FAQ for Student Registration Lotteries

Student registration for some of ESP's programs (Splash, Spark and HSSP) uses a two-phase system. First, students select their class preferences and are assigned to classes through a lottery process. In the second phase, after the lottery results have come out, students can view classes that still have open slots and modify their schedule accordingly.


Q: How do I register?
A: Initially, you can sign up for classes in our two-step lottery system. On the first page, star any class you find interesting! You may star as many classes as you would like, and we recommend starring all the classes you would be interested in taking, since many classes are oversubscribed. Then, on the second page, select up to three classes as priority classes. The lottery will place you into as many of the classes you mark as priority/interested as possible. After the lottery results come out, you may view classes that still have open spots and add, remove, or change classes in your schedule accordingly.

Q: Can I register if I miss the lottery deadline?
A: Yes, although you will only be able to sign up for classes that still have open slots. Many of the most popular classes will be taken, so entering the class lottery is the best way to get your top-choice classes.

Q: How does the lottery work?
A: The lottery attempts to get everyone into as many priority classes as possible. We estimate that most people will get into about a third of their priority classes. From there, the lottery fills in everyone’s schedules with other classes that they have starred.

Q: Why is there a lottery system?
A: Our programs have large numbers of students and we have settled on the lottery as a fair way to ensure that everyone gets into as many of their preferred classes as possible.

Q: How many classes per time block should I star?
A: This system does not guarantee that you will get a class in each time block. The more classes that you star, the better chance you have of getting into a class in that time block. We recommend you have five to ten classes selected per time block.

Q: Do I have to pick a first-, second- and third-choice class in every hour? What if these classes conflict?
A: No, you don't have to rank classes for every time block, although it's usually a good idea. If your first-choice classes overlap, we'll only give you one of them at best.

Q: Can I change my classes after the lottery closes?
A: Absolutely! The second phase of registration, first-come-first-served registration, allows you to add and drop classes (but please note that the registration system will be offline while we run the lottery).

Q: What if I don’t get into any classes during a time block?
A: During the second phase of registration, first-come-first-served registration, you will be able to switch into any classes with open slots. For Spark and Splash, you can always go to a Walk-In Activity without registering for it; check the program's information page to find out where and when Walk-In Activities are. (For information on walk-ins at Splash, see this page. For information on walk-ins at Spark, see this page.) For HSSP, you can go to lecture series classes, which consists of STEM, HASS, and miscellaneous.

Q: What if I don’t get into a class with my friends?
A: During the second phase of registration, class changes, you can switch into any class that has openings. At this point, you could switch into a friend’s class if there is room.

Q: What if I REALLY want to take a particular class?
A: Designating a class as a priority class will put you into a lottery with everyone else who makes that class a priority class. We're sorry if you don’t get into a class that you really wanted; some popular classes don’t have room for everyone. Luckily, there are plenty of other awesome classes. Also, by not getting into one priority class, you have a better chance of getting into the other priority classes that you have selected.

Q: Can I register for a class for a different grade level?
A: Email esp@mit.edu before the end of the lottery period and we will evaluate your situation.

Disclaimer: We DO NOT GUARANTEE that you will get into all of your priority classes. You could get into some, or none. We don't even guarantee that you'll get into any classes at all. However, the lottery algorithm attempts to optimize for all of our students' happiness, so following the instructions above will maximize your chances of getting a great schedule (even if you do end up with some second- and third-choice classes).

The takeaway: Be open to taking classes you normally wouldn't have wanted to take! There are lots of cool classes - don't have your heart set on any one, as you can always find something interesting.

Last modified on June 04, 2022 at 06:03 p.m.