College can be fun and exciting, but for freshmen it can also be confusing and overwhelming—especially when it comes to your first lecture class. Whether it’s physics, astronomy, English 101, or one of the other hundreds of subjects available at your school, a lecture class is likely to appear on your schedule. Regardless of your major, you will probably take several classes involving a professor talking at length to a large room full of students vigorously taking notes.
Adjusting to this type of classroom environment and style of learning may be new to you, so here are four ways you can do your best in your first lecture class.
1. Be prepared for the format and ready to listen
On the first day, enter the classroom with the proper materials: your textbook, notebook, pens or pencils, as well as any other course specific items included on the syllabus. Arrive in the proper state of mind—rested, alert, and ready to digest information. You should also get to the room early so you don’t feel rushed. Remember that first impressions count! Finally, select a seat that works for you; some students prefer to be right at the front, while others may feel more comfortable somewhere in the middle. Wherever you sit, make sure it’s a spot from which you can understand what’s going on, see the board clearly, and hear your professor.
2. Take effective notes
This is where your notebook comes in (or perhaps a laptop if your professor allows it). Write down what is on the board. Write down what the professor emphasizes, repeats, or specifies that you need to know. Write down any assignments, even if they are already listed on your syllabus. Focus on getting the content, and then later on, focus on organizing your thoughts. These notes will help as you study for quizzes and exams so that you won’t have to reread each chapter of your textbook the night before. All in all, make sure the notes you take are in a structure that you know you can understand later—nobody wants to return to notes that aren’t legible or logical!
3. Form a study group
Study groups offer multiple benefits. First, they allow you to break up the coursework into more manageable chunks as you work through them with your group members on a set timeline. Second, your group members will likely bring different perspectives on the material that will give you new insights to consider—and your own unique insights can do the same for them. Third, you can make new friends! Regularly meeting up with the same collection of individuals over a semester could forge a social bond in addition to an academic one, something many college first-years hope to find.
4. Go to office hours
This applies to every class, lecture or otherwise, but it can be especially important with lectures as there is less opportunity for one-on-one interaction in the class itself. You should be able to find your professor’s office hours in the class syllabus. Or, go up to your professor at the end of class and ask when he or she is available to talk. Prepare for this meeting like you would prepare for the class. Bring your notebook, textbook, and writing implement. Ask useful questions. Let your professor know that you are committed to succeeding in the class and are thankful for the time he or she is giving you.
When you become a face to your professor instead of simply a name and number, your status and familiarity with her or him will rise. Even though office hours are available to every student registered in a class, many students do not take advantage of them as they should. Be above average—your professor, and your grades, will appreciate it.
With these four steps, you will be well on your way to achieving success in your first lecture class. Start at the beginning with strong preparation, and work the other steps into your classroom lifestyle. Who knows? Your first college lecture class might end up being one of your favorites!
This is a guest post from writer Mahlena-Rae Johnson. Mahlena-Rae is a professional tutor and contributing writer with Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.