Whether you are an incoming freshman nervous at the thought of a huge lecture with 300 students or you are rearing up for your exciting senior year like I am, there are always tricks and tips that everyone should know that makes these nerves settle. I know that as a new freshman, I heard everything about where to go to buy decorations for my dorm, how to get involved as soon as I got on campus, and how my swipe card worked for any dining center on campus — believe it or not. However, no one informed me of any tips that would have come in handy when considering the one thing that I was most nervous about and the whole reason why I was there...classes!
1. There is an art to buying textbooks
In high school, the teachers supplied the books on the first day of school while you went on your way, stuffing it into your locker with the hope that you can find it later when you need it. Not in college! Because there is a variety of classes for everyone to take, you are responsible for finding and getting your hands on them. Some classes will require more than one book, like, I had a class where I needed six! Other professors prefer to live in the digital age and require access codes (I'll explain those later). If you get lucky, your professor might not require one at all!
I like to say that there is an art to buying textbooks. In addition, there are three kinds of textbook buyers: the ones that do not get them until the professor says they need them, the ones that just purchase them without thinking, and the ones that use their resources to find the most financially-sound way of getting them. Each one of these styles has a benefit and a disadvantage to them, however. If you decide to be the one that waits for the professor's go-ahead to purchase the books, you might just save yourself a few bucks. As I have learned, many professors will put on their syllabus that for the class, the students need a certain book when in reality they never use it! Frustrating, right? On the contrary, some require them to even pass the class, which means you are risking the book stores selling out of the books that you need and now you are stuck paying over $200 for one textbook. There are also the students that just buy the books without looking at the price tag and walk out with one semester's worth of tuition in their bag. At least the upside to this style is that they will never have to worry about not being prepared! I don't know too many of these people... Finally, there are people like me — the ones that research ahead of time and compare prices. A little insight: Chegg and Amazon will become your best friend when renting books. That's right! Renting. I have gotten books worth $400 for $20 on Chegg. All you have to do is send it back, for free, in the same box it came in before the due date. Amazing, huh? Here is the only glitch that happens every once in a while. Chegg or Amazon may not have it or send it to you in time. Typically, the books take around three days to arrive so plan for that. This style is a little more time consuming when comparing prices, but the extra hour is definitely worth not spending $200 for a book you may or may not need.
Access codes, man. All I can say is welcome to the digital age. Access codes are basically individualized codes that you buy that allows you to set up an account and be recognized in the class. They will typically have your homework, quizzes, online text, and sometimes your tests on it. So yeah, you cannot get out of this one. The only downside to these codes is that they are typically over $100 and cannot be rented as they are coded under your personal information and are one-time use. They get you on these ones, so good luck!
Final textbook tip: Some campus book stores will match prices to the competitor book stores. As a warning, not many will match Amazon or Chegg prices — do not waste your time.
2. Where you sit in the lecture hall DOES matter
"It's a 200 person lecture, so why does it matter?"
I have gotten called a teacher's pet, a nerd, and everything else—all for sitting towards the front of the class. Ignore these people. Sitting towards the front will better you in the end, especially if you have a difficult time paying attention. It is actually quite simple--sitting in the back has more distractions as you are placed behind everyone. When you sit towards the front, you avoid all of the unnecessary distractions such as peers talking, people on Facebook, and it can even sometimes be difficult to see or hear anything that the professor is saying. I have noticed that I remember more information from classes that I sat in the front for than the ones where I sat towards the back. I know walking into a large lecture hall for the first time is intimidating, but you do not have to sit in the front row. Personally, I think that that can be just as distracting. Find a place in the hall where you can pay the most attention but still be comfortable. In addition, by sitting in the front row, it aids in forming a relationship with your professor. Trust me when I say this: professors remember who sits in the front. I have had professors ask me if I am feeling better because they assume that when I do not make it to class, I am sick. Having a professor that treats you like a human being instead of a number is more beneficial to your academic success than you think.
3. Take the time to locate your classes beforehand
I remember right after moving into my dorm room freshman year, my mom and I walked around the campus finding the halls in which my classes would be. I promise, taking the time to do this makes all the difference as you begin your very first day as a college student. By finding my classes beforehand, I was able to wake up ready to go and walk around the campus confidently knowing that I, at least, was going in the right direction. That huge campus will one day seem small, and you will know just about every short cut to get anywhere. For the time being, if you do not look for your classes before your first day, accept that you are learning and may need to ask for help.
You do not have to make this a chore either. Go get food across campus with your new friends and keep an eye out for signs and landmarks that may be useful for the next day. Putting the effort in to do this will do you wonders.
4. Read the syllabus thoroughly
This may sound obvious, or even questionable, as most classes are set up in a similar fashion in high school — go to class, listen to the lecture, do the homework, and study your notes for the test. However, not all of the point systems are the same depending on the professor and sometimes the class.
I will be honest with you, "Sylly Week" is mainly for the upperclassmen. Not to belittle the underclassmen, but typically general education courses vary based on the subject, professor, and even the size of the lectures. By the time you are a junior or senior, you will hopefully know your professors on a more personal level from experience as opposed to walking into a gen-ed lecture as a freshman with 200 other students. For this reason, you can most likely (but not always) expect the expectations and grading scales from the professors that you have had previously unlike the variance of a general education curriculum. Have fun during syllabus week, but remember that it is supposed to ease you into it; the professors are not giving you time to ignore what they are saying. To make my point clear, read the syllabus. As I said previously, classes and professors vary based on their teaching style and the complexity of the curriculum. This is what a syllabus is made for--to find out about how difficult or time consuming the class may or may not be.
As a warning, I have had professors in the past do quizzes on the syllabus, sometimes asking random questions about their personal lives that are placed throughout it to make sure you are reading them. There have also been times when the professor puts simple instructions such as writing your name on a sticky note and bringing it to class the next day for extra credit. The syllabus is going to have due dates for projects, exam days, and information about how to basically get on your professor's good side. Why not take a second to flip through it?
5. Dress nicely on the first day of classes.
It may be the fashion major in me, but there is a psychology behind clothing — a story, or a way to describe someone. First impressions matter. Whether you are a freshman that is new to the school entirely, a returning student who has a new professor, or simply a returning student who has had the professor before, you are introducing yourself to them just as much as they are to you. Regardless of whether you have had the professor previously, it is a new semester with a new curriculum, so make a good impression! Not to mention, when you feel good on the outside, you feel good on the inside too. I know that when I dress nicely, I am on my A-game that day. To put it bluntly, we all got out of bed the same way, but don't look like you rolled out of yours.
Professors will remember the students that put in the effort outside of the classroom. Remember that!
Had I been told these simple tips before starting my first day freshman year, it would have been a totally different experience. Not to say that I had a bad first day, but some of the stresses I encountered could have been remedied quicker, that's for sure. Even if you are not an incoming freshman, these are tips that I still have to remind myself of because they do matter. They have helped tremendously in the past. Good luck on your first day! Follow these tips and you won't have much to worry about!