BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published September 9, 2012
"Syllabus Week" isn’t exactly a walk in the park, though its name might suggest otherwise. Instead, it’s a week spent trying to register for the maximum number of credit hours without time conflicts and sending frantic e-mails to professors begging for overrides. However, on the East Coast, schools including Harvard University, Pennsylvania State University and Brown University are “shopping” for classes. Unfortunately, the adding and dropping process at the University of Michigan often locks students into classes without allowing them to familiarize themselves with the course materials or class structure — despite increasingly better course descriptions. The University should implement a “shopping period” at the beginning of the fall semester, not only to alleviate unnecessary stress and textbook purchases, but to further promote academic ambition.
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At the University of Michigan, returning students register for classes in the spring, and incoming freshmen register at their orientation sessions during the summer or early fall. Students may register for 12 to 18 credit hours at normal student rates and are permitted to add or drop courses for two weeks after the first day of classes. However, students at some universities spend the first weeks of school in a “shopping period” and attend any and all classes that interest them. Students then go through the normal registration after “shopping” for their favorite professors, topics and class structures.
The term “course shopping” has a connotation that promotes exploration and experimentation. This policy gives students the time and opportunity to discover what interests them without restrictions. Students can step out of their comfort zones and see if something unexpected interests them.
As many freshmen and undecided students sift through hundreds of courses and a difficult-to-navigate registration process, many are understandably overwhelmed. Deciding on a life path is a stressful process, and the finality of pre-registration makes it that much more nerve-wracking. A shopping period would allow unsure students to get a better feel for what they do and do not like, which would lead to less "buyer’s remorse," especially considering the price of textbooks and other class materials.
If students had the opportunity to shop for classes, the instructors would have a greater incentive to make class introductions interesting and competitive. This would deter instructors from the typical introductory classes, filled with syllabi and review. Instead, students would get a feel for the material right away and be able to quickly determine their interest level. The scramble to find the best professor before registering wouldn’t be as important and students could enroll in the most appealing class.
Implementing a shopping week at the University is beneficial for students in several ways. It promotes exploring new subjects and branching out of comfort zones without negative repercussions. Freshmen and undecided undergraduates would especially benefit from this policy, and all students would benefit as teachers would be more inclined to make course material interesting. Ultimately, a shopping week at the University would allow students to truly enjoy the classes they’ve chosen, instead of wasting time and money on subjects that only seemed interesting in the course guide.