Adventures in MOOC-Scale Registration at a Traditional University

I compiled various pieces of information related to OMSCS registration in this section. Researching historical class sizes can help you estimate your likelihood of getting into classes you want; I tabulated my own research into past class capacities here. I am also documenting my experience registering for my first semester.

I hope you find this content helpful. Best of luck!

Best Practices

This is the tl;dr, cliff-notes version of all the content below. Best practice for waitlisting classes in GA Tech’s OMSCS are to:

  1. Keep track of important dates, including the start of your registration window, start of classes, and drop deadline.
  2. As quickly as possible after your registration window opens, waitlist (or register for) two courses that align with your interests and chosen course of study.
  3. Keep an eye on your waitlist position. The lower your waitlist position, the closer you should also monitor your GA Tech email.
  4. If waitlisted, once receive an email that you have a seat available, add the course by following the instructions in the email within the 12-hour window.

If you follow these instructions, you will most likely get into the class(es) you want. But, if you do not, research “OMSCS registration free-for-all” on the social channels. Its 24 hours of fun that starts on the day that waitlists turn off and ends on the drop deadline.

Important Dates

Note these are only pertinent for Fall, 2018.

Date Time Event
8/3 6 PM ET Fall 2018 Phase 2 registration time tickets available
8/6 8 AM ET My time ticket begins
8/17   Wait list notifications begin going out
8/20   Classes begin
8/23 4 PM ET Waitlists “turn off,” registration free-for-all
8/24 4 PM ET Registration ends, drop deadline
8/27 4 PM ET Deadline to pay tuition
12/15   Classes end

Historical Class Capacities

Values tabulated below are from Class Look-Ups I ran on 2018/08/04.

Name # F 18 CRN Sp 18 Cap Sp 18 Act F 17 Cap F 17 Act Cur Cap Cur #Reg Cur #W/L % Impacted
ML4T CS 7646 88882 600 597 700 689 400 396 499 128%
ML CS 7641 87100 700 623 600 582 400 399 492 127%
RL CS 7642 90059 400 303 350 211 300 295 77 93%
DVA CSE 6242 88543 650 591 525 462 400 397 18 64%
KBAI CS 7637 87105 400 338 450 332 300 297 92 86%
AI CS 6601 88541 500 425 500 399 300 299 408 141%
IOS CS 6200 90882 500 407 - - 300 275 0 55%
HPCA CS 6290 87102 300 132 250 106 250 98 0 33%
IHPC CSE 6220 - 173 109 250 126 - - - -
GA CS 8803-GA 89717 404 405 316 314 200 196 679 217%
BD4H CSE 6250 89712 250 166 300 162 300 258 0 86%
CV CS 6476 87988 375 288 418 337 300 295 158 108%

CRN: the number used to register for courses
Cap: Class “Capacity”
Act: “Actual” count of registered students
Cur #Reg: Count of students registered when I ran the look-up
Cur #W/L: Count of students wait-listed when I ran the look-up
% Impacted: ratio of currently registered+waitlisted students to the max class capacity between the past two semesters

Other Helpful Info

  • “OAN” section designates sections for OMSA students
  • After receiving a waitlist notification, only have 12 hours to register for a course
  • After receiving waitlist notification, must add that course by CRN. Course lookup does not work for waitlisted classes.
  • Fall and Spring semesters limited to six credit-hours per student
  • Academic Advising requests that students do not have more than 6 credit-hours combined, between waitlisted and registered courses

Update 8/6/2018: the 2 course W/L+reg limit is real. Breaking it will not help you get classes.

Waitlisting >2 classes is counterproductive. Your first semester, it is unlikely you will be able to immediately register for the exact class you want, as incoming cohorts are last to register. Waitlist two courses you have reasonably high likelihood of getting into and which align with your interests. Administration will ensure everyone gets enrolled in at least one course.

First G+ Post

The content in this section was taken from a pinned post on the Google+ OMSCS community, courtesy of Cesar Osorio.

