March 11, 2021

Dear students,

I am hearing from many of you who are unhappy about the timeline for early registration. What I am hearing is that you are not ready to be thinking about next semester's classes, especially given the stresses of the pandemic. I am also hearing pleas to postpone this process until the summer, when the demands of the semester are behind you. I am even hearing questions asking if Yale College is eliminating the shopping period. I hear you.

Let me first reassure you that the shopping period isn't going anywhere: at the start of next semester, you will be able to try out classes just as you are now, adding and dropping any or all of them as you learn more about them. The shopping period, officially known as the course selection period, is more than just a convenience; it's an important part of Yale College’s liberal arts curriculum, which is designed to encourage exploration and experimentation. You can count on being able, and even expected, to look for and discover new classes at the start of every semester.

The idea behind early registration is to give you a head start with that exploration, not to curtail it, and to reduce stress, not to add to it. Students have long described the shopping period as stressful, uncertain, and frustrating because the inevitable, compressed timeline does not give them enough time to consider so many courses, and because it does not give faculty enough time to let students know if they can accommodate them when enrollment is limited. Compounding all this is the difficulty to add sections for courses that see unexpectedly strong interest. Early registration makes it possible to add capacity to meet preliminary demand, and to give you a good sense now about availability next semester.

I know that you recognize these benefits of early registration, even if you would rather not deal with it so far ahead of time when you have many other academic obligations. While next semester may seem like a long way off, this is traditionally the time for advisers and students to be discussing tentative ideas for it, ideally in the context of this semester as well as previous ones. Spring term, for example, is the time when sophomores submit course plans for their majors, and juniors start thinking about their capstone projects. If you are feeling that you need guidance and support as you think about the fall semester while managing this one, remember that your advisers are here specifically for that purpose and are standing by to help you. They are also available to you throughout the semester, when most of them are not during the summer. I hope you will turn to them as you brainstorm for the fall.

Let me also reassure you that you will not have to make any important decisions while you are preparing for final examinations in May; the early registration period continues long past the end of the semester, when you will have finished your exams and final assignments, and lets you and your instructors start the summer knowing that you can relax during the recess, confident in the knowledge that you will be able to make changes at the start of the fall, and with the benefit of having a lot of preliminary information to work with. I am grateful for the thoughtful suggestions and input from students on the various groups involved in planning for early registration; those suggestions lengthened the amount of time for you to make early decisions.

Finally, and apart from early registration, I recognize the extraordinary stresses you are managing, not only academic ones. This is a year that has put demands on you as no other year in recent history has put on Yale College students. It is also a year to remember everyone who is here to help you, not only your academic advisers. There's no denying that this is a year of challenge, but it is also a year of drawing on your many resources. Heads, deans, cultural center directors, chaplains, coaches, mentors, and counselors are here for you, just as your advisers are. Please turn to them as you focus on this semester and the one ahead.

With best wishes,

Marvin M. Chun
Dean of Yale College
Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology; Neuroscience; Cognitive Science