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10 Classroom Tips for Your First College Semester

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As a freshman, it is not only okay to have no idea what to major in, it's also a sign of an open mind to the diverse menu that college has to offer. Hopefully, you are choosing courses which seem interesting to you rather than classes that parents or peers say you have to take immediately.

To me, a college class is just like a Hollywood screenplay, with peaks, valleys, and escalating conflicts along the way. Your professor may be the writer, director, and critic, but you are the lead actor and protagonist who must navigate the obstacles and perform well on each test thrown at you. Try to keep in mind though, that professors are actually rooting for you to succeed. When you fail, they fail.

If you maintain a clear perspective and a healthy sense of humor, these classroom tips should help you through that first college semester:

  1. The first day of class is the most important session because it sets the tone for the semester. Rather than grabbing a syllabus, tuning out, and leaving, expect more from yourself that day. You have the power to stay in or drop the class, so intently gauge the course relevance, workload, and potential deliverables.
  2. Make a friend on the first day of class so you can swap class notes when needed. Even if the notes stink, you've made a new friend.
  3. Think twice before you post something about classes on Facebook or Twitter. It is unwise to tweet ugly thoughts, especially under the hash tag #BoredinClass. Your professors may actually be active on social networks.
  4. You may be intimidated by your professor's knowledge, but that's a function of your experience, not your abilities. Have confidence in your capacity to learn and you may surprise yourself on what you are capable of accomplishing in class.
  5. The best way to figure out how to study for exams is to attend class and observe what topics are important to professors. Those subjects usually wind up on their tests.
  6. Ask your professors how they would study for their own exams.
  7. If you study for three hours straight, make sure you take a lot of short study breaks. Distraction from learning is the key to retaining what you've learned.
  8. If your professor offers extra credit projects, do them! "Lack of time" is not a good excuse if given ample time to complete the task. "Trying to get a good grade on my own" is a noble reason, but there is no shame in accepting alternative ways to succeed.
  9. Texting in class is better than talking to your neighbor. It's more discreet and less distracting to the professor and students around you.
  10. Approach class like you should approach life: No matter how boring or stressful the day is, find some fun in learning something new.

Finally, college success (whatever that means to you) is more than doing well in the classroom. It's also about figuring out your place in this world. Along the way, it is inevitable that you will occasionally make irrational decisions and not even know why. That topic will be addressed in my next blog post entitled: 10 Tips for Thriving in College Life.

Perry Binder is a legal studies professor at Georgia State University. His classroom tips are from his book, 99 Motivators for College Success, along with other tips on his 99 Motivators blog.