Post by: Tessa Steinert Evoy, MTS 2020, Office of Admissions Graduate Assistant
In this post, Tessa introduces “shopping week,” a Harvard tradition where students spend the first week of the semester “shopping” for classes they may want to take. Read on to learn more about how this process works and how students narrow down their classes from the countless courses offered to HDS students.
I was very excited to have my second shopping experience this semester, using the things I learned from last semester to create the best schedule for me. It is always difficult to decide between all the terrific classes at HDS, and once you add in all the courses we can cross-register for, it becomes even harder. In this post, I’m going to share a few insights on how current HDS students plan for shopping week so you can get a feel for how it works and why it is advantageous despite the added pressure of shopping as many courses as you can. In the course of the week, we must shop all the courses we may want to take, meet with our academic advisor to talk about our study plan to receive their approval, and submit our schedule for the semester to the Registrar. It is quite a busy start to the semester, but also a great opportunity to explore classes you might not otherwise know you were interested in.
In the weeks before classes begin, we can add as many classes as we want to our virtual shopping bag, the Crimson Cart. The Crimson Cart enables students to conveniently access course websites and syllabi for the classes we intend to shop, see which ones require a petition, and track the date, time, and location of specific courses. To give you a feel for how overwhelming this can be, HDS alone offers 127 courses this semester! Now consider that MTS and MDiv students can take up to half of our courses in other Harvard schools as well as MIT, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and institutions within the Boston Theological Institute (more below on the fact that not all of these schools participate in shopping period). At one point, I had about fifteen classes in my cart, but for the sake of scheduling I decided to shop just seven.*
Jarred, a current MDiv student as well as my fellow Graduate Assistant, helped me out by sharing two questions he asks himself when narrowing down the classes he wants to shop: “‘What am I interested in learning?’ and “what am I hoping to accomplish this semester?’” As a starting point for answering these questions, Jarred places “keywords” in the search box of my.harvard, where our online course catalog and registration system resides. As an aspiring medievalist, he will search “medieval or “middle ages” and see what classes come up. For MTS students it is also helpful to search classes by the area of focus concentrations listed in the sidebar. MDiv students can search by Arts of Ministry and a number of other categories listed in the sidebar of the course catalog. Jarred also thinks it is important to determine a goal of the semester – do you want to write a 25-page research paper or would you rather do a creative project? Do you want to read a 300-page book a week, or only do an extremely close-reading of 6 books? Answering those questions can help you narrow down the classes you want to take.
It is important to note that shopping week varies among different Harvard graduate schools and schools in the Boston Theological Institute. For example, my shopping period actually started a week earlier than most because the Graduate School of Education, HGSE, does their shopping a bit differently than HDS. Rather than host shopping period during the first week of classes at their normal meeting times, their classes meet in thirty-minute sessions over the course of two days the week before classes officially start. It is not required that you shop HGSE classes to take them, however, unlike the HDS classes during shopping week, there will be material due for that first day. I chose to take “Adolescent Literature,” because one of my main goals in my own teaching is to promote a love of learning, and I think finding reading opportunities outside the typical high school canon is a terrific way to foster love of learning. For example, we discussed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas during our first class.
Overall, shopping week is a great opportunity to meet professors and plan-ahead for the semester beyond just reading a course description online. While it can be a little hectic, it encourages students to experiment and visit courses that we wouldn’t have otherwise explored. Later in the semester, we plan to share our experiences in some of our favorite classes here on the blog. Keep an eye out for these and good luck to those who are awaiting the release of decisions in mid-March!
*See below for the list of classes I shopped, some of which you can register to visit if you are able to make a trip to campus:
Professor Phillip Deloria of the American Studies Department’s “Native American and Indigenous Studies: An Introduction.”
Professor Karen King’s “Introduction to the New Testament.”
Professor Davíd Carrasco’s “Human Migration & US-Mexico Borderlands: Moral Dilemmas & Sacred Bundles in Comparative Perspective.”
Professor Todne Thomas’ “Religion and Family.”