When I was applying, I dedicated my “Why Yale” essay to one of the fabulous features that Yale championed in its brochures and tours: shopping period. During shopping period, students could indulge in their curiosities and passions by sampling a wide range of courses that Yale had to offer. It encapsulated the spirit of “And,” the word that defines what Yale was, is and will be, so help me Handsome Dan. That was its noble intention.
But, in practice, shopping period often felt like a hectic scramble for students and a logistical nightmare for administrators and professors. There was too much confusion with students signing up for more than ten courses and sporadically coming in and out of classrooms. Registration lists could never be finalized, and it wasn’t until shopping period was over that professors had an idea as to who would remain in their courses. Add to that the amount of homework that inevitably piled up as students had to figure out which assignments they had to prioritize for each class that they registered for.
That’s why shopping period had to die.
At least that’s what I’m told. As a junior who “explored” classes for the first time through Zoom, I never had the chance to fully experience Yale’s shopping period before it passed. But I didn’t need to fret. No. From shopping period’s grave arose its cooler, more “effective” counterpart: early registration. Want to register for classes? Better do it during break or, better yet, finals season. Don’t spend too long browsing the thousands of courses available: those lecture and section spots will fill up quickly.
In the past, early registration during the semester felt brief. It was inconveniently timed, but it lasted for a week. By 5 p.m., you had to have a list of classes that you thought you might want to take. And if you didn’t register for more than three courses by that time, then you get a $50 fee. — which makes me wonder what exactly administrators would do with an extra $50 in their big Yale-blue pockets.
But last semester’s early registration period felt prolonged. Spots filled long before the period ended after Thanksgiving. I thought that I had time to register, that there would still be availability after I had finished digesting my turkey, stuffing, plantains and yuca. Instead, I was scrambling to find courses with open seats on the last day of early registration.
Its second round this month should have assuaged the “unnecessary complexity” that is associated with the process. But it only dragged on the stress. It’s not a revelation that students and faculty have been frustrated with early registration. It has been documented in articles, it can be heard in dining hall conversations, and I have seen students switching between CourseTable and Yale Course Search on their laptops, browsing endlessly for open classes. I could write about early registration’s issues and what I believe should be the ultimate solution, but I’m not sure what other options there are. What I do know is that compared to the exploratory spirit that shopping period seemed to promote (at least from an outsider’s perspective), early registration seems to invoke the opposite. It demands that you know what you want to pursue. Forget “And” — it’s either/or.
If I had the chance to rewrite my “Why Yale” essay, I know for sure that I wouldn’t have written about early registration. I probably would have written about how nuanced Yale is: how awesome it is to attend a school with a vast amount of resources and how fantastic it is to get into unproductive and unnecessary competition with fellow students just to access them. If that’s the way that Yale is going to operate, say that.
I’ve got to give it to Yale’s brochure writers though: “With more than 1,000 courses offered each semester, selecting just four or five is a challenge.” They’re right — it’s more of a challenge that any one of us could have ever expected. The best advice I could give to upcoming classes? Have your list of classes on hand and get your alarms ready. Because class registration starts months before you even step foot on campus.
ISA DOMINGUEZ is a junior in Timothy Dwight College. Her column, “Classroom Banter,” analyzes student life and campus culture. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.