The Rapidian

First Generation Student: Navigating your classroom

The best way to approach all this is as if it is a big, fun adventure. You need to tell yourself that you have the skills to deal with anything that comes up. Take a deep breath, act as though you are totally confident, and embrace this journey into adulthood.
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You can find more about college success atwww.thewritersalley.com. Some of the information for this series is drawn from Need to Know: College Success Workshop. A new edition from Caffeinated Press will be available soon. Contact Lisa McNeilley at[email protected] for more information.

The first time you walk into your first college class you will probably feel overwhelmed with pride (You made it!) and apprehension (What exactly is it?). Take a deep breath (really, just stop before you enter the room and breathe in and out). Every other person in the room is feeling the same thing—even the professor if it is one of his or her first classes. If you came to college with some friends from high school, you might have been able to schedule a couple classes together, so you’ll find some familiar faces. Most likely, though, you won’t know anyone in your class. Think of this as an opportunity to decide what kind of student you will be and what kind of year you will have.

If you arrive late (right before class starts—not five to ten minutes after), you might have to take whatever seat is available. If you arrive to class early (ten to fifteen minutes before the start time—five minutes before the start time is on time), you can sit where you want. When you are one of the first students, you can choose the seating that is best for you. Almost nobody will sit in the front row, given a choice, but if you have difficulty seeing, hearing or maintaining attention, this might be the best choice for you. It also shows the professor that you are really determined. If you just can’t sit there, pick the second row. If you feel like you want to remain anonymous, you might sit near the back—but beware, not only can most professors see what you are up to in the back, they also might frequently call on students in the back to make sure everybody is paying attention.

When you get to class, pull out your notebook, pencil and textbook if you are required to have it in class. Your professor might let you know in advance that you need the textbook or it might be a math or science book with problems you will be doing in class—if you aren’t sure have the book the first day of class and then check the syllabus, which should specify, or raise your hand and ask, “Do you want us to have our books in class?” If you don’t feel comfortable, you might stay after class to introduce yourself and ask. If you don’t need it, and you are caught up on the readings, you are probably better off leaving it in your room—textbooks are heavy and if you lose or get one stolen, they are expensive to replace.

If you are in class early and choose where to sit, you might want to look around, make eye contact and greet others as they come in. If you look confident and competent, you will attract other students to you—plus you might help them feel more comfortable in this new situation. If you are coming in when some seats are already filled, decide where you want to sit. Ideally you will choose a place that will help you stay focused during class, away from distractions and near students who will be helpful to you. If you are a student who attends regularly, takes notes, and asks and answers questions, other good students will sit by you and you should try to find and sit near them. You can share notes, form study groups, and exchange numbers so when you have questions as you are studying you can help each other out. If you are running late or are sick and need to miss class, you can ask them to take notes for you. Also, many college classes involve group projects, so if you are sitting near strong students you will be more likely to get into strong teams.

Small decisions form the groundwork of your college experience. Experienced students from families and high schools with strong college preparation often seem to acclimate to the new world of college effortlessly. Knowing in advance what to expect and how to navigate the transition from high school to college will help you set the same foundation for success.

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