson
Dean of Academic Affairs

Martin Warner

Martin Warner

New Student Registration at a Glance

Summary of New Student Registration
Day/Time/Event Action


Get Ready

Read the Catalog (also called the Bulletin). The catalog lists all the courses that might ever be taught.

Read the Course Schedule, which lists the courses actually being offered this semester.

Regarding your AP test scores (or other test scores) and their placement implications.  This week: resolve placement.  Next week: sort out credit. See AP/IB credit rules

Keep in mind the Academic Requirements and Advising recommendations (see below).

View the SAMs' Buzzfeed "10 Tips from Deans"

Registration is easy!  You can do it!  Please follow the recommendations on this web page, which has all the answers to all the questions I've ever heard about new student registration.


Advising & Course Selection

Consider your departmental placement test results.

Select and list on the Green form [pdf] 6 to 8 courses (including alternates) you would love to take plus several PE options (knowing you will only take 4 plus PE).

In your course planning, avoid time conflicts -- this is your responsibility.

Visit the Department Advising Fair 10:00-11:30 am in Upper Tarble.

Meet with your Advisor, prioritize courses (including PE) several alternates for use on Saturday or during Drop/Add

Friday 11 - 12 noon

Computer Pre-Registration

Pre-register for your top choices of 4 courses plus PE or PE dance.

Departmental lotteries: For any one department, enter no more than one course that is likely to be lotteried.


Departments lottery any over-subscribed classes and sometimes add or change sections, sometimes shifting students from one section to another.

Patience during lotteries.

Saturday 11 - 11:30 am

Registration Follow-up Meeting
Upper Tarble

Starts promptly at 11:00am

If you were lotteried out of a course or otherwise need to make a change, bring the green form to the Saturday meeting, and use an add/drop form as needed to make changes.

Be prompt! The meeting only lasts 30 minutes.

Special, one-time-only Add/Drop forms -- collect add signature, tell dropped department.

Forms will be available there.

First Class Meeting

You are required to attend the first class or laboratory meeting to confirm your enrollment.


Drop/Add is registration's great safety net.

If needed, see your advisor and use the first week of Drop/Add to explore alternates.


Course Recommendations for First Year


  • Take introductory courses
    • Read the "Academic Program" link on departmental webpages to learn about introductory courses
  • Take a variety of subjects in at least two divisions each semester
    • Over the year, take courses all three divisions
  • Take at least one writing course per semester
  • Take at least one PE unit per semester
  • Take one First-Year Seminar [pdf]
    • only available to first-year students
    • not required, but highly recommended
  • Explore prospective majors
    • Try to take 1 course per semester in each subject in which you might major
  • Consider an NSEP - a science lab course
    • You only need one to graduate, but try to take it in the first year
  • Take Four Full Courses plus PE or PE Dance
    • Half credit courses are additional to the normal load of four

Understand the Lottery System

  • Swarthmore uses what we call "lotteries" to manage course enrollment in the few classes that have enrollment limits.
  • The lottery system makes (nearly) all pre-registrations equal, regardless of when during pre-registration you register, thus eliminating first-come-first-serve stress. The exception is large Economics and Chemistry course sections, which use "first-come, first-served" to fill the sections of its larger classes. This is still no reason to stress -- just be prepared to be flexible.
  • Departments each have their own different lottery rules and procedures, but in general, students should ...
  • Enter only one lottery per department.
    • For example, for English Literature First-year Seminars, the department limits students to only one lottery submission per semester.
    • Rules for lotteries are not enforced automatically during online pre-registration, but are enforced by departments when they lottery courses.
    • Students can be dropped for not having turned in the required supplemental pre-registration form.
    • Departments that have specific Lottery Procedures usually list them under the "Courses" section of their departmental home pages. If you can't find them there, please ask the department directly.
    • Otherwise, departments use a random lottery.

