How To: Get Ready for Virtual Shopping Week

By Madeline R. Dorroh

Shopping week — five days of excitement for new classes, vigor from a restful summer break, and nervousness from the overwhelming course catalog. This is the first time that shopping week will be held online before the start of the semester, so here are a few tips from Flyby to make the most out of it. Extra points if you proudly wear your pajamas and eat breakfast in front of the entire class!

Set up your shopping week schedule on Harvard’s Coursicle website.

During a typical semester, shopping for more than six or seven classes may have been challenging and stressful to get from place to place (not to mention entering several lotteries, finalizing your four choices, starting your psets, etc). However, now you can dip in and out of different Zoom links without ever getting up from your chair (or your bed). Oh, the joy of not sitting on the floor at the back of an overcrowded lecture hall!

Coursicle is incredibly convenient to use. All you have to do is enter the classes you’re interested in and your schedule is automatically created. Take advantage of the opportunity to be able to move from one class to another without having a hundred students, six TFs, and a vaguely disgruntled professor looking back at you as you walk into lecture 20 minutes late. Add 10, 12, 14 classes to your list! Coursicle is your oyster.

Check which requirements you need to fulfill on my.harvard.

If you’re an incoming freshman, you don’t need to worry too much about fulfilling GenEds with the many semesters ahead of you, but if you’re an upperclassman, you may be interested in crossing one or two off of your list. Although requirements may be getting stricter each year, there’s no denying that many GenEd classes offered are still fascinating and world-class. Looking for an Ethics and Civics class? Consider shopping “GENED 1150: Medicine and Conflict: The History and Ethics of Healing in Political Turmoil.” Need to fulfill your foreign language requirement? Brush up on the one you learned in high school or start a completely new one. American Sign Language has been gaining popularity, so give it a shot!

Email your concentration advisor asking what classes they recommend.

Not only have professors been working hard to make classes more adaptable, but a few concentration departments have also created brand new courses that are meant to be taught virtually. For instance, before your arachnophobia stops you from taking the new OEB 112: Arthropod Biology: “Arachnids and Myriapods, Their Biology and Evolution,” think of it this way — this is actually the best semester to take a class like this because you won’t ever have to see one of their gangly creatures in person. At the very least, reach out to your advisor and hear the advice they have to offer. Chances are, they’re nowhere near as scary as a spider.

Talk to your friends about the classes they’re shopping.

Don’t enroll in a class just because your roommates want you to (we’ve learned the hard way), but listen to what interesting classes they’ve taken note of from Harvard’s enormous course catalog. Maybe you’re a STEM concentrator and haven’t considered a humanities course yet, but now that your friend mentioned adding English 90RJ: “Race and Jurisprudence” to their schedule, you’re willing to check it out too. While you’re putting together a list of courses to shop, ask around for recommendations on what classes people have enjoyed in the past as well.

Take a deep breath!

This year’s shopping week is completely new for every student and every teaching team. It can be overwhelming, but remember that we’re all in the same boat and plus, you have a few weeks before finalizing your schedule. Lend a helping hand to a professor figuring out breakout rooms and participate when you can to make a class conducive to discussion. We're all still figuring it out!

Though an online shopping week may not be what you had hoped for, there are many advantages of exploring new classes from the comfort of your room. Shop ’til you drop has taken on a whole new meaning.

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