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Course selection adapts to larger student body, but some departments remain overenrolled

<h5>185 Nassau Street, which houses the Visual Arts Program</h5>
<h6>Jaclyn Sweet / <a href="http://Jaclyn Sweet" target="_self">Lewis Center for the Arts</a></h6>
185 Nassau Street, which houses the Visual Arts Program
Jaclyn Sweet / Lewis Center for the Arts

This semester, the University welcomed 1,500 new first-year students — its largest class ever — in the first year of a four-year planned undergraduate expansion.

Despite welcoming the largest first-year class in the University’s history, the percentage of occupied course seats remained consistent with past years. The University expanded the number of available student seats while offering roughly the same number of undergraduate classes as other recent semesters. 

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Specifically, this semester, the University offered 31,450 student seats in 984 classes, excluding writing seminar classes (WRI), and filled 72 percent of the offered seats. This overall percentage is in line with the prior year — 73 percent of seats occupied in Spring 2022 and 71 percent in Fall 2021. 

For the 15 unlimited capacity classes offered this semester, The Daily Princetonian calculated the number of offered seats by selecting the greatest number of registrations for that course since Fall 2021.

Approximately one-quarter of all non-WRI undergraduate courses — 239 out of 984 — are filled to capacity this semester. 

While the enrollment increase did not substantially affect the overall percentage of occupied class seats, it did impact enrollment in freshman seminars (FRS). Compared with the Fall 2021 semester, the University expanded the number of FRS classes by only a single course for Fall 2022. Freshman seminars were enrolled at 89.1 percent capacity, the highest percentage of FRS seats filled on record since Fall 2019. 


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Of the 46 freshman seminars offered, 21 of them, or 45.7 percent, were completely filled — the highest percentage on record of any year recorded on Princeton’s course offerings website.

The ‘Prince’ also examined the percentage of seats filled by department or program.


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Although many programs overseen by the Lewis Center for the Arts (LCA) — including Creative Writing and Dance — do not currently offer concentrations, the LCA offers some of the University’s most popular classes. In LCA programs, students claimed more than 92.3 percent of the 1,014 seats offered this semester. 

Creative Writing introductory courses continued to be extremely popular. This is the first semester that the creative writing program did not require an application prior to enrollment in the creative writing poetry or fiction classes.

Professor Yiyun Li, Director of the Program in Creative Writing, wrote in an email to the ‘Prince’ that the program is “aware of the level of interest in creative writing courses” and noted that the program will “continue to explore all possibilities” as they work to accommodate as many students as possible.

Among other certificate programs, Medieval Studies, Latino Studies, and American Studies each exceeded 97 percent capacity, albeit offering a relatively small number of classes.

Within concentrations, psychology, art, sociology, anthropology, religion, politics, and chemistry saw the highest percentage of seats filled this semester. Notably, the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) is absent from this list.

In Spring 2022, SPIA filled 88 percent of its offered seats. This fall, SPIA offered 271 additional seats in its course offerings, 42 percent more than in Spring 2022, though enrollment only increased by 21 percent.

The bulk of the additional seats were offered in SPI 340: The Psychology of Decision Making and Judgment, which expanded the number of seats available from 85 in Fall 2021 to 180 in Fall 2022.

In an interview with the ‘Prince,’ SPIA Senior Associate Dean for Academic Administration Paul Lipton credited Professor Eldar Shafir for being able to expand the number of seats in this popular course.

“Professor Shafir was very gracious and went above and beyond to identify additional preceptors,” said Lipton. SPIA was therefore “able to increase the class size way beyond what [the course] would normally accommodate.”

In contrast to SPIA, the other three most popular concentrations — computer science (COS), economics (ECO), and operations research and financial engineering (ORFE) — at the University offered fewer seats than in Spring 2022, despite the record-breaking size of the Class of 2026.


Between initial course registration and the beginning of Add/drop on Sept. 6, 229 course seats were eliminated, sending students searching for replacements. SPI 387: Education Policy in the United States, had 76 students registered before the class was canceled.

