Harvard Will Not Hold In-Person Shopping Week for Third Semester in a Row This Fall


Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will hold virtual course previews in lieu of an in-person shopping week — a period at the start of the term when students can test out classes before officially enrolling — for the third semester in a row this fall.

College spokesperson Rachael Dane wrote in a Sunday email to The Crimson that Harvard decided to yet again replace an in-person shopping window with a remote course presentation period as a “pandemic accommodation.”

“In part, this is because Harvard can’t be certain that the public health guidance will allow large numbers of students to crowd into rooms--and in part because [we] are not yet sure all our international students are able to make it to campus by the first day of classes,” Dane wrote.

This fall, all FAS courses will be taught in person and College housing will return to normal density, University administrators announced last month, though international students “whose arrival has been delayed by visa processing or other barriers” may enroll as long as they can arrive on campus by Oct. 4. All students must receive a Covid-19 vaccine in order to live on campus.


Dane also wrote that students will have access to updated course sites prior to the start of the course presentation period, and some faculty will host synchronous online events to present their classes.

The tentative course registration deadline for fall 2021 is Aug. 26 — ahead of the semester’s start on Sept. 1 — according to a provisional ten-year calendar on the FAS Registrar’s Office website.

Shopping week was also held virtually during the remote 2020-2021 school year, with undergraduates pre-registering for classes for the first time in fall 2020. Some students reported mixed feelings about the online shopping period experience.

Students, faculty, and administrators alike have debated the merits of shopping week over the last few years. Many professors have said they favor course pre-registration, arguing that shopping week makes it difficult to plan classes in advance because of fluctuating enrollment numbers.

The Faculty Council — the FAS’s highest governing body — voted in 2018 to create a committee tasked with studying a pre-registration system. The committee will present its proposals for changes to the current system of course registration this fall, according to Dane. The FAS will debate and vote on the committee’s recommendations next spring.

The FAS voted in 2019 to keep shopping week until at least 2022, but the pandemic has largely rendered the decision moot.

—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.