“Shopping Period.” The concept itself sounds pleasant enough — fun, even, when we read about it in the pamphlets from the Admissions Office or heard about it from our tour guides. “You mean I get to go to any class I want, and leave whenever I want, and choose whatever professor I want?” we think.
Then we receive our first Blue Books in the mail the summer before freshman year, and the excitement-disillusionment combo really begins. Prerequisites, distributional requirements and properties of space and time be damned, we are going to shop organic chemistry, “Grand Strategies” and a class with Harold Bloom (we’ve heard he’s brilliant!).
It turns out freshmen aren’t the only ones — even upperclassmen madly highlight and dog-ear their Blue Books — for Shopping Period brings out the window-shopper in all of us. “I want that, and that, and that, and oh! — that too.” Can you blame us? It all looks so good. At a place like Yale, it’s impossible not to feel the temptation to explore every subject we can. “Middle Eastern politics? Yes, I’ll take that. Ancient Greek art? I’ll have that as well. Victorian literature? Why not?”
Faced with all the choices, four or five credits suddenly seems like such a small amount to spend.
And now, midway through the shopping week, it’s getting harder for all of us. Picking out things to try on is always the easy part of shopping, whether in a store or in college.
When the first day of classes hit, we realized that, no matter how many ways we arranged and rearranged our iCals, we just couldn’t take “Major English Poets” because it conflicted with “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” It was like falling in love with a pair of pants only to realize that the store didn’t have them in the right size.
Reality thwarted our ideal schedules in other ways, too: The class on Dickens seemed so much less appealing when we started counting the pages of required reading and realized that there was a final essay. It was a feeling akin to approaching the cash register and realizing the things we wanted to buy actually cost money.
During shopping period, there is a need to balance our desire for a rigorous workload with the desire to spend our nights at Toad’s, to decipher the difference between “Introduction to Political Philosophy” and “Introduction: Political Philosophy” and to figure out when, exactly, we will get that QR.
So this might be shopping, but it’s no carefree trip to the mall. In fact, it’s more like an all-night stakeout before a sale — the line to petition for placement in English classes rendered Linsly-Chittenden Hall indistinguishable from a Wal-Mart on Black Friday (complete with lines beginning long before it opened). Competition for a seat in seminars has pitted Yalie against Yalie, each battling for the season’s must-have item. When a student drops out of a class, or arrives two minutes late, 20 others rush forward to seize the fallen’s spot. Left in their wake are their once-immaculate potential schedules, now cut, jumbled and glued back together.
Bartering hasn’t been out of the question, either. E-mails have been sent by the dozen: “Dear Professor _, Your class, simply put, is the reason I chose Yale. etc. etc. etc…” And then there are those trying to talk their way into a particular L3 Spanish section using what fragments of vocabulary they remember from the previous year: “Yo … nececisito … estar …”
It’s all part of the quest for the perfect schedule, the shoe that fits.
In a few days, it will all be over. Next week, we will have to know which classes we are taking and which we will have to live without. So, we’ll continue to enter the dressing room. Of course, when it’s time to travel home with our five or so purchases, we’ll know that we will love them — though we may need a few days to let the dust settle.