HESS: U.Va. should institute a shopping week for classes

The course selection process often becomes too daunting for students to take new and interesting courses.

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Instituting a shopping week would help students explore different areas of study more confidently.

Alex Partridge | Cavalier Daily

A week ago, I thought I wanted to continue studying Economics and potentially even double major in the field. I was enrolled in Introduction to Statistical Analysis, Survey of Calculus II and Principles of Macroeconomics in order to accomplish this goal. While I have never really considered myself a STEM person, I thought this is what I wanted to do. That all soon changed after the first week of classes. I found out I had to code in statistics, something that does not interest me at all, and, most importantly, I discovered that I do not truly have a passion for economics and would not enjoy studying it for the next three years.

As soon as I realized all of this, I began to scramble to change my schedule to courses that interest me. By this time, many of the courses that caught my eye in the spring were already full, and I was scared that I might switch into something that disinterested me even more. Four years may seem like an eternity to some, but that only translates to about 40 courses total. With curriculum and major requirements, this makes the opportunity to take courses that might shape passions and change life paths even slimmer.

Instituting a shopping week for classes during the first week of each semester could alleviate the stress and uncertainty of the course selection process here at the University. This would allow students to attend as many courses as they would like during the first week of classes, with the actual course selection process occurring the following weekend, with the fourth-years still receiving priority, and then third-years and so on. While some seminars may not qualify, since there is such limited space and high demand, the overall effect would allow students to feel more comfortable and confident in the courses that they enroll in. 

For someone who is indecisive, this would allow for a peace of mind when enrolling in a course. People may go through college not discovering something that draws their attention or miss a class that might help them learn something about themselves. A shopping week could allow for more creativity and academic roundness in students. A liberal arts foundation is important for all students, but it should present opportunities for students to try something new rather than sticking with what they are comfortable with. This exploration can be boosted by instituting a shopping period that will undoubtedly encourage students to do just that.  

Some schools already have this system implemented. Two examples of schools that already have a system like this in place are Harvard and Yale. While student testimony does show that classes are very full during this period, students still prefer it over the alternative. According to the Harvard admissions blog, a former student here at the University said “U.Va. was a challenge because you have to pick your classes months ahead of time, and there’s very little feedback or a good way to evaluate the classes you choose.” While this one single student may not be representative of the entire University, it does give some merit to the idea that this is a much less stressful system for students. A shopping week clearly would not tell students what the entire semester would feel like for a course, but it would allow for students to at least get a general feel for the content and structure of the class. 

Some may say Harvard and Yale are elitist institutions and that following in their footsteps will only increase the sense of elitism here at the University, but this is not a prestigious system — it is one that would help students explore different areas of study more confidently. While classes may fill up quickly, students would not be required to attend both lectures that week, instead professors could go through the same material on both days that week. While this may be a pipe dream for an indecisive soul, the possibility of a shopping week could allow for happier students and professors, since the students in their classes would be more likely to end up enjoying the course.

Hunter Hess is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at opinion@cavalierdaily.com

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