Lesson I: First Impressions

So you’ve met with your adviser, picked your courses, payed a small fortune for books and now it’s the first day of class. Whether your name is always on the top of the Dean’s list or your wondering who the hell is Dean and who cares about his list, most college students know that being on good terms with a professor can make your life a lot easier. Like any other relationship, the first impression will be what you are judged by, a bad one is hard to shake but a good one can leave a lasting impression (especially around grading time.) So how do you make a good first impression? While one blog entry can only scratch the surface of first impressions, here are some of the basics.

1. Show up and be on time.
It was Woody Allen who said “eighty percent of success is just showing up” and he was right. College courses require that you show up and more importantly that you show up on time. Most professors find nothing more annoying than being interrupted by someone walking into their class twenty minutes after its already started or being told “I wasn’t here last week, can you tell me what I missed?” It’s disrespectful and shows signs of immaturity. The right way to handle being absent from class is for another lesson. If you know you have trouble waking up early in the morning when the alarm clock goes off then you better be dammed sure not to sign up for any early classes. Doing so can be setting yourself up for failure.

2. Find out what is expected of you (and what you can expect from your professor.)
On the first day of class most professors will hand out a syllabus explaining all the basics or they will tell you what they expect from you and expect you to remember it. If he/she doesn’t give you a syllabus then taking some notes wouldn’t be a bad idea. In your notes be sure to include:

+ Ways to contact the professor (such as an office telephone number and/or e-mail address) in case something comes up and you need to get a hold of him/her.

+ The professor’s office hours (not all professors will offer them so its good to find out if they do.) If you have more than just a few quick questions about an assignment or need some extra help office hours would be the time to ask.

+ The grading policy. How many tests or quizzes will you have? Will you have take home assignments or essays? How much of your grade is each thing worth? Most of this should be explained but if it’s then don’t forget to ask so you can keep track of your progress throughout the semester.

+ If there are any required readings or extra materials. Some professors may ask that in addition to your textbook you purchase additional books as required readings for the class (often the case for English and Literature courses) or some additional supplies for labs/clinical courses (such is the case for many students in Healthcare, Biology and Chemistry courses.)

3. Act like you care (even if you don’t.)
When you’re in class you should look like you want to be there (even if you don’t want to) and show the professor some basic respect. Just try to imagine that you’re the one who has to stand up and teach the entire class. If the students aren’t looking at you and are talking to each other while your speaking or are on their cell phones, you would consider it pretty rude right? That’s exactly how your professor feels. Basically, you should turn off your cell phone (or put it on vibrate) and keep it in your pocket, look at the professor, don’t speak unless you’ve been called on or are participating in a class discussion and pull out a notebook so you can at least pretend to be taking some notes. Whether you want to pay attention is your business (although I would since you’re paying to be there) but this way your not disrupting the rest of the class and your not being openly rude to the professor.

4. Be prepared.
It’s a simple enough concept. If your supposed to have read a selection before class to be able to discuss a the topic during class then do it. If have a paper due in two weeks, then make sure you have it ready in two weeks. Not being prepared for class only makes you appear stupid and it can also make it difficult to understand what the professor is talking about when they move on to more difficult concepts. It can also be pretty embarrassing if you’re called on to answer a question on something you should know but have no clue about.

5. If your interested in the subject then show it!
Its just a fact that your not going to enjoy every class that you take, so for some classes you are just going to have to do the work and hope it goes by quickly. But hopefully there should be at least a few of the classes you take that you will enjoy and are interested in taking. If you are interested in the subject or the way the professor teaches it then you should show it. Participate in discussions (if there are any), do some extra research on a topic and ask questions that promote further discussion (just don’t ask questions that have already been answered or aren’t relevant to the topic.) It helps to make you stand out in the professors mind (in a good way.)

6. Make yourself stand out
Unless you have a professor who only teaches one class (which sometimes happens) then your professors are likely to have a lot of students (especially if your in a lecture hall with hundreds of students in each class.) Its a fact that not every professor will notice you, many of them probably won’t know you as anything more then a student ID number and that’s the best your going to get out of them. But if your lucky enough to be in a small class then you have a good chance you will be known by name (or nickname.) If you are usually the first one to class, the last one to leave or one of those people who asks really good questions it will be a lot easier to be remembered. Just make sure your not remembered for the wrong reasons.

7. Don’t be annoying.
Don’t become the person that your classmates (and secretly the professor too) peg as an annoying person. Annoying people tend to be easier students to remember than the not annoying ones (and that’s not a good thing.) Don’t be a “know it all”, you don’t need to share your whole life story (because most of the other students won’t care), don’t keep asking about what is graded and how to get extra credit and don’t be a “drama queen”.

Those are the basic rules I’ve come up with to making a good first impression in the context of a classroom environment. Showing up and just being a respectful person is really all you need. But if anyone can think of anything else that should be added to this list feel free to comment and I will put it up.

How It All Started

Let me take the time to introduce myself and tell you why I started this. My name is Chris. I’m am a college student studying to get my BSN (Bachelors Degree in Nursing). After graduating high school I went to a community college for two years in attempts to get an ADN (Associates Degree in Nursing). Eventually realizing that I wanted a bachelors degree and I was sick of waiting and waiting at the community college I decided to transfer schools. One night while writing a paper, I began thinking about the things that have happened to me since I started college, all of the the experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned. I wondered why I wasn’t ready for some of the situations that I’ve had to deal with and if somehow I could have been more prepared. Then I thought about how helpful it would have been if there was something that I could have read that would have told me what I would be in for; I’ve bought a library’s worth of books and read as many online articles as I could find about “the college experience.” The fact is, there isn’t some kind of magical guide that’s going to tell you how to get through college, but there are sources that have advice from people who have been there and done it before. The problem is that out of all the resources I’ve found most were helpful but a lot of the information is scattered and so some topics are done to death and others aren’t mentioned at all. My hope in starting this blog is to share what I know, readers can comment and contribute and then this will be a blog worth reading. And hopefully it can help you to survive and enjoy what most people describe as the best and yet most crazy time of your life…