Shopping and Course Registration – Spring 2021

Last Updated: 5 January 2021

Key Facts and Dates   Exploring Courses  Why Early Shopping   Early Shopping Advising   Provide Feedback

Early Shopping: Key Facts and Dates

Shopping Week will take place before classes start, from January 15–21, 2021. Please note that live Early Shopping events will not be scheduled on Saturday, January 16; Sunday, January 17; or Monday, January 18. You can meet with your adviser before Early Shopping begins to plan for the semester.

During Early Shopping, you can:

  • Enroll in open courses
  • Validate your Crimson Cart
  • Submit petitions to enroll in courses with a lottery or application process
  • Explore the early shopping calendar to find events 

Course Lotteries

January 19 is the deadline to enter course lotteries. Because Early Shopping will run through January 21, you can continue to explore courses even as you receive results for lotteried courses. If your petition is approved, you must finalize the enrollment process and register for capped courses.


After you’ve enrolled in your initial set of classes, you’ll still be able to make changes to your schedule through the regular add/drop process. So while your schedule won’t be set in stone at the Enrollment Deadline, it is still an important date because enrollments at the deadline will be used to determine how many sections larger courses have.

January 6, 2021

  • Online Check-in opens.

January 11, 2021

  • Students may begin adding courses to their Crimson Carts, validating courses, and submitting petitions to enroll in capped courses.

January 13, 2021

  • Course Registration begins.
  • Canvas sites will go live with key information about courses including shopping week events.
  • Advising holds for all students can be lifted and students begin to meet with their advisers.
  • Online Check-in deadline.

Please note that live Early Shopping events will not be scheduled on Saturday, January 16; Sunday, January 17; or Monday, January 18.

January 15, 2021

  • Early Shopping begins; first day of synchronous Shopping events.

January 19, 2021

  • Synchronous Shopping events continue.
  • 11:59pm ET: Deadline for students to enter lotteries or any other mechanisms for capped courses, such as applications or interviews.

January 20, 2021

  • Controlled Enrollment/Lottery processes run. Students are notified of outcomes.
  • Synchronous Shopping events continue.

January 21, 2021

  • 11:59pm ET: Registration deadline.
  • Last day of synchronous Shopping events.

January 22, 2021

  • Add/drop period begins.

January 25, 2021

  • Classes begin.

Exploring Courses

There are several ways you can discover new courses whether you are interested in attending shopping events or discovering new topics through course catalog tools.  

Early Shopping Calendar

New for Spring 2021, the Harvard College Calendar features synchronous Early Shopping Events. Use the filter button to browse for courses in your concentration, or to find specific course types such as Gen Ed, Freshman Seminars, and more.As you browse, please note that scheduled shopping event times and the course meeting times are different.

Course Catalog 

Browse the course catalog in my.harvard or download a PDF. NEW: Students located in distant time zones may filter course results based on time zone offsets from EST. Visit the IT Help Center to learn more about how to use the course search and tips for narrowing your course search.


Curricle is a tool developed by the metaLAB (at) Harvard that you can use to explore the Harvard curriculum through engaging visualizations and plan your semester schedule before registering as usual through my.harvard.  

Syllabus Explorer 

Syllabus Explorer is a dynamic web application that gives students at participating Harvard Schools the ability to search for, explore, and download syllabi. To learn more, visit the project website to find an introductory video, use cases, policies, and other relevant information. 

How to use your Crimson Cart to view Course Materials in Canvas

You are encouraged to add courses to your Crimson Cart to better plan your schedule and course enrollment. However, it is not necessary to add courses to your cart during Early Shopping. Here's how to gain access to the items you're looking for:

     Course syllabus/basic information: View in Canvas without adding.

cart icon  To view course videos and other course materials in Canvas, add to Crimson Cart.

Early Shopping: Advising

All students are encouraged to schedule advising meeting early. Advisers can lift advising holds for all students beginning January 13, 2021.

Learn more about choosing courses

Why Early Shopping for Spring 2021?

Shopping Week gives students the chance to learn as much as possible about courses they’re considering, and to let students explore courses they might never have considered otherwise.

Like Fall 2020, Shopping Week for Spring 2021 will continue to play this role.  It will be completely online, and it will take place before the start of the semester.


Shopping Week will take place before classes start for several reasons:

  • Early Shopping lets instructors conduct lotteries, and lets students adjust their schedules, without having to worry about coursework at the same time.  
  • Early Shopping gives students enough time to get the course materials they need, regardless of whether they’re in Cambridge or elsewhere.
  • Early Shopping gives instructors enough time to schedule class meetings that can accommodate students from many different time zones and help students avoid as many conflicts between course meetings as possible.

The College moved Shopping Week earlier in response to the current pandemic. We did not do so lightly. And while we know that some of you may not actively benefit from these changes, we ask that you have empathy for your peers for whom this change is crucial. This year’s process will also allow the teaching staffs of courses to provide much better educational offerings by having the lead time Early Shopping provides.

Early Shopping: Feedback

Early Shopping for Spring 2021 is a response to an unprecedented situation. The College, through the Committee on Course Registration, is actively thinking about how to make Shopping and Course Registration as successful as possible. To send them your thoughts about Early Shopping, please use this form.