Every semester, it seems that every student starts the semester off with the same optimistic goal: to make a 4.0. Yet, many of us find ourselves struggling at the end of the semester to make a C or a B in certain classes. What happened between the beginning of the semester and the end? Where do we consistently go wrong?
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me I’m pretty sure the problem is I don’t translate that beginning of the semester optimism into something productive. Instead, I bask in the possibility that I may one day make a good GPA while also letting myself “ease into the semester”. Because the beginning of the semester is the easiest part of it, right? The problem with this is that it makes it very difficult to start the semester off on the right foot. So, this semester I’ve made a pledge about my first day of classes:
1. Go to class.
This one might seem like an obvious one, but how many of us skip our first day of class because it’s syllabus day? I don’t think I’ve ever skipped a class on the first day, it just seems like a recipe for disaster to me but I know many people who do.
Reasons you shouldn’t skip your first class include:
—Your professor might give you an in class assignment (this has happened to me before)
—There is a good chance that you’re going to start off notes on the first day
—The professor might take attendance, and they will notice who skips the first day of class. This is a great way to start your relationship with your professor off on the wrong foot.
—The more classes you skip, the easier it is to skip them. This is a big one and if you don’t believe me just take some time to reflect on your pattern of skipping classes. By not going to a class, you’ve convinced yourself that attendance isn’t important to getting a good grade. If you don’t see the immediate negative impact of skipping class in your grade it further justifies skipping that class. And I can guarantee you that you probably won’t see an immediate and obvious negative impact on your grade. This is not a good thing. Skipping class is the silent killer of GPA, because you don’t realize how much it has harmed you until you’re sitting down taking your first exam or going to office hours the last week of class and having to explain to your professor that, yes, you actually are in their class even if they’ve never seen you before.
It’s just a matter of starting the semester out on the right foot. If you can’t make yourself go to the first class of the semester, you sure as hell aren’t going to be able to do the work required to get an A.
2. Check your email beforehand.
I can’t tell you how many times I nearly got screwed by not checking my email before class. At A&M in my experience most of the more common and basic math classes require you to print out your syllabus before coming to the first class and you are immediately given a quiz on it. This has also happened to me in a gender studies class. I think sending out an email with instructions prior to class is the most common way for professor to weed out who can follow basic instructions and who is too lazy to survive in the adult world. Theres nothing more embarrassing than sitting in a classroom where everyone seems to know what’s going on except for you.
3. Get to class early.
On your first day you’re going to want to get to class at least a few minutes early. I try to get there 10 minutes early. Now this is a good rule for the entire year, but it’s especially important on the first day for simple seat picking reasons. If you walk in right as class is starting, or heaven forbid a few minutes late, you’re going to have to take the last seat in the classroom that everyone else decided they didn’t want. The bitch seat, if you will. Also, this goes back to making a good impression on the professor. If you get to class a few minutes early you might even get the chance to chat with your professor, which is always good for building up those professor-student relationships.
4. Sit at the front of the class.
I personally am not someone who is naturally inclined to sit at the front of a classroom, I’d be much more comfortable in the back. However, this semester I’m going to try and force myself to sit in the front of the classroom in all of my classes, not only on the first day but for the rest of the semester. This is another thing your professors will likely notice, mostly because you’re going to be right there for them to make conversation to when they’re setting up and breaking down their class. It also forces you to pay attention, because you know the professor will notice if you’re on your phone or browsing Facebook on your laptop.
5. Talk to someone, anyone.
There are actually two people you want to talk to on your first day: your professor and a classmate. For me, this is the hardest part of this list. I have mild social anxiety, and introducing myself to strangers I definitely part of that. I’m a big proponent of leaving your comfort zone, though, and talking to other people in my class has been the most helpful thing I’ve ever done on the first day. If you can manage it, ask to exchange numbers, start a study group or start a groupme for the class. You might feel like a total nerd, but in college everyone appreciates the nerds a lot more than they did in high school. Chances are, if you propose a study group the only thing your classmates are going to assume about you is that you’re the smartest one in the class. Also, finding a chance to talk to your professor is important, as I’ve stressed so much. Chatting before or after class or even just asking a question during class can be enough to get the professor to start recognizing your face.