Seize Your Syllabus Week
Published: Monday, January 14, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 02:01
I don’t know if the people at Tackle Box during happy hour feel the same way, but this is one of the most important weeks of the semester for me.
One of the best presents Georgetown gives to its students is the add/drop period at the beginning of each semester, otherwise known as syllabus week. Some forfeit this 10 day gift for the chance to extend their vacations, but they may not fully grasp the value of a period of time to handpick their academic experience for the rest of the semester.
There are many compelling reasons to overlook the potential of syllabus week. Georgetown’s add-drop process looks pretty daunting at first. There are forms in the registrar’s office reminiscent of the stone tablets Fred Flintstone used, confusing online course registration and, besides all that, we’d actually have to search that Windows 98-esque MyAccess to survey the classes we want to consider.
There are other problems, too. Most professors upload their syllabi, but others don’t — and some will tell you to disregard the entire thing on the first day of classes. It’s also tough to decide between pursuing your interests or signing up for that economics class your parents have been hounding you to take. Finally, there’s the pressure of figuring out how you’d like this one semester to fit in to your entire four years at Georgetown. You know you’re thinking too hard about your course selections decision when — head spinning — your eyes glaze over tabs with RateMyProfessor.com, MyAccess, MyDegree, the professor’s resume and an article he wrote in 1998.
So which headache is worse? The one that results from ignoring the academic advantages of syllabus week, realizing at the end of the add/drop period that there’s no turning back and being stuck playing online Tetris in a class you never really liked? Or the other headache — the one that results from hopscotching all around campus to different courses with different professors that is soon relieved as you find a professor you get along with and a course topic that satisfies both your graduation requirements and your personal interests?
It may first feel like a draw. But let’s remember that with the first headache — the one that comes with ignoring syllabus week — there’s a lack of interest and a sense of regret that we must live with for an entire semester. At Georgetown, it’s fair to say we are bright and interested enough to take courses that challenge our intellect and extend our interest beyond mere satisfaction of graduation requirements.
This is a week to sample a broad range of classes and step outside of your comfort zone. It’s a time to take classes where you don’t have the security of at least three friends and to try a subject you’ve never heard of or want to know more about. And if you don’t like it, you’ve only lost an hour of your life.
If respecting your interests and time aren’t compelling enough reasons to participate in syllabus week, then consider it a minimum show of respect for whoever is paying for your education. We’re buying the class — professor and syllabus included — and syllabus week is Georgetown’s return policy. But unlike a bad present, we can’t re-gift it to a second-rate acquaintance if we forget to return it in 10 days. Our course schedules are ours for four months, and we’ve got to literally wear them on our transcript.
The greatest way of customizing our course schedules comes from maximized use of the gift that is syllabus week. If you think about it, weighing our options now during this one week will incrementally release us from stress and work overloads throughout the semester, granting us even more extended vacation time than those who loafed around at happy hour.
Masha Goncharova is a junior in the College.