Gateway Courses

Gateway courses are a select group of large, popular, introductory classes that prepare students for a variety of different majors or areas of study. They are typically prerequisites for more advanced courses and are taken by first year students from colleges across the university. Several departments offer gateway courses including Applied Economics and Management, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Development Sociology, Economics, Human Development, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology, Sociology, and Statistical Science.

Since gateway courses are popular and are required for many majors they tend to fill up quickly during the pre-enrollment period. If students cannot enroll during pre-enrollment they are strongly encouraged to wait until the add/drop period begins. During the first few days of the semester students make changes to their class schedules and frequently seats will open in the lecture, discussion, and lab sections.

In many cases students do not need to take gateway courses during their first semester at Cornell. Many gateway classes are offered in the fall and spring semesters and students will have the opportunity to enroll during the upcoming pre-enrollment period.

Permission Numbers

Some departments manage high demand for courses by using permission numbers. Permission numbers are course-specific and student-specific and are used when enrolling in the courses via Student Center. Departments issue permission numbers and set expiration dates. When a student receives a permission number they need to act quickly. Courses that indicate “department consent” or “instructor consent” require a permission number to enroll. Permission numbers might be required during the pre-enrollment period or during the add/drop period.


Departments may try to optimize enrollment by using waitlists. Some departments do not allow enrollment during the pre-enrollment period and students must waitlist until the add/drop period begins before they can enroll. Other departments use a waitlist to “hold” seats for certain populations of students (for example, students in a specific college or major) and when those students are enrolled the waitlist is opened.

Some courses are set up so a student can add themselves to a waitlist via Student Center. In other cases, departments require students to use a department waitlist website.

Be Prepared

Don’t panic if you find yourself on a waitlist.

Before the beginning of pre-enrollment and add/drop, identify the courses you are interested in and research how the department manages enrollment. Enrollment information for popular gateway courses can be found on the department websites:  

Applied Economics and Management
Computer Science
Development Sociology
Human Development
Statistical Science

Many departments also include notes or instructions about enrolling in specific courses in the Class Roster.

Be Proactive

Do your research and ask questions before the pre-enrollment or add/drop periods begin. Don’t wait until you are trying to enroll in a class to try to figure out the department policies and procedures.


Departments will communicate permission numbers or waitlist status via your Cornell email address or via text message to the cell phone you have on file in Student Essentials.

Within the first few days of the beginning of the semester departments will clear waitlists.  Please be patient. The department will notify you when your waitlist status changes. When notified, follow the instructions provided by the department to enroll and take action quickly.  

Let the department know immediately if you are no longer interested in the course for which you waitlisted. There might be other students on the waitlist and your seat can go to the next student who wants to enroll.