Understand the CR/NC semester

  • Ignore the bad advice -- follow the good advice for the Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) semester
  • The bad advice goes along these lines:
    • Take an over-load just to get those courses out of the way.
    • Take courses you don't want to get them out of the way.
    • Take hard courses without having to work hard on them.
  • The good advice goes along these lines:
    • Always value your time and learn all you can from your courses (even during the CR/NC semester).
    • Take the recommended normal load of four courses.  They will probably be somewhat harder than you were expecting.
    • The CR/NC semester allows you to learn from your courses and also adjust to all the rest of college life without having to worry about getting A grades in all your courses. B grades are okay in the CR/NC semester.
    • Work hard in all your courses every semester.  If you have trouble, seek out the academic support resources available to improve your success. Many of your first semester courses are preparation or pre-requisite for other courses you will want or need to take.  First semester courses deserve your good effort, regardless of the CR/NC semester.
    • Make every course count, even in the CR/NC semester.

More helpful stuff


New Student Registration in Detail

Thursday Advising and Course Selection

  • Consider your Placement Results
    • Mathematics and Statistics introductory courses require placement recommendations in order to pre-register for or take the class.
      • Students obtain their Math/Stat placement recommendation on mySwarthmore.
    • Other placement results are available from the specific departments
  • Placement versus Credit: before classes start, resolve placement, then after classes start, take up the matter of AP or other credit
    • Many departments don't finalize AP credit until January of your first year
  • 10:00 am Departmental Advising Fair Thursday
    • Visit the Departmental Advising Fair on Thursday morning.
    • Obtain departmental information from professors in person.
  • 11:30 am Meet and Greet your Advisor
    • Meet with your Advisor in a group meeting before lunch
    • Make an appointment to meet individually Thursday afternoon.
  • Prepare six to eight courses (including alternates) you would like to discuss with your Adviser, plus options for PE or PE Dance, knowing you'll only take four academic courses plus PE or PE Dance.
  • The key to happiness during Registration is having alternates at the ready.
  • Plan your week with the Weekly Schedule Card
    • You are responsible to avoid time conflicts. The computer will not prevent you from registering for a time conflict -- this is your responsibility.
  • List all courses of interest, including alternates, on the Green Form [pdf].
    • You will get a green one in your packet upon arrival.
    • Swarthmore's normal course naming short-hand is Subject & Number, such as "ENGL 009."
      • The 5-digit CRN (computer reference number) in the Course Schedule is helpful for computer registration, but is not used in the catalog or during person-to-person discussions.
  • Use the Schedule of Courses - online always updated
    • The Schedule of Courses PDF available from Academics/Registrar's Office/Course Information/Course Schedule PDF.
    • The search engine: TriCollege Course Guide
      • Select "Campus=Swarthmore"
      • Use Swarthmore's Department names (not Bryn Mawr's or Haverford's department names).
        • For example, use "English Literature" (not "English") because the Swarthmore department is called "English Literature"
  • Understand mySwarthmore pre-registration
    • Understand the Supplemental Forms

Thursday afternoon (or Friday morning): Meet Individually with your Advisor

  • Meet with your Academic Advisor, map out your Fall semester. Discuss courses and alternates and PE or PE Dance.
  • Select six to eight courses (including alternates) you would like to take, plus options for PE or PE Dance, knowing you'll only take four academic courses plus PE or PE Dance.
  • Obtain your Advisor's signature on the green course advising form.
  • Be prepared bring the Green form to the Saturday meeting, indicating Academic Advisor approval of any actions on Saturday.
  • Students who do not get advised can have a "hold" placed on their pre-registration by their Academic Advisor. Students are informed by email of holds being placed, and can check for holds on the mySwarthmore web site. Students who discover they are withheld from pre-registration will probably miss pre-registration and need to register using paper on Saturday. If you miss pre-registration, you will have missed all lotteries.
  • Confirm your access to mySwarthmore. Any problem, ask ITS Client Services, or a friend.

