Course enrollment appointments are finally here, and students are scrambling to create their ideal schedules. But browsing through the course catalog sometimes feels like trying to decode a cryptic message.

So how exactly does Introduction to World Politics become PoliSci 160?

Esrold Nurse, assistant dean of Student Academic Affairs in LSA, said there’s no rhyme or reason to course numbering aside from the fact that 100 and 200 level courses are introductory and higher-level courses are more advanced.

“Generally, courses numbered 100-199 are considered to be introductory courses and courses from 200-299 are considered intermediate and courses from 300-499 are considered upper level,” Nurse said.

Nurse said that though this is a general rule, course numbers sometimes vary because departments are responsible for determining their own numbering structure.

“Some departments have introductory courses at the 200 level, like American Culture or History, as well as 100 level courses,” she said.

But how do professors decide which classes will be more advanced?

Nurse said courses with higher numbers typically have fewer students, a more narrow focus and require students to analyze topics more closely.

For example, Nurse said there’s a difference between CompLit 122 and CompLit 140.

“An introductory course with a higher number is not higher level in the sense that it’s not introductory,” he said. “It’s higher level in that it will have more of a focus and be more in-depth.”

To enroll in many higher-level courses, students need prerequisites, which are usually introductory courses. However, there are exceptions.

“A course might be focused so narrowly that a prerequisite, though helpful, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it,” Nurse said.

Even though course-numbering structures vary by college, Nurse said LSA’s way of choosing course numbers is pretty standard.

“You’re not going to find a 400-level course at any institution that a first-year student would be recommended to take,” he said.

Jillian Berman

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