top of page

taking courses at risd

One of the many amazing parts of being a Brown student is your ability to take classes at the world class design school that’s right next door-- RISD! But how exactly do you go about taking a class? If you’re utterly lost, fear not! We’re here to lead you through the process.


It’s amazing that we have the opportunity to take world-renowned design classes just down the hill. It's important to know though that RISD has a different schedule than Brown with three trimesters (Fall, Winter, and Spring) that start/end on different days then Brown. This also means that some holidays and breaks do not match up. RISD classes themselves are usually one 5 hour class per week (ex: Thursday 8am-1pm) so it can be difficult to find a time slot big enough to fit them. However, if you can figure out the scheduling they’re so worth it!


At its core, the process for getting into a RISD class is as follows:

  1. Look online to identify a class (or multiple classes) you wish to take.

  2. Email the professor’s of each class asking if they will put you on their waitlist.

  3. Attend the first class meeting and hope you get in!


In more depth, this is exactly how to get into a class.


Whether you’re dead set on taking an advanced glass blowing class or have no idea what type of class you want to take, the first step is to explore RISD’s website and course offerings. This site is where you’ll find a list of departments whose classes you can choose from. Note that Brown students are encouraged to take studio classes, but if you would like to take a non-studio class (liberal arts courses at RISD) you will need to write a petition to Brown’s Committee on Academic Standing. Most courses offered at RISD are studios so you don’t need to worry about this but if you have any questions or need help with a petition, stop by D@B office hours and we’re happy to help!

Screen Shot 2018-07-15 at 10.15.32

a note on departments at risd

All departments at RISD have different sizes, cultures, and faculty. This means that certain department’s classes will be harder to get into than others. The Industrial Design department, Architecture department, and Graphic Design department have some of the largest number of students and are notoriously hard for Brown students to take the classes in since RISD students get priority. That being said, don’t be discouraged from trying! Just because it’s harder doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and if you’re persistent about emailing professors and showing up on the first day of class then there’s a good possibility of getting in.


Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the different departments at RISD, it’s time for the fun part - choosing classes!


When looking for classes for a specific semester, it’s good to look for at least 4 that are of interest to you. Getting into RISD classes isn’t straightforward and the more professors you ask and classes you’re interested in the better chances you’ll have. Finding classes at RISD can be very difficult, especially when you don’t know where to look. Here are the three resources you’ll need to find what you want.

risd course catalog

The first place to look for RISD classes is in the RISD course catalog. The catalog can be found by a quick search online. Here is the link to the current and past course catalogs.




The course catalog is a pdf document organized by department (Apparel Design, Ceramics, Industrial Design, etc.). It has all the classes and information on courses that RISD students could want - however this also means it is very long. In it there is a lot of information for degree requirements that aren’t useful to Brown students. To navigate it with as little hassle as possible, I recommend identifying the department you want to find a class in (ex: Graphic Design) and using Command F to find that section or searching for it in the Table of Contents at the beginning.

class materials cost
Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 8.28.58 PM.png

Once you’ve found the types of classes you want, start looking at the descriptions of the classes. Be aware however that some classes have prerequisites and aren’t always all semesters. Keep a list of the name/course code for the classes that you like or sound interesting--  you’ll use the other resources to look up when they are/what the professor’s email is


Another great feature of the course catalogue is that is has a whole section at the end which contains all the classes offered during Wintersession (one of the best opportunities Brown students have for taking RISD classes).

an aside on wintersession

Wintersession is one of RISD’s three trimesters which runs from January 3rd to February 14th. It is the time when RISD students are able to take classes outside their concentrations which means that there a lot of intro level courses available-- perfect for Brown students! Beware however, some of these classes can fill up quickly, especially the ones in popular departments.


As a Brown student, the process of getting into a RISD wintersession class is the same as classes in the fall/spring (find a class, email the professor, show up on the first day and hope for the best). This however can be scary since there is no guarantee of getting in and the classes start on January 3rd, well before the start of Brown’s spring semester. But don’t be worried- if you pick a few you are interested in, there is usually a spot open in one of the classes. The RISD course also counts as one of your spring semester classes, meaning you don’t have to pay extra for it! For housing, you can rent a room in grad center or in a friends apartment for those few weeks during January.


If you have questions about taking a Wintersession class, come to D@B’s office hours from 12pm-3pm in the ERC. We’ve taken wintersession classes before and can answer questions big or small!


Here are also two links to articles written about wintersession by other Brown students:

myRISD course search

The second place to look for RISD classes is on the MyRISD course search. This website is the easiest to maneuver of the three resources, however it is best used in conjunction with or after looking at the course catalogue because it gives you the time, professor, and availability of the classes.


To get to course search, first go to the MyRISD website. Then click on the “Learning” button.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 10.29.18

From this list, scroll down and click on “Course Catalogue Search.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 10.29.29

Here you’ll see a search for courses by their department. You can pick the department you’re looking for and then narrow the search with the categories on the right. When you find the classes you want you can click on them to see who the instructor is, the location of the class , and how many spots in the class are still available. Note that this number only changes once RISD students have pre-registered for their courses.

Screen Shot 2018-08-27 at 10.30.44
seats available

Once you have the name of the instructor, you can often find their emails on their pages on the RISD website. Or if you’re having trouble, you can find them on the last resource available- Webadvisor.


Unarguably the resource with the ugliest and most difficult interface, WebAdvisor is mostly good for finding instructor's emails although you can also see the number of students enrolled and the location of the class as well.


To get to WebAdvisor, click this link. Then click on “Guests and Prospective Students.”

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.13.06

Next click on "Search for Sections." Remember to select at least two filters (e.g. semester and department) to get an accurate search.

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.13.22
Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.18.50

Once you’ve found the class you’re looking for, you can click on the class to find its description, time/date/location, and the email of the professor teaching the class.

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.21.19
Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.21.41
professor contact

Use this address to email the professor about taking their class. Below is some advice on what to put in that email!

email the instructor

There’s one last step - email the instructor! This email doesn't have to be long or complicated, it just needs to introduce you to the instructor and show that you are interested in the class/get you on a waitlist if there is one. Here is an example email to a RISD instructor about taking their Wintersession class:

Screen Shot 2018-08-28 at 12.31.46

Don’t be worried if you don’t get a timely response. RISD professors are very busy and not very fast about emails. However, if you don’t hear back from them in two weeks, feel free to send a follow up email reminding them of your interest.

all set!

Now you have done all you can to prepare yourself to take a RISD course! Just make sure you show up on the first day of class and let the professor know who you are and that you emailed them. And (this is important) SIT THROUGH THE WHOLE CLASS! If the class looks full, sometimes the professor will tell you there won’t be a spot for you. Just ask them if you can stay till the end and see if anyone leaves. Usually this happens and - voila! You have a spot in the class!


We hope this guide to taking RISD classes has been helpful! If you still have questions, are confused about anything, or just want some advice on good RISD classes, come by our D@B office hours!

bottom of page