College Increases Course Requirements for Fall 2021

In preparation for the fall 2021 pre-registration period, the college has increased registration requirements from three to four courses, signaling a shift back to pre-Covid academic requirements. Despite the reversion, the college plans to continue to offer January Term classes. Students are glad to see college policy return to normal but worry that the abrupt transition will increase academic stress.

This week, students are scheduling meetings with their academic advisors to discuss fall courses before pre-registration begins on Monday, May 3. While the pandemic is far from over, registration policies for the fall semester reflect a sense of optimism for the pandemic’s end. Registrar Addy Free told The Student that the decision from the current academic year to reduce the mandated course load will not continue into the next year. 

“The faculty approved a minimum registration load of 3-0-3 (Fall-January-Spring) for the 2020-2021 academic year; absent an action of the faculty, we will revert to Amherst’s long-time requirement of four courses each regular semester,” he said.

Changes to the academic program were originally made to assist students in navigating the challenges of remote learning and the often inconsistent and unaccommodating circumstances of the pandemic. Students were allowed to take a regular course load but were encouraged to spread their coursework over the newly implemented January Term. In light of the announcement that the upcoming semester will offer solely in-person learning, such accommodation was deemed unnecessary. The four-week January Term will continue to allow students to take an additional full credit course in the time between the fall and spring semesters. 

In general, students are glad that the college is returning back to normal but worry that students will be strained given the enduring effects of the pandemic. Declan Sung ’23E believes that students will struggle to re-adjust to “normal” campus life and is concerned that they will find it hard to keep up academically. “The college’s decision to revert back to four classes, while unsurprising, is going to pose a challenge to all students in a post-pandemic environment,” he said. “I’m glad that the college is reverting back to pre-pandemic policies, and it is promising, but I will say that if the college continues to impose Covid-related guidelines in the fall (gathering limits, social distancing, no indoor Val, etc.), [I think] that [that will] deeply impact student life.”

Maria Andrade ’23 is also glad that the college is reverting back to its pre-pandemic policies but shares many of the same concerns. “I find comfort in knowing things are going back to normal,” Andrade said. “However, I can’t help but question if things will truly be the same as they were before. I know I am ready to return to college and resume my studies in the pre-pandemic environment, but I cannot speak on behalf of all students. Some of us might need more time to transition to ‘normality.’”

Andrade noted, though, that the college’s decision has encouraged her to take full advantage of the college’s open curriculum. “Back when we were allowed to take three courses per semester, I would only take courses which pertained to my majors in biology and Spanish,” she said. “Next semester I am thinking about taking an English or a sociology class to complete my four course requirement.”

Isabelle Lobo ’22 is also looking forward to exploring the curriculum once again. “I would like to spend my last year taking courses outside my major, which a fourth course would allow,” Lobo stated.

But she, too, is worried about the workload. “I found that over the pandemic, a lot of professors used the course reduction as an excuse to assign more work to their courses than we would have done in a normal semester,” Lobo expressed. “I hope they don’t continue to do that in a normal semester because that seems like it would be awfully hard to manage.”

The academic schedule for 2021-2022 also reflects the success of the January Term this past year, according to Free. “The college has committed to offering courses in January 2022 and [the] optional [January] term [that will take] the place of the former two-week and no-credit Interterm classes,” Free said.

That said, the following January Term will be slightly different from the current year’s, in that “academic departments have, so far, chosen to offer fewer courses in January 2022 than in January 2021.” Free confirmed that it is still uncertain whether January 2022 courses will be offered remotely or in-person, but that such information would be released during the Fall 2021 semester.