Friday: Pre-Registration Online

  1. Pre-register online 11:00 a.m. to noon on Friday. Use the mySwarthmore web site. Finish early if you can.
    • Be prompt. Pre-registration provides equal access to courses and lotteries regardless of when you pre-register with the exception of large Economics and General Chemistry course sections which use "first-come, first-served". Register for these first, but don't rush.
    • Students who need to be away from a computer through this time must obtain special approval (and the handout of instructions on how to get registered) from their coach or a dean.
    • Keep in mind that rules for lotteries are not enforced online, but will be enforced by departments. Read departmental web sites for lottery rules information.
    • If you miss pre-registration, you can still attend the Saturday Registration Follow-up meeting, but you will have missed all the lotteries. All departmental lotteries will be run off pre-registration.
    • Where to pre-register? Options include your dorm room, dorm computer clusters, or McCabe computer clusters. Help will be available at McCabe and many dorm computer clusters. Ask for help from a CA, a SAM (in a dorm), or a Public Area Consultant (at the library).
  2. Pre-register for the 4 academic courses plus PE (or PE Dance) that you actually plan to take.
    • The Pre-Registration Limit of 4.5 credits gets lifted for drop/add. The 4.5 credit limit during pre-registration is to ensure that every student has a fair chance at 4 courses. (Language courses are usually 1.5 credits.)
    • PE or PE Dance does not count in the 4.5 credit limit. Register for PE or PE Dance on top of your 4 academic courses.
  3. One at a time or both parts at a time: Add or drop one course, one lecture-and-lab combination, or one language-and-drill combination at a time. Most science courses have associated lectures and labs; most language courses have associated language and drill sections -- for these, add or drop both associated parts at the same time. For most other courses, add or drop one course at a time.
  4. Special instructions for the following subjects


    Enroll for Biology 001 lecture AND your first choice laboratory section during web-registration on Friday. If the enrollment in any laboratory section exceeds 24 students, a random lottery will be held only for the overenrolled laboratory sections. Lottery results will be posted by 6:00 PM outside the Introductory Biology Laboratory (SC 204) and outside the Biology department office (Martin 201). Students who are lotteried out of an overenrolled lab section will be placed on the waiting list for that section. First-year students who are on the waiting list for an overenrolled laboratory section are encouraged to enroll *in person* in any other unfilled laboratory section at the Biology table at the follow-up registration meeting (11:00 AM Saturday), where sections will be filled on a *first-come, first-served* basis. Laboratory sections will meet during the first week of classes. Complete and submit the Biology 001SP form found above.


    You will need to register for the CHEM 010/010.HN course and a lab section that fits into your schedule. When adding these on mySwarthmore they must be added together. Chem 010 and 010.HN share the CHEM 010 labs.

    Registration for labs will be "first come, first serve" so it is strongly advised to register early. Web-registration lab section assignments are tentative, students who will need to resolve conflicts with their lab assignment should come to the Chemistry/Biochemistry table at the registration meeting at 11 am, Saturday.

    Physics & Astronomy:

    For Physics 003 web-register for a lecture and your first choice of a lab section on mySwarthmore, then when you are done pre-registering, complete the REQUIRED supplemental lab preference form listed above and return it to the Registrar's office by 2:00 PM on Friday. You will be assigned a lab section according to your expressed preferences, and that assignment will be posted outside the Physics and Astronomy Department office (Science Center 143) by 9:00 am on Saturday.

    Register online for your first choice of PHYS 003 lab, and complete the supplemental form listed above.

    Note that not everyone will get their first choice. If you still have a conflict after lotteries, come to the Physics and Astronomy table at Upper Tarble on Saturday morning at 11:00 am to resolve it.


Prerequisites: Students must be sure that they have fulfilled any pre-requisites for courses they wish to take, or obtained the permission of the instructor.

Auditing: New students should NOT audit in their first semester. See the catalogue for other rules on auditing.

Music 48: Sign up for Music 48 at the Music Department after classes start (not on the Green form or an Add form).

