The “campus rose”: Navigating your academic shopping spree

Introducing Brown University’s “shopping period.”  A chance to make sure you, the student, sign up for classes that will expand your mind and challenge your core belief system.  A chance to find a class that grabs your attention and awakens your scholarly passion.  A chance to transition into school slowly.  An opportunity to go out every night and make acquaintances instead of acquainting yourself with the library.  A chance for upperclassmen to drop classes like Maritime Archaeology and others that stopped sounding fresh as soon as post-Spring Weekend sobriety set in.   While shopping period is a time of great freedom, it is also one of high stakes – your class schedule represents one-eighth of your college education.  To maximize your classroom satisfaction, mind these tips for crafting the perfect schedule, after the jump.

If you have a laptop, put it in your bag.  There is a 90% chance you will miscopy the room for one of your classes or forget what day it is.  The first day of classes is WEDNESDAY, not Monday.  When you realize that Introduction to Creative Nonfiction is actually Derivatives, good ole Mac/PC can get you back on track.

Making your perfect schedule also means creating balance between all of the classes.  Four heavy-reading classes will blow your eyes out, while heavily quantitative classes will have you in the library doing problem sets every night.  Make sure to include diversity in your curriculum so that you can handle your workload.

Are you sure you will be able to make class every day?  Do you think you will do all of the readings on the syllabus?  If you honestly think the answer is “no,” small classes (under 30 people) are not for you.  Will large, anonymous classes dissuade you from attending?  Then maybe Neuro1 and Econ11 should not be on your list (or maybe they should, just don’t tell your parents).

Look at the class syllabus – catchy titles don’t always equal catchy syllabi.  Brown professors have a knack for devising creative titles for the most vanilla classes – sometimes they even make mind-blowing first impressions.  Make sure the reading material and amount appeal to you.  Also watch out for the professor and make sure he/she is someone you could jive with.  Be on the lookout for debilitating accents, slow teaching pace, and excessive repetition.  While a professor can obviously make otherwise drab material come to life, sometimes he/she/phe just won’t – and then you’re the idiot stuck in a class you hate.

Brown classrooms come in all shapes and sizes; some are perpetually hot while others are chronically short-chaired.  There are new classrooms in the recently renovated buildings, whereas some of the Main Green buildings are aching for refurbishment. Salomon001 is in a basement, while BioMed’s labyrinthine floor plan is barely negotiable.  Recommended classrooms include SmittyB106 (formally known as Smith-Buonanno), seminar rooms in the Watson Institute, and any space overlooking the Main Green.

If you are going to schedule back-to-back classes for yourself, make sure you can actually get from A to B in a 10-minute time frame. Don’t be that guy who is habitually last in the door.  Impossible walks include Barus and Holley to List Art Center, List to any corner of campus (Pembroke, Orwig, B&H), and Orwig Music or the Anthropology Department Building to Pembroke or Rochambeau (foreign language department house).  Unless you have a scooter or bicycle to expedite your campus commute, save your breath and try again next year.

Learn yourself and your learning style.  Brown has three different class types: the 50-minute, the 80-minute, and the 140-minute session.  Decide if you can stand sitting still for longer periods of time.  Those are the classes where people are most likely to daze and nix their online notes in favor of online shopping.  Longer classes also put you in the red for dozing in class.  Some classes work better in the longer format, whereas others go stale.  Can you handle a morning class?  Do you plan on going out the night before?  Set yourself up for success – pick classes in which you will be the most on top of your game.

Once you have several classes you like, check out your finals schedule.  Planning ahead is a great way to make sure that you will be able to handle your workload come December.  If you think you are going to have eight final assignments for four classes, reevaluate your schedule.  You will thank yourself when the snow starts falling and you’re still smiling (well, sorta).

Shopping period is a time to test a range of academic disciplines and see what appeals to you.  Keep your ears open for class suggestions and pencils perched.  You might just need to write down the name of a cute classmate.  Classes can be added until September 20 and dropped until December 12.   Here is one shopping spree that can’t max out your credit card – shop classes many and often!


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