How To: Know whether you should drop a class with only a week to decide
The first week of class usually flies by, a sad extension of summer days.
Given the newly instated drop fee (which we have to pay if we drop a class after the first week), we're not really given time to witness any substantial indications in order to make our drop decisions, and our minds are often elsewhere.
What follows is a short list, in no way exhaustive, to help those lingering in indecision:
There are two basic kinds of icebreakers — introductory stuff, and painful, self-compromising games we thought we'd left in high school. If you play these games, and all indicators point to a positive class community, it might still be worthwhile to stay. If the professor sits there, watches and offers very little in the way of compromising his or her own dignity, maybe run for the hills. If the teacher joins in and makes an idiot of herself, consider sticking around.
Actually read the syllabus. The exquisite hell of listening to a professorial syllabus recitation is something endured by all, but few pay much attention, instead referencing it only if the assignments are listed on it or as their grade drops and they need to figure out where they've gone wrong. However, a lot can be said in the lost white space usually ignored. For example, syllabi that are written stylistically, with lots of personality in the writing or quirky little inside jokes using the subject matter as a punch line, imply some form of creativity and originality with regard to class content. In fact, this kind of thing can even mean that the professor wrote the syllabus for this class specifically, and didn't just print off a stock syllabus in which the final revision was completed in August 1969.
If the professor makes even an attempt at humor, it's something to be embraced, cherished dearly and not snickered at, ever. Those of you taking the massively populated general education courses should flock to any professor who references even outdated comic material.
Go in and talk with professors. There is so much that can be said about how the class will be or what kind of grade you'll get in a one on one conversation with the professor. Shifting eyes or fake smiles say as much as a firm handshake and concentrated eye contact.
In the same breath though, a lot of people don't have much choice in the classes they take, and those of you in big prerequisite courses aren't going to have the flexibility to add and drop on a whim. Still, in those instances where flexibility is allowed, be aware of the professor's level of commitment.
Furthermore, consider this the final, best and obvious indicator of a good or bad course: when you have a professor you like listening to, but can't actually articulate why in any quantifiable, slightly cynical, editorial way.