  1. “All classes filled up!” - Not true, additional seats will be added as new TAs are hired during registration period based on the waitlist size [Please see Romeo’s post about registration process ]
  2. Read the Fall 2018 Official Orientation Document (click on “About Community” in this google+ group to find it)(UPDATE: UPLOADED)
  3. When? You will receive a time ticket on August 3 after 6:00pm ET. Registration begins Aug 6
  4. How? On Buzzport. Please check section F of the Orientation Document
  5. What classes? Only foundational courses. Check to find out about classes


  1. Register as soon as you are allowed to do it based on your time ticket
  2. Check that you don’t have Registration Holds (see Section E of the Orientation Document)
  3. You can only drop a class during registration period. After that you will have to pay for it and you will get a “W” in your transcript if you withdraw.
  4. Usually only 4 -5 classes are difficult to get in due to high demand. All the others usually end up with available seats.

Second G+ Post

The content in this section was taken from another post on the Google+ OMSCS community, courtesy of Romeo Cabrera.

“SO… will I be able to get in XYZ class?”

That’s the question in most of new student’s minds. The answer is “Most probably”. Keep reading

Registration is some kind of game between the administration and students. The University tries to efficiently allocate limited resources (mostly TAs), and students try to get into the easiest/most popular classes from day one.

Waitlists are the mechanism used to gauge and control the demand of classes. In an ideal world, students would only waitlist for the number of classes they are planning to take. However, many students waitlist for two, even three classes, and end up taking just one, inflating the real demand.

As you may have noticed, registration extends until the end of the first week of classes. That means that in practice, many students are not registered (just waitlisted) when classes have started. Thus, students need to make a choice: a) Have peace of mind registering on their plan B or C class. b) Stay on the waitlist for their first choice class, and hope that spots appear until the last day of registration.

Notice that the decision is completely up to you, but here are some useful guidelines and tips that you should keep in mind:

  • A good rule of thumb to know if a class is worth waitlisting: Take a look at the capacity it had last semester, and sum current capacity + waitlist size (you could consider an extra 10% tolerance due to churn/attrition). For example, last semester ML4T had a capacity of 550. Right now there are 245 registered and 200 on waiting list (445 students got there before you). So, if you get into the next 150 spots in the waiting list, you’ll have high chances to register.

  • You need 10 classes to graduate. There are just like 4-5 very popular classes. So if it’s hard to get in your first choice class, pick another one from your shortlist. Yes, it’s probable that you’ll have to get out of your comfort zone, but who said this was going to be easy? Sooner or later you’ll have to brush up on statistics, linear algebra, learn a new programming language. It’s better if you do it now rather than later when you are all burned out.

  • With all that said, if you look at the registration numbers from last semester you’ll notice that all classes (except one) had remaining capacity > 0 at the end of registration. Why is that? As I said above, many students pick more classes that they really intend to take, and drop them at the last minute. The last day of registration, there’s no waitlisting and many students drop, so if you definitely need to take some class and want to take the risk, you could try and grab a spot then.

Last words:

  • Use CRNs to register, it’s easier.
  • Don’t forget that waitlisting is a two-step process, you need to reconfirm.
  • If you are on a waitlist, keep an eye on your email (even better, activate notifications on your cell phone - yes, it’s possible to use Oscar in mobile desktop).
  • Go to “Student Detail Schedule” to find out your position in waitlists.

Good luck!

My Registration

2018/08/04: Thoughts before registering.

One of my lessons from my pursuing my undergraduate degree was to front-load the core, valuable classes that are your primary reason for pursuing your course of study. Reasons for this are twofold. First, front-loading the core classes ensures that you are at your strongest and least burnt out for what are presumably the most difficult classes you will complete. Second, completing important, marketable, value-added coursework means you may be able to market those new skills to companies sooner.

With that lesson in mind, my plan is to complete the core machine learning and artificial intelligence courses as soon as I can. That said, the ML courses appear to be among the most impacted among the courses I’m interested in pursuing.

