Saturday, January 31, 2015

Get the Most Out of Going Back to School

What exactly do I mean by "get the most out of going back to school," anyway?

To me, it means making sure to a) get good grades, b) develop useful relationships, and c) actually learn what I need to learn in my major.

How do I go about doing that?

Show up every day.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I don't think it is. That's because some courses seem deceptively simple, or unimportant. They may lure you into thinking you can get away with just reading the material, turning in the assignments, and taking the exams.

But showing up is the first important step towards doing well in a class. For one thing, instructors sometimes penalize students who miss class by taking points away after a certain number of classes are missed. Or they give pop quizzes, which essentially rewards those who are there.

Not showing up for class is akin to not going to the gym despite paying for a gym membership, except it costs a lot more. It's just downright silly not to take advantage of something you've already paid for.

Be on time.

Relatively light Atlanta traffic.

(Atlantacitizen at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons)

Showing up every day is commendable. Way to go! Now, make sure you get to class on time every day. And "on time" in this case means get there early. I live 32 miles from KSU. It takes me about an hour to get to school, park the car, and walk from the parking deck to class. Classes start at 12:30 in the afternoon, so I leave the house at 10:30 in the morning.

(By the way, it takes me longer to get home because school lets out right when Atlanta's rush hour traffic is at its worst. But I never miss a day.)

Being on time is crucial for several reasons. One, if you are more than 5 minutes late and there's a quiz, you will probably not be allowed to take the quiz and will get a zero. Also, it's just rude to walk in late while an instructor is talking to the class.

Also, getting there early means you have a better chance of getting a prime seat in the classroom.

Sit in the front row.

Studies have shown that people who sit in the front row in class tend to get better grades. Personally, I'd rather sit in the back row -- I'm more comfortable back there, it's anonymous, I'm less likely to be asked a direct question by the teacher. But I sit in the front row anyway.

See that guy in the back, resting his chin on his fist? He'll get a 'C.'

By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sitting in the front row means I am less likely to miss something. It's easier for me to see the blackboard, whiteboard, projector screen or whatever's being used by the instructor to get the information across. The instructor is also more likely to remember who I am.

All of these things will help, believe me. Especially being remembered by the instructor. You have to engage, ask questions, and answer questions posed by the instructor. It's called class participation, and it counts.

If your grade is on the cusp between an 'A' and a 'B' that could be what tips it into 'A' territory. Instructors can do that. Teaching Assistants can also advocate on your behalf. This is college, people!

Have you taken a college class that you did well in? What did you do to make sure you did well?

Next: The right attitude makes all the difference.

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