Ellen Wang ’25
Welcome to The Claremont Colleges! As if you’re not overwhelmed enough already, our wonderful cross-campus class registration system is pretty confusing to navigate.
Luckily, your resident big sister is here to hopefully clear things up for you and help you succeed.
What is a PERM?
A PERM refers to permission to register for a class; some classes offered at the 5Cs require PERMission from the instructor through the student portal from the get-go in order to register. For other classes, an option to PERM becomes available once registration has started and a class has filled up; in that case, it functions much like a waitlist.
Sometimes, certain students have to get PERMs approved by the instructor while others can register for a class as long as there are open seats — usually this is to prioritize either underclassmen, upperclassmen, or home campus students.
PERMs are required by instructors due to a variety of factors, including: the class is very popular, the professor would like to hand-pick students for their small class, the class is restricted to students from certain campuses, and/or the class prioritizes certain students (e.g. those who want to major in the subject field or those who have/haven’t taken certain classes before).
The number of PERMs already submitted for each course are visible when you look through courses on the student portal. Do not be too discouraged when you see a class with 200 PERMs – it is always worth submitting one if you’re interested in a class. Plenty of students change schedules during the registration period, and you may get lucky.
How to PERM
If you have to PERM for a class to register, you’ll see the option to request a PERM when you click into the course. If you are eligible to register for a class and registration is currently open for you, you should be able to see an “Add Course” button when you click into the course. Everyone gets 24 hours after their assigned registration time to add and drop classes, and then add/drop opens again for everyone a few days later.
You have an optional 256 characters to add a message to your PERM request — this request sends an automated email to the instructor teaching the course. It doesn’t hurt to include a couple of sentences (or sentence fragments because of the character limit) about why you want to take their course as this could help your chances.
Unless you’re a senior who desperately needs the credit, you might not want to include that you only want to take this class to fulfill a graduation requirement. Instead, maybe focus on your interest in the class. Though, outright lying may get your PERM approved at the expense of someone who was genuine, so maybe don’t do that either.
Here is a basic PERM template:
[Interested or current major?] [Past involvement/engagement with the class’s subject] [Blurb about why you want to take this class, and/or specifically with this instructor]
Here are a couple examples of PERMs I submitted:
SOC189J: Global Environmental Sociology
Never taken socio class before, passionate about interconnected processes behind climate change, resource management, etc. Would be grateful to dive into socio & contextualize current enviro events with systemic workings and repercussions. Thank you!
[ended up taking and loved!)]
PSYC140: The Social Brain
CogSci major & adore teaching & soc-psych! Fascinated & inspired by enduring social nature of humanity. Researched how youth cope through COVID with video games + edu takeaways. Would love to cont. explore to apply to social-emo learning. Thank you!
[was not approved but it was full already anyway!]
You can view all your PERMs and their statuses on the portal. If your PERM was approved, you should be free to register as long as your registration period is open, unless the instructor also indicates that there must be seats available for the course.
An automated email is usually sent to you if your PERM has been approved or denied, but check your active PERMs regularly just in case. Sometimes instructors place expiration times on your PERM approval, so you don’t want to miss it. If a class is no longer in consideration for you, you can cancel your PERM request to make it easier for professors sifting through PERMs and other students still trying to get into the class.
Going the extra mile
So, yes, your chances of getting into the class as the 231st person to PERM are low. To get ahead of this, figuring out the approximate time course schedules are going to be released on the portal and/or submitting your PERMs the day courses are live can guarantee you’re at the top of the waitlist — but move quickly!
How to be even more ahead of the curve? If you have an idea of what classes are offered the next term and you know which ones you want to take (pull up that beautiful 4-year plan), you can write your PERMs in advance so when the courses go live, you just have to click a few buttons to get your PERMs in.
Even after submitting the PERM, you’re not going to be limited by that 256-character box. If you’re really intent on taking a class that you’ve PERMed for — say you need it for your prospective major or it’s only offered every blue moon and it’s right down your alley — it’s often beneficial to send the instructor an email. The worst thing that can happen is the professor does not read your email, usually not because they are ignoring it but because they simply have too much going on.
