Barely three weeks into the semester,
students are just around the corner from the official drop/add
deadline. The deadline, Monday, is the last day students can change
their schedules or elect to take classes pass/fail. Each semester,
this date rapidly sneaks up on students, leaving them frustrated
and unable to sample the vast array of courses offered by the
University. When selecting classes, students consider several
factors: when it meets, which professor teaches the course, how the
professor grades, what the syllabus looks like and perhaps most
importantly, the extent to which the student enjoys the class. With
few assigned readings, about half-a-dozen lectures, and virtually
no graded assignments by this point in the term, students do not
have a well-defined notion of a course’s difficulty and
workload. Forcing students to finalize their schedules a mere three
weeks into the semester renders it difficult to successfully select
the correct courses.

Kate Green

Throughout the first few weeks of a new term, students generally
like to investigate a wide variety of courses, as spaces
continually open and close. Students are already restricted by the
number of classes for which they can register per term, so an early
drop/add deadline only intensifies the task of selecting an
agreeable and desired schedule. The University administration
believes that a later drop/add deadline would make it too difficult
for students to compensate for any missed work. However, it is
unlikely that a student would add a class so late without having
attending it in the past. Nonetheless, the reason for adding a
class late is irrelevant; it is the choice of that student and
should be left to that student, not the University.

While the University claims that a later add deadline becomes
problematic, it should at least be open to extending the drop and
pass/fail deadlines. Commonly, students wish to drop a course late
in the semester because of disappointing grades on a paper or exam.
However, students who wish to relieve themselves of an
unsatisfactory grade, minimizing damage to their grade point
average, are denied the opportunity to not only drop the course,
but also to take the class pass/fail. By having the option of
changing a course to pass/fail later in the term, students are more
likely to register for difficult and interesting classes.
Unfortunately, with the deadline so early in the term, students
have few graded assignments to help guide their decisions. By the
time the first papers and exams are returned for a new class, it is
too late: Students can neither drop the course without receiving a
“W,” nor take the class pass/fail.

If the University remains unwilling to consider postponing these
deadlines, it could consider a “shopping” period that
allows students to probe their academic possibilities during the
first week of the term before making a final decision. During this
period, professors would hold simulated classes, and students could
freely examine any class they are interested in before schedules
are set at the end of the week. This intriguing proposal has been
implemented at many elite institutions across the nation, and the
University administration should investigate it further.

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