A group of changes are set to be enacted beginning in Fall 2014, including students submitting a preliminary course schedule prior to starting classes, and a 5-day schedule amendment period being added after schedules are due. The goal, it would seem, is to reduce stress.
Of all the stress and anxiety-inducing catalysts prone to come up in a given Yale semester (including, but certainly not limited to: midterms and finals, little-to-no sleep, breakups, seminars—and some lectures for that matter—fulfilling the QR and science requirements, getting into an a-cappella or improv. group, and, of course, breakups), shopping is undoubtedly one of the principle culprits.
My freshman year, I was enrolled in DS, which in theory meant that I could remain in blissful ignorance of shopping period. However, en route from OC to WHC, I inevitably bumped into someone-or-other who was shopping anywhere between 14 and 26 classes, leaving me (for the first but certainly not last time during the course of my college tenure), to feel that I was doing Yale all wrong.
That spring, I failed to take proper advantage of shopping week, and, in stubborn denial that Microeconomics might not really be my thing, signed up for it. I promptly dropped it three weeks in, which then meant I had to scramble to find a way to fulfill another “Skills” requirement over the summer. These weeks were some of the most terrifying of my life: I was certain Yale would kick me out.
As a senior, I now have six, almost seven, shopping periods under my belt, and I really can’t say that they get any better or easier.
The act of picking classes for an upcoming semester has without fail provoked existential crises for me, shopping period after shopping period. There was the semester that I rebelled from DS and took all writing and art classes. There was the semester I took calculus and bio, certain that I wanted to be a doctor. This shopping period, my first as a senior and my second to last, I’ve frequently caught myself in the midst of thinking “oh well, I’ll just take that next year,” only to come quite quickly to the re-realization that there will be no next year. More than ever before, I get completely wrapped up in the very scary feeling that my class choices will somehow define who I am.
And yet, I like the principle of “shopping.” I’ve always felt sort of proud when I explain it to people. To me, it’s a testament to the maturity, responsibility, and self-esteem that the university expects of its undergraduates. Maybe it’s presumptuous to think that 18-to-22-year olds can handle all that logistical stress and rejection during their first days back on campus. Still, I’m of the opinion that in the course of becoming an adult, it’s helpful to be treated like one.
So, in spite of the pretty terrible states of mind I get into during shopping period (regressing to my 16-year-old-self, being mad at everyone, thinking I’m a colossal failure), I can’t help but also feel like those states of mind were kind of beneficial. They led to the realization of some very important things about the way I operate—things that will be important when I get into the real world, I think.
Among the things I’ve learned: that I do well in a structured environment, that I like to be busy, that I like to know where I’m supposed to be at all times, and that I am happiest when I am decisive (but not when also impulsive and stubborn; see: the first time I tried to take microecon).
While I still think that shopping period is a great ten days for anyone in search of supreme masochism (I confess this applies to me sometimes), I also think that it’s an integral part of the academic culture of this school—and one with valuable personal lessons at that, So, if it does really change for good, I’ll be sad to see it go.