Lipton told the ‘Prince’ that the cancellation was forced by a lack of preceptors.

“We didn’t have any [preceptors],” explained Lipton, so with 76 students registered, “there was no way to format the class that would serve a class well without precepts.” 

Overall, in Fall 2022, 27 classes were canceled and 11 classes were added since the initial course registration period. 


Notwithstanding overall seat availability, students continue to express frustration about the classes that got away.

Sajia Shahrin Neha ’25 tried to get into both CWR 201: Creative Writing (Poetry) and VIS 201: Drawing I and was unable to secure a seat in either of the classes overseen by the LCA. Although not pursuing a certificate in either program, Neha told the ‘Prince’ that she was very interested in the courses and “emailed the professors beforehand” to express interest in each class.

When she could not secure a seat, she “had to choose another random distribution requirement class that [she’s] far less interested in, which is kind of dispiriting and sad.” Neha intends to attempt enrollment in CWR 201 and VIS 201 again in the upcoming semester.

For more information about what classes students may have been looking to add when the add/drop process began, the ‘Prince’ asked TigerSnatch for anonymized data for this semester’s add/drop period.

TigerSnatch is a student-run application created by Shannon Heh ’23, Nicholas Padmanabhan ’23, and Byron Zhang ’23 during the Spring 2021 semester. TigerSnatch alerts a student if a seat becomes available in one or more classes to which they are “subscribed.”

In an email to the ‘Prince,’ Heh and Padmanabhan stated that, in total, 1,874 unique users — 33.8 percent of the undergraduate student body — subscribed to TigerSnatch notifications for the Fall 2022 semester. In total, the users registered for a total of 9,054 subscriptions, and had an average of 4.8 subscriptions per user.

Based on TigerSnatch data, the following large classes, each with more than 30 seats, attracted the most interest beyond their stated capacity as of the first day of add/drop.


Several small classes, each with fewer than 30 seats available, had even higher percentages of students on the outside looking in. Of the top TigerSnatch’d small classes, over half fell within programs in the Lewis Center for the Arts.


TigerSnatch data also indicated which departments/programs had the most classes with students waiting to enroll. Visual arts (VIS), history (HIS), and English (ENG) were the most popular departments for students using TigerSnatch.


As with Spring 2022, VIS remained the program with the highest number of TigerSnatch’d classes, with 20 of its 23 classes having subscriptions during the add/drop period.

Director of the Visual Arts Program Jeff Whetstone explained in an email to the ‘Prince’ that his department had the same problems as in previous semesters: staffing and funding.

“[T]he only barrier to enrolling more students [in VIS] is having the faculty to teach them,” he wrote. While the program has increased space in some classes by a seat or two, it “can’t possibly address demand without more faculty to teach classes.”

When asked whether the University may be considering adding faculty to the VIS program, Whetstone wrote that “from every indication [he has] received thus far, the University is not planning on increasing funds allocated to the VIS program for class instruction in the near future.” As a result, the VIS program is “unable to plan for an increased number of class offerings for Spring 2023.”

In 11 courses across several departments, professors greatly expanded their expected class size, or added more than five seats, after the initial registration period last spring.


Even with the addition of seats in these classes, class sizes remain small in many cases. 64.6 percent of all undergraduate courses (excluding WRI), have 15 or fewer students enrolled; another 18.8 percent of the undergraduate classes have between 16 and 30 students enrolled; classes with more than 30 students comprise 16.6 percent of the undergraduate courses offered.

The University intends to preserve typical class sizes for various types of classes. In a statement to the ‘Prince,’ Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss said the “undergraduate expansion has been coupled with additional hires in the Princeton Writing Program and other departments to preserve [the University’s] typical seminar, class, and precept sizes.” Seven additional writing seminars were added this semester as compared to Spring 2022.

Course registration in TigerHub will open for the Spring 2023 semester from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2.

Madeleine LeBeau is a Staff Writer for the ‘Prince.’ Please direct any corrections requests to corrections@dailyprincetonian.com.

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