Shopping for classes
Think of all the modules available in your university as the goods on display in a supermarket. You can take them down to take a look. You can discuss with people shopping with you whether you should really take them in the end. As long as you are not at the cashier, you have no obligations to buy them; you can always return them to their original places as if nothing happens. In your university, you will have such shopping period, the so-called add-drop period, during which you can try out different classes and make a final decision as to what classes to take for the semester.
What is it and how it work?
If you just enter a university, such an opportunity may sound too good to be true. But the add-drop period is just one of the examples of the freedom of university education. The aim of the period is to give you the chance to sample classes, because attending a lecture or tutorial for yourself is a much more effective means of knowing if you like the module or not compared to just reading course description online. Making an informed choice is critical to an enjoyable academic experience. So how does it really work? Though there are minor differences among universities, the add-drop period gives students two weeks of shopping time where students can drop a class they don’t want to take or add a class they wish to take. At the end of the add-drop period, one’s timetable is fixed and one is committed to attending the lessons and exams for the modules they select in the end.
What time is good for you?
Instead of changing modules, you can also change the index that corresponds to the timing of your class. Normally one module has multiple classes taught by one professor. You may want to shift your class to a better timing. If you live far away from school, avoiding early morning or late evening classes is a good idea. If you tend to feel sleepy or lethargic during the afternoon, you can consider moving difficult classes to the morning or evening. Moreover, if you don’t want to have so many breaks in between classes, because you won’t be productive with a one-hour break, you can design your timetable such that you will have continuous classes without too many breaks. The last factor you can consider is probably the group mates that you may have in a particular tutorial. You may feel that it is a bit hard to get along with your current classmates or your best friend is in another class, so you want to change your index. This is especially important for classes with heavy emphasis on group work. On the same note, it is possible for your group mate to drop out of the class and therefore, your group after the add/drop period. Therefore, don’t be surprised when some of them appear non-committal during this period. Simply bear in mind that nothing is permanent until after the 2 weeks of chaos is over.
Inflexibility within flexibility
However, the system is not as flexible as you may suppose. For some special programs that use generally fixed curriculum, many of the modules are pre-allocated according to the study plan designed by the schools. This is especially true for students taking double degrees where one has to follow a somehow fixed study plan in order to graduate in time. Moreover, one may not always get the class that he/she registers for. For many popular classes, one is being put on the wait list for the day and some students, especially the more junior ones, may never get the modules they bid for since priority is generally given to more senior students. Hence you do need to think carefully before you change your modules or index. Probably you can read through the course description first, ask friends or seniors who have taken the modules or email the professors who are teaching the modules about your concern. It is possible that a student may end up not having registered sufficient number of classes because of the inflexibility of their add-drop systems. So be very careful as you cruise through your add/drop period.
What is gone is gone
There is more than one reason why you should think carefully during the add-drop period. If you change your module too frequently, you will miss the lessons during the first two weeks, and that usually means two lectures and one tutorial session. Considering the fact that a typical semester lasts slightly more than ten weeks, missing two weeks of lessons is not always a desirable idea. Normally, your lecturer will set the tone for the whole semester of study during the first two lessons where he will lay down his general expectations, modes of assessment and more. However, you still have to weigh the loss of first two weeks of lessons against the downside of taking a module you don’t like for the whole semester. Taking a wrong module may pull down your GPA, and may make your study experience less enjoyable. Moreover, the first two lessons are generally less difficult where the lecturer will give an introduction without going into core concepts. As for the house rules of your lecturers, you can always clarify with him about popular issues such as attendance policy. The two weeks of delay is definitely worth it if you feel motivated about study for the rest of the weeks because you make the right choices for modules you take.
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What we would suggest is for you to be ‘kiasu’ during these first 2 weeks and attend all classes that may or may not stay in your timetable at the end of the add-drop period. To do that, you have to come out with a shopping list of all the classes you want to take before school commences. Sometimes, you will end up sticking with a class that you don’t want to take as a result of not being able to add other classes. Just like doing window shopping, you can “try on” the courses to see if they are a good fit before you decide on your final shopping cart.
As you can see, the add-drop period gives you much flexibility to taking control over your own study. But do recognize that the flexibility is not as great as you would like it to be. You still need to choose carefully and smartly. Digital senior hopes that you can add pleasures to your study and drop unhappiness together with modules you don’t like and you don’t have to take.