By Claire Salinas
In college, it takes a lot of work to make it on time for class. Once you’re there, it’s tempting to spend your time thinking about how you could be finishing up a paper, grocery shopping, grabbing lunch with friends or doing other things to light up the pleasure circuit in your brain.
While it would be easy to spend your time wishing your professor was the announcer touting your accolades before you receive your Emmy, there are a few tried and true strategies you can utilize to get the most out of class time.
1. Read the Material Before Class
One exciting feature about college is that there aren’t generally a lot of surprises. Your professor gives you a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, which outlines what will be covered every day in class.
Use this to your advantage by reading the Power Points provided and/or reading the chapter ahead.
If you are currently in college and scoffing at the idea of finding time to read the material before class, try to remember you will exert double the effort trying to understand the material if you leave class confused and have to work to understand the material on your own.
2. Bring a list of questions to class
Once you read the material make sure to write a list of anything you’re unclear on so you can have your list ready when the professor opens the floor for questions. This way they can help you work through any difficult problems or concepts you were unable to crack on your own. This simple step will save you a lot of Internet searches and hours spent trying to grasp the material from dry textbook language.
3. Look over upcoming assignments and clarify them while in class
You know those annoying emails you get from classmates asking if the major paper of the semester is due tomorrow, and if so what’s the topic again?
Don’t be that person. Not just for your classmates’ sakes, but for yours. Sometimes if you ask about an assignment ahead of time your teacher will offer to look it over and give you feedback before you turn it in for a grade. For me getting my paper looked over was the difference between an B and a C in the Spanish class I was struggling in sophomore year, so trust me – it’s worth it to check out your options.
4. Answer questions and add your own thoughts
If you plan to go to graduate school, one of the first things you will learn is that most classes are discussion based. Go ahead and get a head start now by becoming comfortable talking in class, and even if you don’t plan to go to graduate school being able to talk about your ideas in an understandable way is a great real world skill to have. Find a way to engage yourself in the lecture. It really doesn’t matter whether you have a passion for world history or not; what does matter is that you find a way to get an A on your transcript.
I had the opportunity to take a psychology class during my last semester in college that was rumored to contain some difficult material. I was the classic over the top question asker in that class, and while you don’t always have to go that far to stay engaged, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone to make this happen, especially if you’re a shy person.
5. Download self-control
Depending on your professor, it is very likely that you will be allowed to use laptops to take notes in class. If you have a serious problem staying on task with taking notes in class you don’t have to forego your laptop for handwritten notes; you can simply download the free Self Control app. The symbol for the app is a spade with crossbones because that’s how serious it is about keeping you focused.
Once you make a list of the sites you can and cannot visit during your session and type in your password they are blocked until the time limit is up. You can set a timer for as little as 15 minutes or as long as an entire day. I used this app a lot while writing my senior thesis