As of 8/4, my plan is to register for DVA and ML. DVA seems like it will be a safe bet, and, after the course redesign, it is one of my must-take classes. There’s also a chance that I’ll get into ML, which I want to take as soon as possible for the reasons discussed above.

Time Ticket Begins

2018/08/06, 5:10 AM: Completed registering. I was logging in at 5:00 AM, so I was as early as anyone. I tabulated my results below.

I registered for one class and waitlisted two, which goes against academic advising wishes, according to their email sent out 8/1: “At no time should your hours registered + hours waitlisted exceed 6 hours.” I originally planned to waitlist ML, but even the waitlist ended up full. That made me nervous and I just added whatever seemed reasonable from my course plan.

I’ll most likely try to get onto the ML waitlist over the course of the next week or so. The earliest position I could possibly hope to get would be student #900, which would require much larger than historical class sizes. Its a long-shot, but its the best thing course I could take to round out my current skills profile. I’m very confident I’ll get into DVA. I’m currently student #511. If I don’t get in, it would have to be because they decided to have a smaller-than-historical class size despite the current huge demand. Time will tell. I am a little bit less confident about KBAI. As student #490, they would have to increase this quarter’s class size above the class’s historical size to accommodate my current position. I’m less interested in taking HPCA right now. While the content seems interesting and would round out my understanding of high-performance computing, it is less of a value-add for my current skillset.

Name # Sp 18 Cap F 17 Cap Cur Cap Cur #Reg Cur #W/L Status
ML CS 7641 700 600 400 399 500 None
DVA CSE 6242 650 525 400 397 377 W/L # 114
KBAI CS 7637 400 450 300 297 311 W/L # 193
HPCA CS 6290 300 250 250 206 0 Registered

2018/08/06, 7:20 AM: It looks like they bumped the waitlist cap for OMSCS classes to 999. I was able to add ML and ML4T, and dropped HPCA.

ML #932, ML4T #980, DVA #509, KBAI #487. Seems to be a lot of churn in the wait lists/registered students, as I’ve already moved up a few spaces. This is going to work out just fine. I might even get into ML or ML4T. For now, I just wait for emails.

Name # Sp 18 Cap F 17 Cap Cur Cap Cur #Reg Cur #W/L Status
ML CS 7641 700 600 400 399 554 W/L # 533
ML4T CS 7646 600 700 400 396 591 W/L # 584
DVA CSE 6242 650 525 400 397 438 W/L # 112
KBAI CS 7637 400 450 300 297 370 W/L # 190

2018/08/06, 12:50 PM: Happened to come across this post by Chuck Cottrill on Google+. He and several other people on Google+ report that in previous semesters the two-course limit for wait-listed+registered courses is enforced by keeping rule-breakers at the back of the queue.

I went ahead and dropped KBAI and ML4T. Scary. Glad I saw that.

And, I’m beginning to really love the online communities that surround this program.

Name # Sp 18 Cap F 17 Cap Cur Cap Cur #Reg Cur #W/L Status
ML CS 7641 700 600 400 399 691 W/L # 530
DVA CSE 6242 650 525 400 397 496 W/L # 112

2018/08/07, 8:30 AM: Moving up!

Name # Cur Cap Cur #Reg Cur #W/L Status
ML CS 7641 400 388 938 W/L # 496
DVA CSE 6242 400 369 657 W/L # 108

2018/08/08, 8:30 AM: Capturing the same information, but now in this more space efficient breakdown.

I’m surprised at the amount of churn in the waitlists. At this rate, I give myself decent odds at getting into ML before the waitlists turn off on the 23rd. A position in the ML queue less than 700 would mean very high likelihood of getting a seat. I’m already a safe bet for DVA at position 457, because that is less than the historical class sizes of 650 and 525 for Spring, 2017 and Fall, 2017, respectively.

Wait List Notifications Begin

2018/08/18, 7:15 AM: Yesterday waitlist notifications started going out, and a few class sizes were bumped. I’ve already climbed to number two on the DVA waitlist, and it appears there are currently two open seats in the class. I’m expecting an email sometime today or tomorrow. I’m also already up to position 776 for ML, so I’m cautiously optimistic about eventually getting a seat for ML as well. In Spring there were 700 seats in ML.

