Tag Archives: Classes

Lesson III: Choosing Courses

If your at all like me (a procrastinator born and bred) then you wait until the very last minute before you end up doing anything, including picking classes. But fear not, this advice that I’ve put together can help both the prepared student and the lazy last-minute student in the task of choosing courses.

1. Review your course catalog.
First you should be looking at your college’s course catalog for courses you’re interested in and look for what courses you need for your major (this includes your prerequisites and gen. eds.)

2. Speak with your adviser.
The entire purpose of an academic adviser is for them to help you find out what classes you need to take so you can get the education your looking for. Your college pays them so they can be there to help you when you need it; part of your tuition pays for their service. So why not use it? Call or walk into the admissions department and make an appointment to speak with an adviser. Even if you already know exactly what courses you need to take and what your doing for the rest of the year, it never hurts to have a talk with an adviser about your plans (they might have some helpful tips or information about your major that you haven’t heard about yet.) Not to mention the fact that the advisers often have access to materials and contacts that you might not.

3. When your choosing classes figure out why your taking them.
It seems like a simple enough concept but some students don’t take the time to think about it. If you have to take a class for your major then there isn’t much to think about (it’s just something your going to have to do) but if your considering taking a class just because your interested in the subject, try to find out if you can have it be as an elective credit for your major. If the course can’t be counted as any sort of elective credit, try asking yourself if taking the class is worth the time, money and effort it will require (which is not to say that taking a class just for fun isn’t perfectly fine.)

4. Ask around about the course and professor.
Talk to your friends and ask around campus to find out what other students thought of a class and the professor who taught it. Was it so boring that the students were falling asleep during the lecture? Did they find the professor unapproachable for help? Its questions like that which are good to find out ahead of time. Keep in mind what you will be hearing are opinions and not necessarily facts so its just a small thing to take into consideration. Having trouble finding people who have taken a certain class or had a certain professor? Websites like Myspace and Rate My Professors feature ratings and reviews on professors so its easy for students to talk to each other about their experiences on a larger scale.

5. Do some searching.
Most college websites will provide links to or a directory of faculty websites. If you search through the directory of faculty and find the professors website who will be teaching the course you want to take, you may find that they have posted a syllabus or more detailed description of the class. You may find out that the class isn’t exactly what you bargained for (before it’s too late.)

6. Even if a class is full, don’t give up!
This is especially for the procrastinators out there who wait until the last minute to sign up for a class only to realize that every section is full. But remember there is still a glimmer of hope. At many colleges the policy of course overrides are allowed. An override is if a professor is willing to sign a form that allows an extra student into the class when the class is full then the college will allow you to take the class and get credit for it. Keep in mind though that not all professors are more willing to sign an override slip for one reason or another (and excessive begging is not a good idea.) However, some professors are more willing to sign an override if some of the other students don’t show up on the first day (there’s usually at least a few of those people.) The best plan is to speak to the professor (or the department head) ahead of time and they might sign the override before class starts or they may ask you to show up to class the first day and they will do the best they can to squeeze you in. But as I have said this may work but don’t expect miracles, some professors make a policy of not writing overrides and some courses simply don’t have enough room or materials for more students then originally planned.

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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.