Shorter add/drop deadlines undermine the student learning experience

Students need more than a week to finalize their classes for the semester


By Taru Meshram, Collegian Contributor

The beginning weeks of classes have finally come to an end. With the campus back at maximum capacity, it seems like we have finally returned to a state of normalcy. There have been significant changes to the structure of our semester, including the highly valued add/drop period of classes.

The add/drop deadline for the fall 2021 semester was only one week long, including an entire weekend off and a national holiday. This period is too short for students to make thorough decisions about classes they wish to add or drop for the rest of the upcoming semester. These choices will ultimately shape much of their following academic experiences.

The primary purpose of the add/drop period is to enable students to gain an in-depth understanding of the courses they chose to take. This understanding should help them make decisions regarding which classes they wish to pursue and which classes they wish to drop. During this period, students can acquaint themselves with the academic rigor of classes, the demands of the course and so much more.

This year, however, the majority of students could only attend two to three class sessions of a course within the first week, and the first class for many was spent going over the course material and other minor details. Hence, students were only able to attend a few sessions of proper teaching.

It’s a big ask from students to make them decide whether a course fits their goals with just over two hours of experience within the classroom. In this short period of time, students are unable to gauge the course material properly and determine if it is something they are willing to commit a large portion of their time to.

Compatibility between a professor’s teaching style and how well it suits a student is also a factor that is often not given enough importance. There is an added issue of students still adjusting themselves to the college setting during the beginning of the semester. Students might be too preoccupied with acclimation to give enough attention to the proceedings within those classes. A one-week-long add/drop period might prove ineffective for students to make decisions about classes that they want to commit themselves to for the coming semester.

There are a few different ways in which this issue could have been approached. As seen in previous years, the add/drop period could have been extended to a duration of two weeks. This would have given students more breathing room to determine what classes they want to take by experiencing the courses in a more well-rounded manner.

There is also the possibility of revamping the whole add/drop practice. For this, the University of Massachusetts can turn to other universities for inspiration. For example, at some smaller institutions, students interested in a particular subject attend the same course for the first few weeks. Depending on how well they perform, students sign up for classes that are both challenging and within the scope of their abilities. I understand that this is not always feasible at such large universities like UMass, but there are other ways of improving this add/drop practice, and they need to be too.

For anyone unable to drop out of a class before the deadline passed, there are various resources that you can turn to for support. You can find single-stop academic resources on the academic help webpageof the university. Of course, sometimes all students need is a helping hand, and a chance to talk to their peers and professors about academic difficulties. Despite all this, if students still feel the need to change their classes, they can talk with their academic advisors or faculty about it. It is still possible, although it proves to be a lengthy process.

In an unprecedented situation like ours, it would have been a welcome decision if the University gave students an extended add/drop period for classes so they wouldn’t have to rush their decisions. Still, I am confident that UMass students will adapt and overcome, as they always do.

Taru Meshram can be reached at [email protected]