Friday afternoon after pre-registration: Patience during Lotteries

  • Departments "lottery" over-enrolled class lists after pre-registration. Most are done Friday evening at 8:00 pm, some Saturday morning, and rarely one or two might happen after the Saturday follow-up meeting.
  • Late lotteries: Any class or lab with a supplemental form, either a supplemental lab form or the supplemental Math/Stat web form, can take a long time to lottery. Be prepared for these classes and labs to be late in announcing their lottery results, perhaps even doing so after the Saturday meeting.

Saturday: Follow-up Registration Meeting as needed

Don't be late!

  • Most lotteries are completely finished by Saturday at 10:00 a.m. After that time, you should consider registrations in mySwarthmore approved.
  • Keep in mind that classes and labs with supplemental registration may be late in announcing their lottery results, perhaps even doing so after the Saturday meeting.
  • The Saturday meeting is designed for students who did not get into 4 courses, but is available for any student who wants to attend to make a change.
  • If you do not need to go to the Saturday meeting, your Green Form can be discarded.
  • The Registration Meeting starts at 11:00 am and finishes quickly! 
  • SAMs will be there to help. Thank you SAMs!
  • Bring your Green Form to show Advisor approval of what you do on Saturday.
  • Look for Open First-year Seminars [pdf] list (online and on paper at the meeting). On Saturday the list will show which first-year seminars have openings after lotteries.
  • To Add a course, use an Add/Drop form -- available at the meeting -- to obtain instructor signature. First add any Computer Science or Economics courses, as some sections fill on a first come first served basis.
  • To Drop a course, indicate it on the Add/Drop form. Blank forms will be available at the meeting.
  • Hand in Add/Drop forms at the Registrar's table.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday...

  • You are required to attend the first class or laboratory meeting to confirm your enrollment. All classes and laboratories meet the first week of classes. Contact the professor directly to ask that your seat be held if you can't make the first meeting.
  • Buy your books at the Bookstore.
  • If you haven't done so yet, set up your Moodle account (linked from the Dash). Moodle is Swarthmore's course management systems, and are used by many courses to post syllabi, homework assignments, discussions, etc.
  • In the first week of classes, you are encouraged to check classes you were lotteried out of to see if seats have since become available.
  • Some course "shadowing" may be appropriate in the first week of classes, but not in the second, when most classes are well underway. Shadowing is attending a class of interest for which you are not registered. If space opens, ask to add the class.
  • Look again for the "Open First-Year Seminars" [pdf] list, showing which first-year seminars have openings and how many, this time after the Saturday meeting.
  • Remember that the liberal arts experience includes serendipitous discovery. Be open to it.
  • Full Time Enrollment Required: All students must register for at least 4.0 credits per semester, unless they have obtained special permission to do otherwise.
  • Read the Guidelines on Scheduling Conflicts Between Academics and Athletics.

Caution about Credits and Grades

... including Shadow Grades

  • Normal progress is four semester course credits per semester, plus PE until PE is done. Students that do not manage to complete and pass at straight C or better at least three credits per semester will have their records reviewed by the Committee on Academic Requirements and could be required to take an academic leave. Note that INC grades, Withdraw grades, or shadow grades of less than straight C do not satisfy this minimum expectation.
  • Students should also be mindful to maintain satisfactory progress toward fulfilling their degree. Normal progress is four semester course credits per semester. Over the semesters, at a minimum, students should earn 6 to 8 credits by the end of the first year, 14 to 16 credits by the end of the sophomore year, and 22 to 24 credits by the end of the junior year. Students not achieving satisfactory progress will have their records reviewed by the Committee on Academic Requirements and could be required to take an academic leave.

Financial notice:

Students who have not satisfied their financial obligations will not be permitted to attend classes, live in campus housing, have a meal plan, register via add/drop (or any other method) for any classes, enroll for the following semester, participate in the room lottery, obtain a transcript, or be permitted to be graduated.