Over my teaching career, I have seen a lot of college students come and go. Some I remember because they made a great, lasting impression: their work and behavior was professional (A and B students). Others, I remember because they were challenging, disruptive, and unengaged (D and F students). And then there were the students who left no impression whatsoever (C students).
Most professors, particularly in the smaller classes, can determine which students will fall into these categories within the first month. First impressions are important, and, in terms of the classroom setting, they are usually accurate.
If this is your first year in college, these 10 tips will not only help you make a lasting first impression on your professor, but also, if you follow them, they will help you succeed in any college course you take.
- Come prepared with your textbook on the first day of class. Bringing the textbook on the first day shows that you are committed to taking the class (not just shopping for classes) and that you take the class seriously. There is a good chance your professor will refer to something in the textbook, and, trust me, you do not want to be the student forced to read over your neighbor’s shoulder because you came unprepared.
- Get the current edition of the textbook. I realize that buying a used book off Amazon is (a lot) less expensive than buying a new book from the student store. BUT, please keep in mind that different editions are, just that, different. Content may have been added or revised, making it difficult for you to follow along during lecture.
- Show up on time. I wish I didn’t have to say this, truly. But every semester I end up with a handful of students who show up on the first day an hour or so late. Not only is it a disruption to the class, but also it shows a lack of respect for everyone’s time. Additionally, most professors take role in the first 20 minutes on the first day, so if you are late, your seat will most likely be given to someone on the waitlist.
- Sit in the front of the class. I cannot stress this enough. When students sit in the front of the class, they are showing the professor they are ready and eager to participate, and they are listening. (Let’s just say that when students choose to sit in the back of the class, they are making the exact opposite first impression on the professor.)
- Read the syllabus. The syllabus is where the rules of the classroom and assignments are clearly outlined. Think of it as a contract between you and your professor. Each professor has slightly different expectations for students, so it is important to read through each syllabus you receive to make sure you understand what is expected of you. Professors may have different policies on attendance, late or missed assignments, even participation. These are things you need to know.
- Have energy and participate. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than a silent classroom. It is boring for you, it is boring for the professor, and it makes the time you spend together drag on and on. By participating in lecture and discussion, you are showing the professor and your peers that you are engaged. If that means you need to down 87 cups of coffee before class, DO IT!
- Take notes. Yes, even on the first day of class, you need to bring your pen and notebook. Teachers may give pertinent information about the class, the final exam, or they might dive right into their subject material. Show the professor you are an enthusiastic learner by jotting down everything he or she says. If your hand isn’t cramped by the end of each class, you aren’t doing it right!
- Turn your cell phones off and hide them somewhere. There are thousands of videos on YouTube showing what some professors will do when students use their cell phones during class. DO NOT make this mistake, especially on the first day or week or month. If you are waiting for an important phone call (as in, your wife may be going into labor), then warn your professor ahead of time, turn your phone on vibrate, and quietly exit the room.
- Introduce yourself after class. This is a great way to make yourself stand out from the rest of the class and make a lasting first impression. Most students rush out the door the second class ends, but the few who linger to ask questions or make small talk are the ones the professor remembers. Those are the students the professor’s eyes dart to during lecture and discussion because their faces have become familiar.
- Come to office hours: Please! We are required to hold office hours, and, usually, we sit there all alone for 2 hours, hoping even one eager student drops by. It doesn’t matter if you have nothing to ask. Show up anyway. Introduce yourself. Heck, bring two coffees with you and chit chat with your professor about the weather for an hour. In other words, make yourself known!
Your college professors want you to succeed. They want you to get the most out of their classes. Show them how invested you are by following these tips, and, I promise, you will do well.
Lauren Lodder earned her BA from UC Berkeley and her MA from CSUF. She teaches Writing and Victorian Literature at the college level. She is also the content editor for Perfection Pending and the Instagram Manager for Grown and Flown. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost Parents, Scary Mommy, The Mighty, Babble, Buzzfeed, and Reader’s Digest. You can connect with her on FB @mommyowldotcom.