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schoolWhat College Professors Wish Students Would Do Before The First Day Of...

What College Professors Wish Students Would Do Before The First Day Of Class

It’s not just college students: Professors feel excitement before the first day of school, too. That first class is imbued with a sense of hope and possibility that simply cannot be replicated.

While instructors are eager to dive in and get to know their students and start discussing the material, there are logistical and procedural things that they need to address first. At least part of the first class is generally spent going over the syllabus and explaining how to do things like hand in assignments. This can mean a lot of information coming at you fast — but, luckily, there are a few things you can do beforehand to feel prepared and less anxious.

We asked professors what they recommend that students do before that first class meeting. Here are their suggestions:

Read the syllabus, if it’s available to you, as well as any pre-reading the professor has assigned.

One nice thing about the first class is that it’s usually light on note-taking while the professor reviews the syllabus, which you can often familiarize yourself with beforehand if you have access to it.

Reading the syllabus is the best way to set yourself up for success in the class.

“It’s a very simple and straightforward thing to do that will enable students to understand the schedule, the policies and procedures, all kinds of things! It will help the student more effectively navigate the class,” Nadia Singh, a professor of biology at the University of Oregon, told HuffPost.

Reading the syllabus is also a way to show your professor, and your classmates, that you respect their time. “[It] will benefit the entire class because it means that class time, office hour time, etc. won’t be devoted to explaining things that are covered on the syllabus,” said Singh.

If there was a reading assignment for Day 1, you’ll want to make sure to do that as well so that you are able to follow along and contribute your ideas in class.

Order the books you will need for the course.

If there wasn’t reading assigned for the first class, there certainly will be for the next one, and you don’t want to delay your ability to get it done.

“Before the first day of class, I’d love it if students ordered their required textbooks, and if they were having financial aid issues, that they’d email me so I could make plans to get them access to required readings,” Anna Rollins, who teaches English and directs the writing center at Marshall University, told HuffPost.

This “ensures that students don’t get behind from the very beginning. It allows them to participate more fully in class discussion,” she said.

It also prevents you from having to play catch-up once you do have the books.

Log on to your university email account.

“I would also love it if students knew how to use/were regularly checking their university email,” said Rollins.

This is usually the primary way that you will be communicating with your professor, so it’s important that you’re able to use it and are checking it regularly. You don’t want to miss any important announcements. Note that professors often will send a welcome email before the first class meets that may contain key information as well as the syllabus and any reading you need to complete before that first class.

Come prepared with a game plan.

The back-to-school jitters are very real, even for college students.

“Everyone, including the professor, is feeling a range of emotions on the first day of class: excitement, nervousness, tiredness, anxiousness, uncertainty, imposter syndrome,” said Khalid White, a professor of African-American studies at San Jose City College.

“I believe the more you come into the class with a game plan, and the more prepared you are, you will feel much better about taking space in the class,” he added.

Think about why you are taking the course. Is it a requirement for your intended major or in alignment with your career goals? Or maybe this is the first opportunity you’ve had to pursue a topic you’ve always been interested in. Keeping this in mind can help strengthen what White described as “the belief that you belong and deserve to be there.”

White also recommends that students sit up front and take the time to introduce themselves to the professor after the first class.

Commit to starting strong and keeping up with assignments.

Students don’t intend to begin the semester by getting behind on the reading, but it’s a common pitfall. College classes often meet only once or twice a week, which can create the illusion that there’s lots of time to catch up before the next meeting. It’s easy for students to slide into a backlog so deep it feels impossible to dig their way out of. This kind of overwhelm can lead to dropping classes.

Students also may be accustomed to frequent check-ins and quizzes from their high school teachers, and have a hard time adjusting to being held accountable for coursework in a new way.

But there’s no way around it: The best way to be prepared for class is to complete the reading assignments. For this reason, it’s critical that students let their professor know right away if access is an issue.

Successful students, Rollins said, also have the organizational skills “to plan ahead and to use a calendar so they can anticipate the various demands on their time and energy.”

Adopt a positive growth mindset.

Once students have the readings or other required materials and a plan for accomplishing assignments, the next thing they need for success is the right outlook and attitude.

“Preparation is a skillset and it’s a mindset. Self-confidence and positive self-talk are a part of that skill set. An ‘I can’ attitude is part of that mindset,” White said. Even if these don’t come naturally, he continued, they are skills that you can grow just like academic ones.

“A growth mindset is also really important,” said Singh. Unlike a “fixed” mindset, this is the belief that effort, not simply innate talent, will allow you to master new skills.

White said that such a mindset is one thing his successful students share. These students, he explained, show “effort, consistency, and an ‘I can’ and ‘I won’t give up’ attitude.”

Bring curiosity and an open mind.

R.J. Thompson, who teaches web design, graphic design, marketing, advertising, and visual storytelling at Point Park University, University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University and the Community College of Allegheny County, also encourages his students to view each course as a journey leading to personal growth.

“I want my students to feel comfortable and safe in taking risks and experimenting and learning through ‘failing forward,’” Thompson told HuffPost.

Some of his best students, he said, “were willing to take risks and move outside of their comfort zones in order to discover new things about themselves.”

Singh concurred, saying it’s important for students to have the ability to “challenge their own ways of thinking.”

While skills can be built over time, and goals clarified, curiosity is something that students should bring to the table in order to get the most out of their classes.

“I don’t expect a college student, at any level, to have their future figured out. I just want them to know that figuring out their future is something they want to do. That’s the path,” Thompson said. “It all comes back to a mindset of curiosity. Being willing to ‘zig’ instead of ‘zagging’ all the time. A willingness to break pattern.”

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