If your college student tells you that she is ”course shopping”, you may wonder just what she is doing. If your student lets you know that he is dropping a course, you may worry that he won’t be taking enough credits. If your student tells you that she is making an enrollment change, you might wonder what kind of change she is indicating. If all of this happens in the first two or three weeks of a new semester, it is part of the normal movement that often happens in courses as a new term begins. It may be helpful, as a college parent, for you to understand the Add/Drop or Enrollment Change period.
Most colleges have a period at the beginning of each semester during which students can drop courses from their schedule and/or add new courses to their schedule (if space is available) without penalty. There is no financial cost, and courses dropped will not appear on the student’s transcript; they simply go away. The length of this period will depend on the policies of the institution, but generally may be anywhere from one to three weeks. Sometimes students may have a slightly longer period to drop courses than to add courses. Again, depending on the procedures of the institution, courses may be added or dropped online, or students may need to obtain signatures of instructors and/or their advisor to make a change.
Many students make changes to their schedules during this period. It is intended for students to have an opportunity to tweak their schedules to ensure the best and most appropriate schedule possible. However, the culture surrounding this period may vary at different schools. At some schools, students are allowed to make changes, but are encouraged to make only necessary or important changes. They are encouraged to make careful, informed choices initially during the course selection time the previous semester. At other institutions, this period is actually called a ”shopping” period and students are encouraged to visit and sit in on many courses before making their choices. It is important that your student learn about the expectations at his institution. If minimal changes are the norm, it is not appropriate for your student to ”shop” classes and make many changes. However, if shopping is expected, your student will want to take advantage of the opportunity.
As your student approaches and experiences the Add/Drop period, there are a few things that may be helpful for her to keep in mind. You may want to discuss some of them with your student prior to the beginning of the semester.
- Your student will need to be careful that he does not drop below the minimum number of credits required by his college to be considered a full time student and to be eligible for financial aid. At the end of the change period, your student will need to be fully enrolled. Failure to be enrolled in the appropriate number of credits may jeopardize his financial aid, athletic eligibility, or on-campus housing status.
- There are legitimate reasons for changing a class, and your student should keep these in mind and take advantage of the opportunity. Sometimes a student may not have a clear sense of a class until she attends and learns more about the subject and what will be covered. Sometimes students have misinformation about a course or the pre-requisites or requirements, there may be an obvious conflict with the professor’s style of teaching, or the student may require a schedule change because of a time conflict.
- Dropping and adding courses may be straightforward, or it may be complicated. It is often more complicated to add a class than to drop one. Your student should not drop a class until he is sure that he has a class to replace it. He should investigate needed signatures, pre-requisites, open seats, time conflicts, deadlines.
- Students should keep in mind that many students are making changes at the same time. Open seats in a class can change quickly. Constant checking about availability is important.
- Although your student may wish to make a change, sometimes changes are not possible. While your student is considering another course, he should continue to attend the course for which he is registered, in case the change does not happen. He will be responsible for all work during the change period
- Your student may need to check in with his advisor before making a change to his schedule. He will need to consider carefully whether a change will impact his educational goals or progress. Is the course required? Is the course part of a sequence that will affect his next semester schedule?
- There are difficulties that go along with adding a course late. The student may miss important information about the class during the first one or two class meetings. Instructors often give an overview of the course, as well as clearly state their expectations for the semester. Students are also responsible for all material or assignments covered from the beginning of the semester, even if they enter late. These early absences may also count against your student. It is important that he check in with the professor about attendance policies. Some professors may refuse permission for a student to enter a course after the first week because they know that too much material has been missed.
- It is crucial that your student watch deadlines carefully. After the end of this period your student would need to withdraw from a class. This is a different process and the course then remains on the student’s transcript. Deadlines often come more quickly than the student expected.
The Add/Drop or Enrollment Change period serves an important purpose for students. It allows students to remedy schedule problems, ensure that they are in appropriate classes, change their mind about a course or series of courses, or correct a situation if they realize that they do not belong. The change period is not intended as an opportunity to hunt for easy ”A’s”, to seek courses for their entertainment value, or to substitute for doing the careful selection of a course in the first place.
Encourage your student to take advantage of the Enrollment Change period if he needs to, but to be cautious about deadlines, requirements, and the pitfalls of entering courses late. Encourage your student to consult with her advisor (perhaps rather than you) if she needs guidance in making changes. Remember that the Add/Drop period may be one more opportunity for your student to exercise ownership of her college career.