The First Day of Classes
Now that you’re equipped with the perfect schedule, it’s
time to get up and go to class. When the first day of classes arrives, give
yourself enough time to shower, drink coffee, and perform all your
other morning rituals. You’re going to be excited and a little nervous
about your first class, which is totally natural. Just stay calm
and you’ll make it through the day. And ask for help when you need
it: every student on campus has experienced what you’re going through,
and they will all be able to guide you through your first day.
First Day Checklist
- Practice your schedule, going from class to class a few
days before the big day. That way you’ll know how long it takes to
move to and from classes, and you’ll already know where your classes
- Get to know someone in each of your classes. You won’t necessarily
make friends the first day, but it’s important to lay the groundwork.
Knowing someone in each of your classes is invaluable: you can exchange
notes, find out what happened when you were absent, and study together.
- Organize your class materials. You should have a folder
or organizer for each class.
- Write down everything your professors say (well, maybe not
everything, but at least as much as you can). The first day is chock-full
of information you’ll need all semester.
- Make a photocopy of your class syllabi. Carry one copy with
you and tack the other one to your corkboard. You’ll be glad later
that you did this.
- Put all due dates into your organizer/calendar, and highlight
all of the course requirements on your syllabus.
- If there’s something the professor asks the class to do
for the next class, do it that night so you don’t begin the term by
falling behind. Yes, the dorm party is important too, but go only
after you’ve made a dent in your homework.
- Take a snack with you to class, as well as a bottle of
water (or some other non-carbonated beverage, so it doesn’t make
noise when you open it). You might not have time for lunch, and
hunger isn’t good for concentration (or nerves). Most schools don’t
mind you eating in class. Just be discreet about it.
- Avoid the bookstore if you can. The lines will be insanely long
line on the first day of classes. Instead, try to get up early the
next day and wait at the bookstore when it opens. Also, check to
see if you can get any of your books at another store: many used
bookstores open near campus for just this purpose.
- Don’t get too overwhelmed. Just breathe and try not to
get frustrated. Take a moment to look at other people on campus;
the other first years are in the same position you’re in, and everyone
else was in your shoes on their first day too.
Finding Your Classes
The first thing you have to do is find your first class.
Most colleges are pretty big; even small schools have several classroom buildings,
just enough to make things confusing. Don’t be afraid to ask someone
where your class is: either they’ll tell you where to go, or they’ll
be a lost first year just like you, in which case you might even
make a new friend. You should have received a campus map during
orientation week; if not, you can stop by the student center and
pick one up. Most schools also have campus maps online.
Keeping Track of Time
One of the first things you may notice is that there are
no bells before or after a class. There’s nothing to signal when classes
begin or end, except maybe for the commotion on campus when classes
let out—but you can’t even count on that. The only thing you can
count on is the watch on your wrist (or that little clock on your
cell phone), so make sure that it’s always set to the right time.
Keep a copy of your schedule with you, including dates, times,
and locations of your classes. You may want to keep a few copies
of your schedule handy: one in your dorm room, one in your backpack,
and one in your purse or gym bag.
Many professors will understand when a first year is late
on day one; after all, you don’t know where you’re going. Unfortunately,
a few instructors can be pretty brutal about tardiness, so if you’re
smart (and we know you are), you’ll have practiced your schedule
and found your classes beforehand.
If your first class is in a big lecture hall, your professor
will probably drone into a microphone while you furiously take notes.
Don’t start daydreaming or you may miss something important. If
the class is in a small seminar room, the professor will start class
by lecturing for a while before starting a discussion.
Some classes are a blend of lecture and seminar. You may have
a large lecture once a week with a professor, then a couple of seminar
classes with a graduate student later in the week that elaborate
on the lecture.
The Course Syllabus
Your instructor will pass out a syllabus on the first
day of class. This document contains all of the important information
you need to know about the class. Here is some of this information:
- Professor’s name
- Office hours
- Phone number and email address
- Description of the class
- Class requirements
- Grade requirements
- Absence and tardiness policy
- Reading and test schedule
- Daily schedule
This is a very important document to keep. The course
syllabus is the contract between you and your professor. Sometimes,
professors will have students sign a copy of the syllabus and give
it back. They do this so you can’t complain later that you didn’t
know when the tests were or what the attendance policy was. Make
a copy of each of your syllabi. Keep one copy with you and one in
Calling in Sick
If you’re sick, don’t hesitate to skip class and stay
in bed. If you try to drag your sick butt to class, you’re only
going to succeed in spreading around your germs and making yourself feel
worse. Get to the health clinic on campus. Make sure to let your
professor(s) know how long you’ll be out, if you’re ill health is
prolonged. Your professors and classmates will be grateful not to
have a sniffling, sneezing germ-factory disrupting class.