I graduated high school with the assumption that college would be stricter and more difficult than anything I had ever faced. I brought along my backpack with all the books for the quarter, about twenty assorted pens and pencils, and enough paper to write a novel.
I used none of that my first day. Instead, we got a syllabus with some expectations for the quarter, maybe a little homework, and often times (especially in smaller classes) we introduced ourselves to the class.
I ended the first week feeling pretty confident in my ability to get through the class. Perhaps I was a little too confident.
By the time the second week starts up, the snooze button on my phone became a huge temptation. Classes were definitely fun but hey, so is sleep.
I end up going to class on time. Because I show up, I have info on the tests that might not be in the book, my homework turned in, and I’ve built rapport with the professor by contributing to class.
My humorous advice for the first day, especially for shy people? Write down a movie and a book you enjoyed and keep it on you. I can’t remember how many times I’ve forgotten what my favorite book is the first day of class. You don’t usually need to get your books on the first day as long as you can get them before your first assignment is due. If the bookstore is packed the first day, wake up a little early and stop by the next day when it opens.
The first week is usually a good time to explore. Are there any secrets around campus? What are the different places to get dinner? The first week might be a great time to visit EPIC for some outdoor adventures.
Got your homework done for the week? Great! College homework can be more challenging than high school work, but it’s usually a lot more fun too. I’m interested in writing and design, and I’ve done projects ranging from writing short stories to designing lightbulb packaging and booklets.
Week two can catch people buy surprise if they aren’t prepared. One myth I hear from parents, high school teachers, and other freshmen is that classes aren’t “mandatory”. I had a CPLA class where we learned tricks in class I wouldn’t have realized otherwise. If I hadn’t shown up I wouldn’t have passed the tests and I would have to retake the class!
Now that you’ve done your homework and attended class, it’s a good idea to build rapport with your class and teachers. Many classes have required group work. It’s great to already have a few classmates you’re comfortable working with.
A brief note—while you might be tempted to work with close friends that already know, make sure you’re working with people you can be certain will help your group succeed as a team!
Showing your professor that you’re interested in learning will help in the long run. Professors are people too, and they want to know they’re doing a good job at generating interest. Once you get on good terms with your professor to start out, you’ll find it easier to communicate with them outside of class.
The first classes that were inside my major was initially a little scary. I ended up in a writing class with nobody I knew. I asked my teacher questions through email and asked a few questions in person. By the end of the quarter my teacher wasn’t just another professor, she was a friend and someone willing to work with me towards my goals.
1: Write down your favorite book, movie, and a hobby before your first day.
2: Explore campus a bit and see what you can find early on. You might be too busy to explore later!
3: Finish homework.
4: Show up to class.
5: Take part in class.
These tips might sound a little basic … because they are! Here’s a little secret:
A couple years ago I was working in an early design class with some absolutely amazing students, but somehow I had a higher grade. Their work looked professional, but I was still struggling to master Photoshop despite intense effort. I remember asking my professor, “Everyone else has fantastic designs, and I feel like I’m falling behind. How are my grades higher?” My professor smiled at me and said, “It’s because you’re the one doing the homework.”
That’s such a weird secret isn’t it? Doing the work is the difference between just going to college and being academically successful.