The longstanding and distinctly Harvard tradition known to students as “shopping week” just ended. For the first several days of each semester, undergraduates are given an opportunity to sit in on any class, check out the syllabus, and listen to a professor discuss what the course will be like before they commit to an entire semester of studies.

Noel Bisson, associate dean of undergraduate education at Harvard College, said that unlike most colleges and universities, which require students to choose courses before attending their first lecture, Harvard’s shopping week gives students “full freedom of choice” to decide if a class is right for them before formally registering. The system helps them to make informed decisions.

“It’s a chance for them to get a real, live taste of how a lot of our faculty teach,” she said. “I hope they’re using it to fire up their intellectual curiosity.”

Beyond belief