Your email should expand on the basic elements of your PERM, but now you have more flexibility to let your personality, background, and interest shine. I’ve featured two lovely real emails from Nina Howe-Goldstein ’25 here. There is no correct way to email, or write PERMs. The point is to convey to the instructor the value you would gain from their course, and in turn what you would contribute to their class.
Email examples, courtesy of Nina Howe-Goldstein:
Dear Professor Matz,
My name is Nina Howe-Goldstein, I’m an incoming Scripps Freshman from Washington, D.C.. Your class on the Victorian novel caught my eye while I was looking through the course catalogue yesterday. I haven’t decided on a major yet, but I’ve been fascinated with the Victorian era for a long time, and would love to expand my study of it into literature.
(I know this is technically Edwardian, and disturbing portrayal of colonial India aside, but a novel I’ve always loved from around that era is The Secret Garden. I was reading an article about gender roles in the book a few years back, and the author pointed out how the “rightness” of gender roles was restored at the end of the book by focusing on the male characters after the female lead saves the day. It’s stuck with me ever since. The musical also has some pretty good songs.)
All is to say, I would love to take this class. I’m sorry if I’ve gotten the PERM system wrong somehow—I’m still trying to figure it out—but please let me know if you would need anything else from me.
Thank you for your consideration,
[This PERM was approved!]
Dear Professor Teixido and Professor Auerbach,
My name is Nina Howe-Goldstein, I’m an incoming Scripps freshman from Washington, D.C.. I’m writing to elaborate on my PERM request to enroll in Fiber Studio this semester.
I’ve been embroidering since I was in 6th grade, entirely self-taught from books and the internet. In 2019, I won “Young Needlecrafter of the Year” at the National Needlecraft Awards in London, England. (How they allowed me to win a British award with an American address, I do not know, but I was honored.) Since then, I’ve been trying to dabble in more expansive projects, including crochet and sewing—more and less successfully, respectively—and challenge myself more.
Taking Fiber Studio would give me the opportunity to expand my horizons and receive formal training in the fiber arts for the first time, which I would be excited to do.
While I’m not quite sure about art as a major, and completely understand if you would rather prioritize fine arts majors or Pomona students, I’d really love to take this class.
I’ve also attached some samples of my recent/ongoing work. Please let me know if there would be anything else you would need for me.
Thank you for your consideration,
[Nina did not hear back but it had 83 PERMs so you take what you can get]
In the time between registering and the semester’s start, you can also drop by the instructor’s office if they have open office hours and send occasional followup emails if you’re still waiting for updates on a class. After sending a PERM and then an email or two, you can also attempt the tried and true method of showing up to class on the first day, where professors may let in additional students as they see fit.
Class registration may seem like a bloodbath, or perhaps a dentist’s waiting room, but there are numerous ways we can make the most of what’s in our control.
When it comes down to it, things don’t always work out the way we plan for them to and even instructors only have so much say; drafting elaborate schedules and PERMs in advance, being the first PERM submitted, sending followup emails, and showing up to class may not result in enrollment.
As someone who has gone through the entire list of course offerings, creates at least 10 draft schedules every registration, and spends an unhealthy amount of time on hyperschedule.io, 5scheduler.io, ClaremontCourses, and the Pomona student government course planner, I’ve had to throw my carefully curated, color-coded course schedules out the window and pivot multiple times, then find the light in what’s left. And things turned out okay.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the wide breadth of perks at the 5Cs. The bureaucracy isn’t here for nothing: check out the numerous offices and centers for advising, community care, affinity spaces, and making your college experience worthwhile.
Say hello to your new institutional @, with which you’ve unlocked: New York Times (and NYT Games) access, college student discounts, scholarly publications, and the ability to receive and send emails with slightly better response rates. It’s a blessing and a curse (every day I get emails), and you decide how to wield it.
There are resources and support to help you through this process — approach with grace and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by a class or instructor. Try something you have no prior experience with. Hidden gems are abound, and what is this liberal arts education for if not to let you explore?
Image Source: Ellen Wang ’25