Campus Blog

10 Things to Help Prepare for the Start of Classes

Gabe Ackman

You’ve done the orientation, mastered the move-in, and you’ve already met some people around your hall. Now, how do you get ready for that first day of class?

It’s not quite the same as the first day of elementary school, and there are skills you’ll have to learn in order to be ready for that first lecture. Here’s ten things that will help you prepare for the start of classes:

1. Get ready to say hello.

When you get into class, you’ll be surrounded by strangers. Those students sitting quietly before the professors gets into the room are actually experiencing the same first-class-anxiety you are. Realising this makes the whole process much easier. When you get into your seat, don’t be afraid to say hello to whoever you sit next to. You’ll be seeing these people all semester, and the awkward silence only builds up over time. Get to know someone you sit next to and avoid that!

2. Bring your gear.

Don’t be that guy that comes to class unprepared. You’ve probably already thought about bringing a pencil, but what about the extras? Pens, a pencil sharpener, and highlighters are useful to put in your backpack. An organized notebook or binder with enough notebook paper to last the whole class makes life easier. In certain classes, a calculator with proper functions is a must. No, using your phone with a few graphing calculator capabilities isn’t the same.

3. Don’t skip breakfast.

Rolling out of bed and going straight to class can be a mistake. With an empty stomach from skipping breakfast or lunch before your next lecture, you’re susceptible to falling asleep, letting your mind wander, or generally being miserable. Avoid this by planning out time to eat. You’ll feel better, and your classroom performance will reflect that. Note that, for some, “feeling better” can mean drinking as much coffee as humanly possible before you sit down at your seat. But also, make sure you don’t drink too much or you may be incredibly fidgety and unable to focus on what the professor is saying.

4. Take any opportunity for practice or review.

When you’re preparing for classes, train yourself to listen for phrases like “come to my office hours,” or “I’ll look over any rough drafts you have.” This is a professor’s secret language for saying that they don’t want you to fail. If you want to know how the tests will look, go to these review sessions. Plus, the extra effort won’t go unnoticed. Being more than just a name on the attendance sheet will help out in the future.

5. Syllabus Week isn’t a guarantee.

You’ll often hear the first week of classes referred to as “Syllabus Week,” meaning that classes won’t go over more than the class syllabus. This is pretty common, but it’s not a certainty. Some professors use the first class to go over important class procedures, or even the first chapter of the course (those are the worst). Be ready for this by bringing your gear to the first class. You might not need it, but you’ll be ready just in case.

6. Make your entrance and exit quietly.

If you’re preparing for your first day in a college classroom, you need to know the most precious of all unwritten college rules: don’t make a big deal when you enter or exit the classroom. You’re an adult now. You’re not special for coming in late or leaving early, and there’s no need to get embarrassed about it. If you must get up from your seat during the lecture, do it quickly without bothering others. While you’re out, be thankful that you didn’t have to ask for a hall pass.

7. Avoid bringing loud food to class.

Preparation for class has to include this piece of social etiquette. In theory, having your snacks with you in class would make taking notes that much more fun. In reality, it makes you the person that brings a symphony of crinkling plastic to class. Loudly slurping from a can or going all out on a burrito when you’re sitting elbow-to-elbow with your classmates is not a good look for you. Also, don’t bring food to the first class. Some professors are very offended by students who eat in class, others don’t care at all. So make sure you ask your professor while going over the syllabus if there isn’t a food policy stated on it. Don’t be afraid to ask; I can there are students who will be grateful that you did.

8. Take your laptop to the back.

Class preparation means planning ahead. Many classes today welcome laptops as note-taking tools, but you need to have the sense to sit in the back with it. When the classroom is oriented with the student desks facing the professors board, sitting up front with your bright laptop screen can turn your desktop into a community viewing experience. If you’re being honest with yourself, you’re bound to wander off into Facebook territory in class during the semester. Avoid the shame of all your classmates seeing you watch endless videos on mute by sitting in the back with your computer. Remember that professor’s have different policies on laptop use. Some welcome it or even encourage it, while some may kick you out of class if they even see a laptop in your bag. This is again, an example of something that should be covered on the syllabus or asked about while going through the syllabus.

In a college lecture, it’s easy to get left behind if you let your confusion sit in silence. If you’re serious about preparing for the first day of classes, you should rethink your question policy. Get ready for the moments when you get lost and remember those point to bring up at a logical point in the lecture. Usually, the professor will stop in between slides and ask if everyone is on board. That isn’t just for fun, he actually wants some questions. If you’re not comfortable with speaking in front of a crowd, think about bringing some note cards or sticky notes to write your questions on. Bring them up at the end or class, or, better yet, go to the professor’s office hours for an extended help session. This should catch the confusion before it piles up too high. 

9. Ask questions.

Pay attention to your classmates’ questions as well. They may ask one of yours, or they may ask one you haven’t even thought about asking.

10. On the board means on the test.

Finally, train yourself to recognize the words written largely on the bright projector screen or whiteboard. Professors not-so-subtly writing, highlighting, or underlining words means those words mean something to them. Not in a “this was a part of my childhood” way, but in a “I’m going to ask a exam question about this” way. First classes are all about getting to know how a professor teaches and learning their clues to what’s important. Assuming what is on the board will be on the test is a solid way to start your semester off right.

The first week of classes can be a scary time, but following these tips can lighten the anxiety. If you stay focused and calm, you’ll succeed. After class, go get some food with your friends or try something new. You can also check out Cru on your campus (check out for more details) and grow together spiritually. Now get prepared for class!

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