How to Survive a College Class

I am here today (coming out of the first week back in college) ready with a few helpful pointers to keep your sanity throughout this next semester (yes, all of these points come from personal experience).

1). Always show up for class at least 5 minutes before it is supposed to start. 

This helps two-fold: it gives you time to organize your things prior to the roll-call, and it gives your professor the impression that you actually want to be there.


2). Show interest (this goes along with number 1).

Yes, this does mean faking it if you have to.

Blunt and possibly hard? Heck yah!

But you want your professor to think you are interested, that way they will be more forgiving on things like grading (or helping you when you are stuck).


3). Take initiative.

That means when you get your syllabi (plural of syllabus) for that semester, read all of the darn things and note when projects are due. You don’t have to mark them on a calendar, but do yourself a favor and see if you have any projects due around the same time. If so, do yourself a second favor and read the next point.


4). Use that muscle between your ears.

I.e. if you have projects falling into the same time on the calendar, see how on earth you can combine them. Or, plan ahead to make them coincide with passions of yours.



5). Learn the rule book(s). Quickly.

Face it: every professor has some sort of unspoken rules that they live and govern their class by. Learn those rules in the first week (or two) and save yourself headaches.

Example a: One history professor I had was very opinionated (Socialist, loved President Lincoln, Feminist… etc); However, she would listen to any differing opinion so long as you could quote original source documents. At the end of the semester I actually got an A+ on a paper that was completely contrary to her own beliefs, because I used nothing but original sources.

Example b: One english professor (very old and very patronizing) insisted that we were to be all fuzzy-feely over her selected readings (90% about death and suicide). I am not a fuzzy-feely person, and death is no light subject. So I got away with bluntness in her class by learning to shape my words in such a way as to pander to her ego (and using collective language).


6). For humanity classes…

Learn the skill of collective language and subtle pandering.

Will you occasionally want to gag on your own words?

Yes, but, if you want a good grade, learn this skill and learn it well. However, this does not under any circumstances mean throwing personal beliefs and convictions out the window.

Example: In an Ancient history class I lost a lot of points on my final paper by overtly talking about Jesus Christ and Christianity (Anti-Christian professor, what can I say?). However, I managed to gain back a lot of points by pandering to the professor’s super feminist side. (Note: Our final was broken down into five parts: 4 short essays, one long essay. I mentioned Jesus in one short, and Christianity was a big part of the long essay. However, I wrote a glowing short essay about Queen Hatshepsut).


7). For Science (STEM) classes…

Do the homework as soon as possible. Do not EVER put it off. that will bite you hard where the sun don’t shine. Also, tutoring centers at most campuses will be your friend (along with Wikipedia for general knowledge, and WolframAlpha for more specific problems).


8). Kill a tree (or burn through your RAM). (PS. This part dedicated to my Brother since he reminded me to add it). 

In other words, take tons of notes. This helps you in three ways:

  1. You actually have notes to refer back to when the question comes up “what did the professor say about those nucleus thingies?” (or fill in the blank).
  2. When the professor says that something is important, you can actually remember which of the 50,000 things you really needed to know for that next test.
  3. Those notes will give you reference material for future classes (in case you forgot one or two of those 50,000 things by your senior year).


9). Finally.

Remember two things:

  1. Learning is proportional to the effort you put into a class.
  2. Your grades are not worth giving up your passions. Put the passions to the side for a semester? Yes. Give them up entirely. Not a chance. (This… This point right here in a crux. Either live by it, or die without it, as I have found out going into my senior year here in 2014).

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