Courses with multiple sections that cover different topics

Q: I noticed that there are four different versions of HIST-099 being offered in the fall: Early Modern WomenItalian RenaissanceOil and World Power, and Material Culture. I'd like to choose HIST-099: Oil and World Power as one of my course requests and I'd like to select "yes" to the "any section" option. But if I don't receive my first choice of section during preregistration, could I be placed into a section with a completely different topic, such as HIST-099: Italian Renaissance(Submitted by incoming first-year Becca from Maryland.) 

A: Great question, Old Line State Becca! Yes, because the various sections of HIST-099 are all housed under the same course number, the system could place you in any section of HIST-099 should you not receive your first choice. In a way, you've discovered a clumsy aspect of the 'any section' option. The preregistration robots are clumsy—just look at their arms.

But the 'any section' option is actually very helpful, too! Here's how: The preregistration robots will try as hard as they can to put you into your primary courses. When they're working away at that, they do not know whether you've checked the 'any section' box. They're not very smart, nor very forward-thinking. So...the 'any section' option does NOTHING to your chances of getting your top choices. Rather, if you don't get a primary choice, the 'any section' option gives you a shot at ALL other sections of the same course. Worst case scenario: you get a section you don't really want, and you drop it right away. But there's a good chance you'll get something that 1) meets the requirement you were addressing, 2) fits your schedule, and 3) is good.

Think of it another way. If you request SOCI-001-04, you'll only be considered for that one section. If you request SOCI-001-04 and check the 'any section' box, you'll have the same shot at that section, and a chance at all 5 of the other sections as well.

It's better to start with a full schedule than a half-full schedule, and the 'any section' option is a GREAT way to fill your schedule. If you truly, deeply, only want a single, specific section of a course, then don't click 'any section.' But if you have your preferences in order, and you don't hate surprises, give it a try.

In this case, we recommend that Becca choose both a primary and an alternate, and then use the any section option for her alternate only. That way she has two chances at the particular HIST-099 topic that interests her, or the professor, or the time slot, etc. And if she happens to win a seat in a section that doesn't appeal to her, she can drop it during the add/drop period.