Four things successful students do on the first day of class

The first day of any course follows a pretty predictable script.

Act 1: The professor greets the class and provides a bit of background.

Act 2: The syllabus is handed out.

Act 3: As if you could not read it yourself, the professor reads the syllabus to you.

Why show up at all? Why not just pick up the class on Day Two? This blog is about the value of the first day of class. Day One is the day when the professor sets expectations and a tone for the semester. It is one of the most important days of the class. Professors spend a lot of time preparing the syllabus and its presentation to provide a successful semester to everyone.

So what do successful students do on the first day of class? Here are some observations:

Show up

Students who miss this first day of class struggle more throughout the semester with understanding the expectations for assignments. Important informal information is conveyed on the first day of class that is not in the syllabus. It is understandable that some students miss the first day of class because they are still shopping for their schedule. However, whenever you can, show up on the first day.

Show up on time

It’s easy to think that being late to the first class of the semester is no big deal. You can always brush it off with a “I had trouble finding the classroom” or “I just added this class 10 minutes ago.” You might think being late will help you skip some of the more boring parts of the syllabus recital such as office hours and textbooks. However, remember being late never makes a good impression and that this is the first impression you are making on your professor. Make it a good one.

Make a schedule

Put every due date on your calendar. Successful students know what is due and when it is due. Do not make the mistake of only noting when the tests are. Do not rely on the professor or your classmates to remind you of due dates. Successful students are the ones who are not taken by surprise when the professor says, “I look forward to reading your reflections next week.”

Leave the laptop/tablet alone

There’s a lot of good research out there that indicates personal technology such as a laptop or tablet hurts hurts not only your classroom performance (it can lower your grade from a B+ to a B-), but the performance of those who sit close to you. Also, studies find that students who take notes with pen and paper actually learn more than students who type notes on a laptop, even though students with a laptop take MORE notes. Do yourself (and your classmates) a favor and leave your technology alone during class.

In short, the first day of class can set you up for a successful semester. But don’t miss the importance of all the class days that follow. I will repeat the advice my parents gave me when I went to college (in 1983): “Always go to class, always.”



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