January 17th, 2013 | Cross Campus

Forum: Shopping Period

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Photo by Josh Satok.

With shopping period upon us, students are scrambling to assemble that perfect schedule of seminars, lectures and sections. In this edition of the News’ Forum, our contributors chronicle the ups and downs of this important Yale tradition.

Scott Stern, Staff Blogger | Sophomore in Branford College

Shopping period is stressful. As someone who is currently trying to weasel my way into two seminars and decide among four other lectures, I can attest to this. But it’s not just me. Pretty much everyone I’ve talked to has commented on the worry inherent in attending classes for two weeks without knowing whether you’ll actually take them.

But shopping period is one of Yale’s hottest selling points. To prefrosh (and to my friends at other schools), it sounds highly alluring. You can try a class, and if you don’t like it, you can just get up and leave! To people who would otherwise register months in advance and then have no way out of an annoying class, this sounds great.

Yet after enjoying and enduring four shopping periods, I agree that the institution needs to be reformed. The remedy, I believe, is quite simple.

If we were to make seminars exist strictly on a preregistration basis — with absolutely no way to get in after the fact (i.e. annoying emails, refusing to leave, bribery) — shopping period would be saved. Students would still have a week (or two, I don’t care) to “shop” lectures, but the stressful part would be eliminated.

Students would preregister for seminars by submitting an application stating, say, their first five choices in descending order. Upperclassmen in the major would get an advantage for junior or senior seminars, but everyone else would be chosen via lottery. Residential college seminars and English seminars would use lottery systems — as they do now — but with no wiggle room if the short straw is drawn. (The possible exception to this rule would be language seminars, for which I would suggest additional sections be opened up to satisfy all demand.)

My solution isn’t perfect. Some may say it’s unduly harsh, or that it misses the point. Sticking around in a seminar, hoping to find a way in, demonstrates true interest as well as stick-to-itiveness. But for every lucky soul chosen late in the game, several more get completely winnowed out — and their final schedule suffers as a result. During shopping period, choices must be made: If I miss the first two classes of a large lecture for a seminar I probably won’t get into, I may find myself hopelessly behind when that lecture becomes my only option.

The very concept of shopping period works phenomenally well for lectures. It would work better if seminars weren’t a part of the equation.

Jennifer Gersten, Contributor | Freshman in Saybrook College

Freshmen haven’t been at Yale long enough to use the word “always.” We don’t always screw up; we screwed up first semester — and there’s time to do something about it.

But it feels as though I’m still dancing the awkward shopping period dance I set ineptly for myself in the fall. Back then, I had 19 courses on my schedule, an agglomeration of hues on Yale Blue Book that put my Crayola box to shame. But just a few hours ago, I reluctantly eliminated course 20, “Neurolinguistics,” from Spring 2013, version five. That brings the number of overlapping courses during that time slot from a preposterous four to a totally manageable three. I should probably log off before I find a replacement, but it’s hard when every course seems like the one.

My parents couldn’t care less what I decide to be. Whether as a doctor, lawyer or burger flipper (and there are no other viable options, just so we’re clear), if I’m happy, they’re happy. And maybe that sounds wonderful, but it’s not. Picking a major is far too complicated without a rigid imperative from the Mr. and Mrs.

If you don’t know what it’s like having parents this tolerant, I guess I could come up with an analogy. It’s like being offered a kazillion courses, but someone says that you can only take a few, and two meet at the same time, and you need to apply to some, and there’s no QR for people who need to review their times tables — does anyone know what that’s like?

For now, it feels like the only “always” I’ll ever be is “lost.” To be honest, though, I can’t think of a nicer labyrinth in which to wander.