Harvard undergraduate course registration opened for the spring semester last week— more than two months earlier than in years past — and drew mixed reviews from students.
The change comes from a May 2022 vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to move course registration up by two months and end shopping week — a system in which students could “shop,” or attend an unlimited number of different classes before settling on their semester schedule.
Before the measure was passed, it faced scrutiny from students and professors alike and has continued to divide Harvard faculty and staff amid its implementation. Proponents of previous-term course enrollment say the system is logistically smoother and preserves instructional time at the beginning of the semester.
Several students interviewed by The Crimson said they were disappointed by the change, citing a conflict between the new registration timeline and their fall coursework.
Lucy M. Hurlbut ’25 said she feared the change would leave students less time to “dig deep in the Q Guide,” Harvard’s course evaluation database, to find the best classes for their interests.
“I feel like I have a lot of other things going on with my classes and extracurriculars, and to have to deal with course registration on top of that is really annoying,” Hurlbut said.
“Because of that, I might end up taking more generic, larger, some would say ‘boring’ classes,” she added.
Jordan A. Sanchez ’24-’25 said the new timeline left her feeling “really bad” for her peers who she said were occupied with studying for midterm exams and enjoying their time on campus during the current semester to plan their courses for the spring.
“We’re supposed to be encouraged to take more risks, especially academically, and forcing students to choose their classes ahead of time just limits that exploration,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she had wanted to take a creative writing workshop since her freshman year, a class that requires an application consisting of a statement of interest and a writing sample. The application would have been open throughout winter break under the former registration timeline.
“A class that I was really, really interested in, I couldn’t take because I’m too busy working on the homework now, instead of preparing for next semester,” Sanchez said.
Some students said they preferred the change, however, and claimed the new timeline granted them more opportunity to get acquainted with their schedules.
“I really like it,” Faith M. Schmidt ’25 said. “Having the courses earlier for me to register gives me time right before I start classes to understand what classes I’m taking and organize my schedule better.”
Schmidt also said the old timeline had conflicted with her move back into college and pre-season athletic commitments.
Though Ru W. Perry-Mize ’25 finds the earlier course registration deadline personally inconvenient, they said they feel that early registration may be “administratively necessary” to plan out courses and professor teaching slots on time.
“I’m sure that people changing their schedules last minute creates a mess for whoever is doing the actual scheduling at the administrative level,” Perry-Mize said.
In an interview with The Crimson last week, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana defended the new timeline but said the University would work to improve the system in response to student feedback.
“We want to continue to encourage exploration and intellectual exploration. It is a core value,” Khurana said. “Like any change, there are adjustments that we will be making.”
“One of the things I really would encourage is for folks to reach out to the Committee on Course Registration, which is at the FAS Registrar’s Office, if there are ideas and thoughts about how to improve what we’re doing,” he added.
—Staff writer Natalie K Bandura can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.