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Editorial: A perspective on shopping period

Shopping period is one aspect of Brown’s liberal arts model that can feel like both a blessing and a curse. While shopping gives us the option to sample many different classes and commit to schedules from an informed perspective, it can also be intimidating. Professors begin assigning work immediately; for students with 12 courses in their carts, it can be hard to keep up with all the work and decide which classes to prioritize until selecting the ones they will ultimately take.

As students reunite after break and small talk inevitably turns to shopping and course loads, listening to friends who already know exactly which four classes they are going to take, or friends who are sampling a well-rounded many can make us feel as though we are somehow doing shopping “wrong.” The good news is — as no two students are alike — there is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping and therefore no “wrong” way to do it.

Many students feel pressure to fully “take advantage of” Brown’s unique New Curriculum and other qualities that it shares with a select number of liberal arts schools, including shopping period. Shopping period is, after all, one of Brown’s most touted attributes during tours and information sessions. Being able to attend classes for the first few weeks without committing to them allows students to end up with a schedule full of classes with professors and course materials they find engaging. Reading the Critical Review can only go so far in giving students an impression of how courses will actually be. As each student will respond to different professors and courses differently, the only way to really know if a class is a good fit is to sample it.

But just because shopping constitutes an opportunity that some students find helpful does not mean that others should feel pressure to pad their carts with extra classes if they feel stressed rather than excited by the prospect of attending all of them. Students who feel envious of their friends at other colleges who know their schedules and can begin buying textbooks before the semester even starts should go ahead and select four or five classes and treat the first day of shopping period like it is the first day of classes at any other university. Committing to classes without trying them first is a gamble, but for students who crave stability and security in their schedules from the first day of the semester it can be worth it.

Shopping period is a great resource for students who want to take advantage of it, but it should not be a source of stress for anyone. It is meant to help students build schedules that excite us and help us find passion in our learning. When it becomes a source of stress, it fails to do that. It is up to each student to decide whether shopping classes helps or hinders her efforts to construct an ideal schedule and act accordingly.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Emma Axelrod ’18 and Emma Jerzyk ’17, and its members, Eben Blake ’17, Aranshi Kumar ’16.5 and Leeron Lempel ’19. Send comments to



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