September 19, 2013
As a first-year fresh off the college tour, I have heard from many colleges about their different versions of the add/drop period.
While some schools have a “shopping period” during which time students are encouraged to sit in on multiple classes before committing to one, Hamilton does not offer this option. Would this addition be helpful? Maybe. The open curriculum can be overwhelming to students who have no idea which direction to take without the guidance of distribution requirements.
In this case, the “shopping” period would allow students to “taste” different subjects which they are interested in but unfamiliar with, without fully committing. In this case, the issue becomes whether or not their experiences as they “shop” for classes would persuade or dissuade students to take certain classes. However, let’s take a step back.
If the purpose of a shopping period is to persuade students to “step out of their comfort zone,” then why is it that important? And would the shopping period in fact accomplish this goal?
From what I’ve learned on my extensive college tour, it is those crazy, out-of-left-field classes that have the greatest effect on most students’ college experiences.
These courses often shed light on areas of study with which students are unaquainted, introduce Hamiltonians to professors they probably never would have met otherwise and sometimes rank among students’ favorite classes they’ve taken on the Hill, come senior year.
If that’s the goal, to place students in courses they might not have chosen independently, will the addition of a shopping period help achieve it?
The way I see it, the open curriculum at Hamilton generally attracts two kinds of students: those who want to take courses in a variety of fields and those who want to take courses all in one general area of study. The former come to Hamilton already encouraged to take lots of different classes, and therefore do not need the gentle push of the shopping period to try something new.
The latter come to Hamilton determined to avoid that class they never want to take again, in which case the shopping period would not be the opportunity to change their mind.
For these reasons, I expect that a shopping period would have little effect on the way students select courses. However, I also believe that learning is as much about finding a comfort zone as it is getting out of that comfort zone. Therefore, the implemention of a trial shopping period might be a consideration for the Registrar to make in future academic years.