2018/08/18, 9:15 AM: Received this email :)

Dear Ryan Wingate,
The course listed below in which you had previously registered as waitlisted for has an available seat:
Course: 88543 CSE 6242 Data & Visual Analytics O01
Instructor: Duenhorng Chau
You have until 19-AUG-2018 12:02 AM to enroll as registered for the course listed above. After this time you will be dropped from the waitlist and the seat will be offered to the next student in line.

It seems these are going out every 12 hours. Following registration, my new position(s) are the following.

Date ML Cap ML # Reg ML # WL ML Total ML WL Pos ML Pos DVA Cap DVA # Reg DVA # WL DVA Total DVA WL Pos DVA Pos
8/18 400 397 906 1303 375 772 400 399 576 975 - -

Classes Begin

2018/08/20, 12:25 PM: This email came out.

The following courses are unlikely to increase in size much further. If you are on a waitlist for one of these courses and you haven’t gotten a waitlist notification for it already, you may want to consider choosing another course for Fall 2018, particularly if you are above position #50 on the waitlist.
CSE 6242
CS 6440
CS 7646
We are still working on all of the other courses.

GA Tech does a very good job communicating to people on the waitlists.

2018/08/20, 9:25 PM: ML class size was bumped from 400 to 550, then from 550 to 700. After the second bump I was offered a seat :)

Date ML Cap ML # Reg ML # WL ML Total ML WL Pos ML Pos DVA Cap DVA # Reg DVA # WL DVA Total DVA WL Pos DVA Pos
8/20 700 607 508 1115 - - 400 393 454 847 - -

2018/08/21, 9:40 AM: So, I have done it. The end of my saga. I have gone from WL positions 500+ and 100+ to having a seat in both classes I wanted.

Notes on best practices from my experience.

Breakdown by Day

Documentation of my triumphant climb through the waitlists.

Date ML Cap ML # Reg ML # WL ML Total ML WL Pos ML Pos DVA Cap DVA # Reg DVA # WL DVA Total DVA WL Pos DVA Pos
8/6 400 399 554 953 533 932 400 397 438 835 112 509
8/7 400 388 938 1326 496 884 400 369 657 1026 108 477
8/8 400 373 998 1371 481 854 400 351 704 1055 106 457
8/9 400 369 991 1360 477 846 400 349 699 1048 106 455
8/10 400 365 999 1364 473 838 400 347 709 1056 106 453
8/11 400 362 998 1360 471 833 400 346 710 1056 106 452
8/12 400 361 999 1360 468 829 400 344 716 1060 106 450
8/13 400 360 999 1359 464 824 400 344 718 1062 106 450
8/14 400 358 999 1357 462 820 400 340 720 1060 106 446
8/15 400 358 999 1357 460 818 400 337 725 1062 106 443
8/16 400 356 999 1355 457 813 400 334 722 1056 106 440
8/17 400 356 997 1353 456 812 400 334 715 1049 106 440
8/18 400 398 908 1306 378 776 400 398 518 916 2 400
8/19 400 398 893 1291 368 766 400 399 562 961 - -
8/20 550 483 765 1248 201 684 400 399 542 941 - -
8/21 700 678 449 1127 - - 400 399 412 811 - -

Cap: Class capacity on that day
# Reg: Registered student count
# WL: Waitlisted student count
Total: Total students looking for a seat in the class
WL Pos: My waitlist position
Pos: My position in the queue for a seat in the class

How It All Ended

I dropped ML due to accepting a job offer on Wednesday the 22nd. It was a very busy, very successful week.

2018/08/26, 1:15 PM: Revisiting registration after the first week of classes has ended. Largest ever ML capacity, I believe. I am looking forward to taking that class very soon.

Date ML Cap ML # Reg DVA Cap DVA # Reg
8/26 900 894 400 398