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Why I don’t shop classes

Why I don’t shop classes

I once often used the opportunity to “try” taking a class during the shopping period each quarter. I might investigate, syllabus by syllabus, to figure out potential options. I considered the attempt an exciting opportunity to gauge which class might be most compatible for my schedule, academic interests and the specific requirements I needed to fulfill. But for the third consecutive quarter, I have not shopped one class. While I have a logistical reason for this recently developed inclination— I need to complete my some of my major’s requirements—in the wiggle room I do have, I still maintain the same course schedule I’ve decided upon before classes begin.

With regard to planning purposes, knowing what schedule to expect is a plus. I can predict an estimated amount of hours of class and studying per week based on a course’s units and predicted demands. For anyone who would rather aim for a more consistent schedule for a quarter, or for someone who could have other liens on his or her time, having a calendar without surprises and miscalculations could be conducive to starting the quarter off on a positively consistent note.

Second, all Stanford classes have helped contour my student experience here. When I say student, I mean as a person, in and out of class. If I think of a course as a zero-sum situation, the sum is always being a better person at the end of the ten weeks. I had been challenged to think differently about a problem, or think differently at all; in addition to other advantages such as meeting more awesome members of the Stanford community. In short, and to be truthful: I’ve never been let down by a class that I’ve tried and finished. The course materials, the lectures, the sections, the other students have all contributed to lending a new and dynamic way I can make sense of the world—in small ways, in big ways.

Third, being a student at Stanford is not just about thinking about the “best” choices we can make, but about choices, period. We are bound to take a class at some point that we might dread,  or think that some other class might be “better.” And so we try on the class with an open ear and perhaps tend to some extra studying for the week before closing in on a selection.

But can you think of a class you have regretted taking? I can’t. After a few years here, a few years of being away and now a few quarters into my return, the what if’s are not there. I think it’s more about the choices we wait to make, or don’t make at all, that might unwillingly lure us back to what we cannot change.

And so I have been starting my quarters off with what I won’t change: my classes. I am not entirely denouncing the shopping period. Instead, I’m calling attention to the productivity of not doing so. There is an  immense value in simply making a decision, of going forward with a choice we attach ourselves to and starting day one with the same vigor that we will end a course with. There’s a different energy I have with a commitment versus an effort toward a process I know I could drop or quit. Week one can be just week one, but it can also be a substantial beginning to a course that will undoubtedly shape us by some measure. At Stanford and beyond, starting off with going forward hasn’t failed to change me for the better.


Contact Courtney Clayton at cclayton ‘at’ stanford.edu.