The USC add/drop date for the fall 2018, the deadline for deciding whether you want to keep a class for the semester or drop it without any consequences, was Aug. 29. Classes started this semester on Aug. 23. This gave students only about two class sessions to figure out if they wanted to keep a or course or not, which is just not enough time.
One of those two classes is during “syllabus week,” where professors typically just go over the general outline and dynamics of the class. Sure, this is helpful for understanding how grading will work in the class, learning what books are needed, and getting a slight feel for the professor, but it is not enough time to decide if you wish to keep the class or not.
What students don’t get in the first couple classes is the professor’s actual teaching style that can very much affect learning for the rest of the semester. The general flow of a normal class is also undisclosed after one meeting time. When you only go over the syllabus and go home, you have no idea if the professor is going to be more interactive or simply lecture, you don’t know the type of homework they give, and you definitely don’t know if the class material will come easily to you or not.
Sure, some can argue that through websites like Rate my Professor, students get firsthand accounts of the class, but every student is different. Someone’s easy class can be another’s most difficult class, so descriptions posted online may help, but in-class experience is the only way to truly understand a class dynamic.
For all these reasons, I think USC should consider giving students at least two regular classes outside of syllabus week before the add/drop date to decide if a class or professor is for them or not. If a class starts going poorly, students are stuck struggling the whole semester trying not to fail or end up withdrawing from a class. A withdrawal goes on a student's record and a failed class can ruin someone’s GPA.
It seems like schools are trying to trap students in a class in order to get the money from the class and the textbook sales without looking out for the best interest of student success. Also, universities sometimes profit off of student failure because so many classes are “must-takes” in a sequence before going into another class. When someone fails one of those classes, they have to take it again the next semester and pay for it all over again.
I urge USC to take the high road and let students get a feel for a class before trying to trap them in it.