Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Shopping Period

Shopping Period, officially called Course Selection Period, refers to the first ten days of the semester (roughly) wherein students “shop” for courses before finalizing their schedules. Instructors should consider flexible strategies when planning their courses to account for shifts and changes in student population and preparedness during this time.

Each class of students has a different deadline for submitting their final schedule; first- year students are the first to submit, while seniors are the last. All students must finalize their schedule a few days before their class-year deadline, and are required to have their advisor(s) or department(s) sign off on them. Once submitted, students may not add any additional courses–although they can drop courses without consequence as late as mid-semester. In addition, students can still switch discussion sections or labs using the Course Add/Drop form from their residential college dean.

Examples and Recommendations

Below are some common classroom occurrences during Shopping Period, followed by strategies and approaches for handling them: 

Interruptions - Students frequently shop multiple classes that meet at the same time. Instructors are therefore likely to have some students leave or arrive midway during their first lecture or first-day-of-class seminar.

  • To minimize disturbances, instructors can announce that there will be a break after the first 10-15 minutes of class and suggest that any students who need to leave early depart at that time. 
  • Posting the syllabus online to Canvas and Online Course Selection for students to consider beforehand also prevents unnecessary disturbances by students. Students who show up to the class are more likely to be serious about staying and taking the class.

Size Fluctuation - The size and makeup of the instructor’s class or section(s) will also likely fluctuate until all schedules are submitted.

  • Fluctuation in class size is unavoidable. There are many reasons why students cannot commit to a course for which they are shopping: some students may not yet know if they have been accepted into a selective seminar; others may not know what section times are available for another class they must take for their major. 
  • While some instructors set section time before the start of class, some instructors poll students to collect data on what days/times would be best for sections. The instructors then create section options based on student input. 
  • Some students will also “shop” sections. Since TFs and sections account for a significant part of the course experience, some students will sit in on multiple sections until they find a preferable TF and section environment. 

Missing Work - Many students will attend a later class section having missed the first lecture, or come to a later seminar without having caught up on all of the readings.

  • For some seminars and many sections, instructors and TFs provide extra structure for discussions during shopping period. Instructors might bring handouts to ground discussion, since some students may not have purchased required texts nor attended lecture yet.
  • Many instructors also simply make section optional during the first two weeks.