Tufts by Numbers: Back to School

As Tufts students prepared to submit their new semester schedule, many were met with Tuft’s Student Information System’s (SIS) website’s dreaded error message, which led to them being placed on the waitlist — or worse, shut out — of classes in which they had planned to enroll.

For the current spring semester, Tufts’ 5,290 undergraduate students competed for spaces in over 1,000 classes offered to undergraduates. Given the vast array of courses and interests on campus, I wondered how likely being denied a space in any class is for a Tufts student. Were crushing registration experiences unique to specific majors and interests?

I set off to scour through SIS and record the number of open, waitlisted and closed classes in each course subject as of Jan. 19, the first day of classes this semester.

To obtain the most relevant results for undergraduate registration data, I only counted classes that were listed with specific times to rule out non-course credits and ignored any classes labelled “grad,” “masters” or “PhD.” I also did not count any first-year course requirements like the writing requirement. Many classes are double or triple listed within different course subjects and thus were counted separately for each subject. Numerous classes also have multiple sections, each with different space availability; in these instances, I attributed the most-available label to the class (if one section was open and one was waitlisted, the class was counted as open).

The subjects that are the least available have the lowest percentage of open classes to total classes offered. These are physical education (16 percent of classes were open), engineering psychology (29 percent of classes were open) and studio art-Medford/Somerville campus (40 percent of classes were open). While neither physical education nor studio art-Medford/Somerville campus are possible majors at Tufts, engineering psychology is offered as an interdisciplinary major connected to the departments of engineering design and psychology.

When the pool of subjects is reduced to only those that have associated, single-disciplinary Tufts majors, film & media studies (50 percent of classes were open) and political science (56 percent of classes were open) are the next most restrictive subjects.

Of language subjects with associated majors, Japanese has the least available classes with only 63 percent of classes open. This percentage is significantly higher than the availability percentage for non-language classes, indicating that language subjects have more class availabilities than non-language subjects at Tufts.

Finally, I examined which subjects with associated majors offer the classes that are the least likely to fill up (and cause the dreaded SIS enrollment errors). At the top of the list are chemistry and physics, which had 96 percent and 95 percent of classes open, respectively.

This data may not sway the enrollment decisions of Tufts students, but it does help unearth some of the mystery and occasional misfortune that may take place when registering for courses. No discipline is completely free of waitlisted and closed classes, but with enough scrolling through SIS, far more open classes than closed ones can be found.