Shopping Through Life

graphic by Julia Hedges

Shopping Period blows. Getting two weeks to explore different classes is an obscene luxury that instills an unproductive false confidence. Shopping Period only extends an initial period of uncertainty. We still have no way of really knowing how things will turn out. Shopping Period leads us to believe that we know what is interesting and what is not, which professors are good and which are not. It reinforces a confidence in our own beliefs that runs contrary to the purpose of higher education. One of the primary objectives of pursuing higher education is to develop doubt in your convictions, to question your ideas and principles in a persistent quest for truth. We will inevitably start each class with a base set of assumptions. The most valuable skill that we cultivate is learning to challenge those assumptions and adapt to the changes that will inevitably come about. When we commit ourselves to a set of classes, we are committing to embrace uncertainty and roll with the punches. It is an exercise in living a life that will always be filled with uncertainty. In the end, college should really be training us to thrive in uncertainty.

The whole purpose of allowing students to explore classes to let them experiment with their various interests and test the waters in classes they’re uncertain about. It is based on the idea that students’ preferences are not fully developed. Yet, at the end of Shopping Period we are still asked to make a decision. We cut out the classes we found to be boring or excessively difficult, and keep the ones we found to be exciting, engaging, or required to graduate. Yet, we picked those classes based on the same half-formed interests and hazy preferences that led Yale to create Shopping Period. Shopping Period might provide a little bit more information about classes, but it does not improve our ability to process that information. In the long run, we’re often schooled: the classes we thought were exciting actually suck and classes we thought were a drag are actually incredibly interesting.

Shopping Period in college is unnecessary and ineffective. After years of simply taking the high school classes you were required to and learning to deal with it, you suddenly get to pick and choose, reassured that you know what you’re doing. But you don’t. You have no idea. And deep down, you know you have no idea, which is why you hate Shopping Period as much as you might also love it. Shopping Period is a failed attempt to solve an unsolvable problem. And in reality, that problem is not really a problem at all. It’s just how things are. At some point, you just have to commit to decisions knowing that they might be bad ones. You can’t know how things will turn out, whether a certain class, job, or person will be a perfect fit. The only thing you know is that whatever happens, you’ll have to learn to deal with it.