By: Bina Patel

It's time to implement a course shopping week

I think most undergraduates have, at some point, taken a course as an elective or possible major, only to regret it later. It’s very common for students to change their minds about their major during their undergraduate career.

So, many people have to retake the first year courses of a major in their second year of university. But often, students don’t even allow themselves to consider the option because of its implications: the extra time, effort, money, and maybe even adding a fifth year to the expected four. There is nothing wrong with taking an extra year or two, but I think I’m speaking for the majority when I say that if I were given the opportunity to re-do first year and really think about what academic path I wanted to pursue, I would most definitely take it.

The fault doesn’t fall on one party. Even though it is the students who are picking their courses, they cannot be held accountable for not being passionate enough about a subject, or for not having mapped out an exact academic plan at the age of 18.

We have found ways to relieve stress by implementing Reading Week, to reduce waste through Mac Green, and make a significant difference for an important cause through Shinerama. But now, especially at a time of immense financial struggle for many students, I think there needs to be a tweak in the system regarding the way in which we go about choosing our courses (don't worry, it doesn't involve SOLAR).

It's called “shopping week,”and currently only a few academic institutions have implemented it. I came across this in a news article in the Harvard Gazette, describing its success among students.

At the beginning of each term, one to two weeks are dedicated to students popping in and out of lectures and seminars which describe the nature and outline of the course. Based on what they find interesting, they can register in the course at the end of the shopping period.

Technically, we can still drop courses at McMaster in the first week or so (without academic and/or financial penalties), and then register in another that we think might ignite our interest to a greater extent. But this is not the same as having time to make an informed decision before officially committing to a course.

Someone may enjoy Ancient Roman Architecture more than Cultural Geography, or Religious Studies more than Introductory Psychology—we should encourage students to explore different subjects. Simply put, we should implement our own “shopping week,” because like the countless initiatives McMaster has taken on, it's another way to improve the student experience.

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