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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping period: A cursed blessing?

Shopping for classes: The more time you spend, the more you’ve lost

Published: February 1, 2008
Section: Features

02010806.jpgShopping period gives students the opportunity to try out, or “shop,” various classes before deciding which ones to actually take.

It’s an invaluable tool for weeding out the weaker professors, the classes that don’t cover what the syllabi say they do, and for finding out whether you are actually capable of waking up for an 8:10 class the way you said you could.

I hate it. Except for my first semester here, as a freshman, each shopping period has brought about an intense time for me, during which I take between 7-10 classes and by the end of the shopping period I may or may not have figured out which classes are the best.

Last week I spent approximately thirty hours sitting in a classroom, trying to gauge whether or not the online course evaluations were right, trying to rank courses in order of preference.

Call me an idiot, but if I’m spending $40,000 plus per year for education each course better be damn captivating. As it turned out, a couple of the classes I had planned on taking turned out to be duds, so my choice was wise. But was it worth all the trouble, all the added hours and stress?

“Absolutely not,” said Jordan Rothman, ‘09. “I don’t care if a class is bad, I just deal with it. I’ve never swapped once classes have started…most of my classes are about scheduling so I can’t do anything about it anyway.”

When asked about the risks of being stuck in an unsatisfying class, Rothman responded “it’s not like you are going to a theatrical performance. It’s class.”

He added, “[shopping] is like doing driver’s ed multiple times. I don’t even know why I would want to shop, it’s like choosing between Nutrasweet and Sweet N’ Low.”

Sarah Mulhern ‘08 took a more moderate approach. “I usually sign up for five classes with the intention of taking four. I don’t like to miss the first class or to take like twelve classes the first week of the semester.”

Mulhern used to have a policy similar to Rothman’s, until it got her in trouble. “I used to not want to shop but then I got stuck in a bad class…shopping period is a good thing to have.”

Mulhern’s method of narrowing classes down is to take classes with professors she knows or who have received rave reviews from friends. “Over the past four years I’ve gotten stuck in a few bad classes. My USEM was one of them, but you can’t shop yourself out of that.”

Am I really the only one who takes shopping period so seriously, so literally?

So many people have double majors, minors, etc. that they have already figured out their schedule of classes through graduation by the end of Sophomore year.

For them, having a shopping period hardly seems relevant, as the courses they take are contingent very little upon the professor or, in some cases, interest, if a major requires courses that are less than pleasant.

Does anyone truly rely entirely on the shopping period to pick classes? It can’t be an entirely bogus method.

“If you take the courses that you are interested in, eventually your major will come naturally,” said Daniel Wengrovitz ‘10.

“I knew going in [to shopping period] a list of courses that I wanted to take,” noted Wengrovitz.

“The issue was just narrowing that list down to the maximum number of courses that I can handle in one semester,” he said.

If you have to take a dud class for a major, at least make sure some of the classes are fun.

“I knew the first four classes that I was going to take for my major,” explained Harry Wolff ‘10 “But I wanted to take a fifth course that just interested me, so I shopped around.”

Editor’s Note: Jordan Rothman is a Hoot editor.