Questions to Ask Your Professors During Zoom Shopping Week

By Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Ah yes, shopping week. Here we are again for the never-ending chaos of popping in and out of classes, dreaming of getting into too many lotteried courses, and frantically searching for that last gem we need to complete our schedules. Now, add the bonus challenge of it being entirely online! Especially with many professors holding vague info sessions and office hours, it’s time to brush up on those ~social skills~ so you can really get all the tea you’ll need on their classes (and even more importantly, make sure that they do actually care about you!).

If they taught a class last semester: “How did you adapt your course for the new virtual circumstances?”

Let’s be real — the second half of last semester was a bit of a dumpster fire for all of us, professors included. It’s important to have some patience with your professors, since they were likely adapting to this new situation as well, but it’s also good to know whether they were understanding with students during such a big period of adjustment. Did they adapt assignments? Were they flexible with class attendance? Were they more understanding with grading? If they answer “no” to all of these, it might be the time to go check out another class. Your future self will probably thank you!

If you’re international or in a distant time zone: “What are your plans for keeping asynchronous students connected to the course material and staff?”

Straight off the bat, make sure to check out the class’s Canvas site to see if it actually allows asynchronous students (after all, you don’t want to get stuck taking PSY 1015: Psychology of Sleep at 3:00 a.m.). Once you’ve confirmed that you can actually enroll in the class, now’s the time to see if the professor is going the extra mile to make sure you can stay engaged with the course. Maybe they’re creating study groups within each student’s time zone, making a Slack channel with students and TFs, or offering extra flexibility for group projects — no one wants to be teaching themselves right now, and plans like these can make sure you don’t have to.

If the course is capped: “Is the enrollment process conducted through a lottery, an application, or some other process? Are there certain priorities by grade or concentration?”

Their Canvas site may not be fully updated quite yet, so this is a great question to ask before you get your hopes up on that class that seems way too good to be true. Knowing what the enrollment process will be like can help give you an idea of your chances for actually taking that class with a 15-person cap, especially if you’re a freshman or are trying to branch out to classes outside your concentration. Don’t forget to put those deadlines in your calendar (and, worse comes to worst, be ready to beg via Zoom for a spot in the class)!

If you just need a vibe check... “What’s your Hogwarts House?/What’s your star sign?/What kind of bender from Avatar are you?”

Shopping week is basically a week-long vibe check, but it can be a bit harder to get a feel for what a professor is ~really~ like over a Zoom call. Why not get straight to the point with some of these questions? Even better: Try sending over your favorite Buzzfeed quizzes in the chat and check out their results. After all, do you really want to take a class with a professor who doesn’t know what Disney character they are based on their favorite breakfast foods?

While this Shopping week may look different, it’s still a great chance to check out some new courses, meet professors, and hopefully find those next Zoom crushes to pin on your screen during class. Online office hours might be a bit intimidating at first — especially if you’re just looking to learn more about a professor’s teaching style or see who else will be taking the class — but this can also be a great opportunity to ask whatever questions you have without the pressure of 100 other people in the lecture hall listening to you too.

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