Guidelines and Process
The aim in selecting courses, for every semester in the program, is for the student to be enrolled in enough content that they are feeling pushed and challenged, but not so much that they cannot fully benefit from and absorb the material. Therefore, it is often ideal to begin the semester enrolled in at least one course that need not be completed, and could be dropped later on with the student remaining in Good Standing. In some semesters—and especially for Two-Year students in the first term of the program, and in their first year in general—this may even be two courses.
The reasoning for this includes the fact that, each semester, the drop deadline for graduate students is extremely late (e.g., not until November 10 for the Fall 2017 term), and, further, that there is no indication of having begun but subsequently withdrawn from a course for graduate students (so that there is no equivalent of a W on the transcript, as occurs for undergraduate students). In contrast, it is not possible to add a course once the semester is underway, if a student has not already been attending and doing work for it. Thus, it is possible to drop a course during the semester, if it or the overall course load has become too challenging—but not possible to add an additional course, if it has become clear that the course load is not challenging enough.
It is for this reason that 'shopping' courses at the start of the semester is encouraged. In this way, students will generally begin the semester with a list of courses to attend from the first day, with it clear which will definitely be taken (e.g., because they are required for all CL MS students, or for the particular student) and which are just being considered. This is be even more the case for Two-Year, Full-Time students in their first semester of the program, since, for them, it is often also still being worked out which Student-Specific Background Courses the student needs to take. Taking more or fewer Student-Specific Courses in a term will affect the number of electives also taken that term.
For new students in the program, then, a major purpose of the general advising sessions that Lotus will hold right after orientation, as well as of the individual advising meetings that occur after Orientation and before the first day of classes, is for the student to emerge from all of these with a list of courses to attend from the first day—with it clear which will definitely be taken, which are just being shopped, and so on. Part of this should involve a prioritizing of the course list, so that it is also clear what would be the first or second course to drop once the semester is underway, if things become too challenging. After the first week or so of the semester, and after checking back in with CL advising faculty if needed, students will generally have settled on a final list of classes in which they will enroll, and for which they will (at least) begin the semester doing work. In the first semester in the program, for both Two-Year and Fifth Year students, it is often not until this point that students finalize their official course schedule in their online SAGE account. After the first semester in the program, students will have registered for some initial list of courses during the pre-registration period for that term that occurred within the preceding semester. For these students, it is at this point that courses may be added to or dropped from that list of enrolled courses in SAGE. All SAGE changes that involve adding a course must be completed before the end of the regular registration period for the term (e.g., for Fall 2017, by September 13).
As each course proceeds, and especially as its introductory phases are completed and midterm work approaches, it often becomes clear that certain courses not absolutely required for the particular semester might ideally be dropped, to allow for the rest of the semester to proceed for the student in the best way possible. Students should keep this in mind, feeling free to consult with CL advising faculty as needed, and keeping aware of the absolute deadline that term for graduate students to drop courses (e.g., November 14, for semester courses in the Fall 2017 term; note that the half-semester Module I course taught by Marie Meteer has an earlier deadline of October 2).