Going to class in college

Brittney Winters is a California native currently residing in South Florida. She attended three colleges in her academic career, all of which brought her a unique experience and understanding of the collegiate system. Now that she’s graduated, she works as the Editorial Manager for Hatchery, and in her free time, she feigns interest in anything that isn’t Chevy Chase or ice cream. She plans on saving up and buying an Airstream trailer within the next 3 years to take her freelancing skills on the road while she explores the big backyard she calls America with her boyfriend and their pets, Clyde and Bill Furry.

There is a vast array of campus resources available to you as a college student. From your advisor to the writing center to tutoring guides for every class imaginable, there’s never any reason that you shouldn’t be able to get the most out of your college education. However, I feel like the one resource that is the most underutilized is the professor.

I get it, your teacher isn’t the person you want to be hanging out with, especially when you’ve finally been given your shot at independence. Making your own decisions means being able to choose when to go to class and when to listen. Yes, that is completely acceptable, but if you want to complete your classes with more knowledge than you started with, you need to ask questions.

Back in high school, you probably thought asking for help was completely lame, and, in teenage world, it is. But now that you’re in college, let me remind you that you are paying for your education. Whether it’s your parents’ money, your own money, or you’re fortunate enough to earn a scholarship, someone is paying for you to be learning. You’ve been given the chance to learn about whatever interests you, and it’s what you take with you into your life and career. That right there is reason enough to raise your hand, but if that’s not enough to convince you, let me elaborate.

No one is going to answer your questions if you don’t ask them, and you can’t wait for someone to ask what you won’t; it may never happen. If you absolutely cannot ask in class—lecture classes in particular are not conducive to dialogue between teacher and student—schedule a one-on-one meeting with your professor, or e-mail them with as much information as you can to make your inquiry as clear as possible. If your professor allows for questions and conversation during class, then take the opportunity to air whatever concerns or confusions you may have at that time—you’re saving everyone the hassle of having to work on the class outside of class (bonus: the information is freshest when you’re learning about it!).

While we’re on the topic of discussing material that’s already being discussed, let me briefly stress the point of staying on top of your readings (we’ll get to this another time). If there is one thing that’s going to save you loads of time and stress, it’s doing your assignments when they need to be done, and you should not overlook the importance of reading assignments. When your teacher assigns a reading, it means one of two things: either they’re going to test you on it in some form during the next class, or they’re at least going to discuss it. If you read, you can ask your teacher about anything you didn’t understand in the reading, and that way you’re not left with a bunch of unanswered questions the night before your final. In real life, the person who looks like a bigger fool is the one who fails the class because they were intimidated by the idea of simply asking a question. Your teachers want you to succeed; they’re teaching you about the subject they love more than their cats, they love talking about it.

So, if you just tuned back in, here’s what we covered: do your readings and ask about anything you don’t know. If the person you ask doesn’t know, ask them to refer you to someone who does. You’ll save time at the end of the semester, and you’ll actually learn what you’re in school to learn. I know it sounds too good to be true, that this is too easy to be such an important factor in your success during college, but speaking from experience, I can tell you that it makes all the difference. Sure, there will be times when you just can’t get to the reading or that you need to take a personal day (we’ll get to this another time, too), but for the most part, you’re going to be able to keep up with your schoolwork as long as you want to make it a priority.

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