Whether this is your first day of college classes EVER or the first day of your last semester it is seriously never too late to make the most of your classes.
And making the most of your classes starts the minute you walk in the door. Well actually it starts before! You need to use your first day to get control of the semester because falling behind leads to a stressful and unnecessarily difficult semester.
After my 8 semesters in college I sat back and looked at what I did and didn’t do and evaluated what makes the most successful first day of classes and now I am spreading this knowledge that I wish I would have known to you!
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1) Read the syllabus before class
This is, of course, only an option if the syllabus is available before the class starts. At a lot of schools you can access your online school system a week or so before the classes start and professors frequently have it on there! I also had a lot of professors email the syllabus out before as well.
This is so important because you can start the first day ready to ask any questions and set yourself up for success.
Get a binder or folder to keep the printed syllabi. They were one of the only things I ever printed in college but it was so worth it to be able to write any updates and changes on!
I used one of these and it was simple and perfect:
2) Sit where you can hear
I am not going to tell you to sit in the front row (unless that’s what you like and in that case you go!!). But I am going to tell you to make sure you can see and hear on the first class. Sometimes by the end of the semester you realize that being super visible in certain classes isn’t overly helpful.. but make sure you give yourself time to figure that out. Usually the first class of semester is the most helpful because the professor goes over what the class will cover, what the exams are like, what you should study, when things are due, etc. So make sure you can hear the professor and see the board.
3) Take notes
Start taking notes right away. Professors frequently add more information and details than the syllabus has on it and sometimes will make changes to the syllabus. I try to have the syllabus printed out and with me so I can make any updates on it as well as having my laptop out to take any additional notes. Make sure to save the notes (if digital) as something you can easily identify as the first day in the class folder. Also if you don’t already have the folders set up on your laptop for each class then GO DO THAT NOW. If you are taking physical notes then the first day should be the first page of the notebook or first page of the divider.
For a whole guide on taking notes check this out: How To Take Notes in College
Also get pens that you actually will love like these (please don’t use crappy ones that run through to the next page). Seriously used these every year and still use them at work after graduation!
4) Introduce yourself to classmates
Make a friend in the class before you need a friend in the class. Introduce yourself and ideally swap phone numbers so you can give each other notes if one of you miss a lecture. It’s also nice to already have one or a couple people to team up with for projects! And of course college is a great time to make new friends in general so don’t be afraid to try and strike up conversations with people.
This is especially important in your major specific classes. You will take a lot of classes with these other students and quite possibly end up working with some of them at some point after graduation so make the connections now! Also- if someone tries to introduce them self to you then be nice. Never burn a bridge just because you didn’t know it was a potential connection.
5) Leave early
Please do not show up to the first day of class late! Give yourself plenty of time to get to the building especially if you haven’t been to the specific building before. For larger schools (like mine- Ohio State) you would be amazed at how even during your senior year it can be time consuming to try and find a new building. Also, those huge old academic buildings can have classrooms tucked in weird places so give yourself time for once you are inside the classroom too.
Walking in after the professor has started class is not only rude to the professor and your classmates but it also will make you feel rushed and hectic on a day you should be trying to set your semester up for success.
6) Ask questions
Do NOT be afraid to ask questions. The sooner you clarify an assignment or due date from the syllabus the better. Chances are if you are wondering about something then so are some of your classmates and they will be thankful that you asked. The first day of classes is largely meant to explain the class so make sure you fully understand what is being explained and what the expectations are.
If you think of questions after class do not be afraid to stop into office hours or send your professor or T.A an email. Just make sure to read the syllabus regarding any guidelines- some professors like you to include certain course information in the email subject line.
7) Figure out your day routines
The first day of classes is a great way to figure out your routines. Do you have a two hour gap between 11am-1pm with no class? Probably a great time to eat lunch and do some studying. Getting into a routine earlier in the semester will help you stay on top of your academic work BEFORE it starts to get overwhelming.(I have a whole guide on staying on top of your academics to avoid cramming and all nighters- if you fall into this category then do yourself a favor and read it!).
Make sure that your routine includes time for eating and studying to help you make the most of your day. I liked to use the first week to find the best library or study space in comparison to where my classes were located. Also I would determine the most important part of my routine- coffee! Sounds kind of silly but knowing when my next cup of coffee was going to be seriously kept me going at some points during my academic career! But if something is important to you make sure you add it into your routine.
Are you excited for the next semester? Nervous? Need help or advice? Let me know! I am always looking for more topics to help you awesome readers ACE college!