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 are.
  • 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.

Class Structure

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
  • Classroom
  • 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 your room.

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.

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