The Question: How Will I Possibly Pick My Classes?

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Curious about every day life at Brown?  The Question aims to answer all the questions you have and didn’t know you had about Brown!  Here you get to read about everything from study spaces to Spring Weekend from a student’s point of view.  Follow sophomore and aspiring Classicist Hannah Liu as she brings you The Answer each week.

We’re Back!  And we even made it through Shopping Period!  You may ask, “how could you possibly make it through such an amazing yet stressful time with your sanity intact?”  Today, I want to share with you all the ways that students at Brown pick their classes.

Shopping Period takes place at the beginning of the semester, and lasts for about two weeks.  During this time, students may attend any number of classes that they would like.  What’s the point of this?  Students use this time to attend classes that they think will be interesting and enjoyable.  Sooner or later, we figure out which ones we want to stick with for the rest of the semester.

It is harder for some people to pick classes than others.  For example, many students with more requirement-heavy concentrations (we don’t have a Core Curriculum, but all concentrations still have departmental requirements) may have to fill up their schedule with required classes.  Picking the best classes for you in that instance is hard, but more streamlined.  Students with fewer requirements to finish may have more classes to shop and more decisions to make.  How do we make our decisions when everything sounds so great?  There are a thousand ways, but I’ll give you some of the most popular strategies right here!

Homework Balance – Make sure you’re not giving yourself too much work!

You may be interested in three Computer Science Courses and two Chemistry courses, but make sure that you won’t be overloading yourself with projects, labs, tests and problem sets throughout the semester.  If you take on too much work, things are going to fall by the wayside, particularly when exam time comes.  On the other side of the scale, make sure that you aren’t taking five classes with hundreds of pages of reading a week!  If you don’t have time to absorb the reading when you do it, what’s the point of taking the class?

Remember: even if a million classes seem interesting, eating and sleeping and socializing are necessary parts of life too!

Interest – Make sure you’re interested in the material!

Let’s be honest.  All of us try not to do work for the classes we don’t like.  We procrastinate until we’re so tired we can’t do it anymore, or we go to the gym, or we read for pleasure.  If you don’t like a class, and you’re not going to do the work for it, then don’t take it unless it’s required (in which ease you know that you’ll do the work, because you need to pass!).  Again, by exam time, some things will fall by the wayside, and classes you don’t like will be the first to go.  If you have a choice, make sure you take classes that you are interested in!

Location/Time of Day – When do you learn best?  

This seems like a silly reason, but it can be really important!  If you like all the way on South campus and you want to take an 8:30am class all the way on the North side of campus, you have to consider if you care enough about the class want to wake up early enough to make the 15 minute walk (20-25 minutes in the snow).  If you are an early bird, you will want to take those classes and avoid late night seminars.  If you get drowsy after lunch, give yourself time to relax then instead of taking a class.  Make sure that you are taking classes at a time when your brain is most active, and you absorb material well.  College isn’t easy; so make sure that you’re giving yourself the best chance for success! 

Professor – Who do you want to learn from?

Some of the professors at Brown are world renowned, and all of them are leaders in their field.  They’re all amazing, and often you will find into a professor whose interests mirror your own, or whose teaching style really clicks with your learning style.  These are the professors that you want to take classes from.  If lectures aren’t your style, take a class with a professor who likes interaction and seminar-style learning, or vice versa, and anything else in between.   If there’s a professor who is an expert on something that is important to you – take his/her class!  You owe it to yourself to make the best of your opportunities here, so make it a point to take classes with great professors that you admire!

Shop Anyway!  Even if you know what you want to take already!

I have a friend who comes into every semester with his classes pre-selected and lined up perfectly in his schedule (see picture above), and that’s not uncommon.  Many students don’t utilize shopping period as much as others, perhaps because they have requirements to fill, or because they don’t want the stress of trying 8 different classes in one day!  Not shopping is perfectly acceptable, and sometimes I am jealous of those people who have their schedules straight already!  I do recommend, however, attending some really cool lectures if you can.  Professors tend to talk about their most interesting research and give their most engaging lectures during the first few days of school, because they are enticing students to take their classes.  Even if you don’t intend to take the class, check out some lectures in departments that you usually wouldn’t interact with to explore a little bit!  You might find out something really cool!

What are some questions that you have about Brown?  Is there anything specific that you would like to read about in The Question?  Please email me at with any suggestions, comments, questions, or concerns!


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