Pragmatic advice for surviving lectures
July 17, 2018
College is often the first time students find themselves in a large lecture hall with a hundred or more similarly sleepy students, with some trying to concentrate on the PowerPoint and others watching Stranger Things on Netflix. Without required attendance or the watchful eye of a high school teacher, it can be easy to zone out or not go to class at all. That being said, here are a few ways students can stay awake and ace their classes.
Actually go to lecture and discussion
Actually going to lecture is often the best way to get an idea of what information the professor wants to emphasize (i.e. what will most likely to be covered in the exams). Even if you know the material well, many professors use class time to tell students about updates to the syllabus, advice for essays and information that isn’t in the readings. Beyond showing up, participating in the lecture and discussion can put you in the good graces of the professor or TA who will likely be grading the work you submit.
Do the reading before class
Though many students complain about being forced to buy expensive books the professor never uses, readings are important in many classes. Basically, buy or rent the book online and do the assigned readings until you’re completely sure the content in the readings won’t be covered in any essays or tests.
Sometimes lecture material is the same as the reading. Sometimes the lecture is completely unrelated to the reading. Sometimes the lecture goes deeper into concepts that are discussed in the reading. Get an understanding of how the professor wants to use the reading to enhance the class and prepare accordingly. Take notes on the reading before class, highlight parts where you’re confused and write down any questions you have. Look for answers to your questions during the lecture and ask the professor or TA any remaining questions after class or during their office hours.
Sit near the front
Sitting near the front of the lecture hall is a good way to make the class seem smaller and force yourself to pay attention. Consistently attending class and participating isn’t just a good way to understand the material – it’s a great way to show the professor/TA that you’re committed to understanding the material. Professors are generally more likely to round up for students they know have been putting in the work all semester than the nameless person who shows up at their office asking for extra credit the week before the final.
Plus, it’s a lot harder to doze off if you’re sitting two rows in front of the instructor.
If you know you’ll have trouble concentrating in class, try getting a cup of tea or coffee beforehand. Caffeine can increase your energy and focus – both of which are particularly helpful if your instructor has a Professor Binns-esque soporific teaching style.
Make a few friends
Having a couple friends in every class is a great way to get to know people with similar interests and set you up for a good grade in the class. Class friends can send you notes when you miss a class, help you form study groups when preparing for the midterms and finals, and explain concepts you don’t understand.
Heather is a sophomore in LAS