Navigating Shopping Period
One of the aspects of college life that most stands out in comparison to my high school experience is how many choices I have. This is true in nearly every aspect of my life at Barnard, but I especially notice it academically. Not only did I have the freedom to choose my major from dozens of options, but on a smaller scale I get to choose, every single semester, what I want my academic experience to be. I love the freedom I get in college—being able to actively choose what classes I take makes it much more likely that I’ll enjoy them. But the magnitude of the choices available can be daunting at first. When the choice is yours, the thought of making the wrong decision and getting stuck in class that you don’t love for the whole semester seems much more disencouraging. Luckily, Barnard and Columbia have a shopping period in place to make the process run smoothly for everyone.
In essence, “shopping period” refers to the first two weeks of classes, when every student can add and drop classes at their leisure. This is a wonderful system, because it means that instead of just reading course descriptions and professor reviews and hoping for the best, you can actually go to classes and see if they’re a good fit for you before you commit to them. If there are two classes you’re interested in that meet at the same time, you can go to both and see which you prefer. If you aren’t really sure about a class but still want to try it, you can shop it without worrying about committing to something you don’t love.
Everyone at Barnard and Columbia knows about shopping period, but not everyone takes advantage of it. In my first couple of semesters, I got caught up in the idea that once I went to a class, I was mentally committed to it regardless of whether or not I liked it, and that if I missed the first meeting of a class, I would be too far behind to take it. Both of these ideas were misconceptions. In reality, once I started making use of shopping period, it became a really important factor in how I structured each semester. This past semester, I switched around almost all my classes during shopping period, and I ended up much happier with my schedule than I would have been otherwise.
In short, shopping period is an amazing resource at Barnard that can have a hugely positive impact on your academic experience. My life got a lot easier once I started utilizing it, and it’s a great resource to know about going into college!