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Staying alert in class

Staying alert in a college class changes dramatically from high school.

Sure, you might make it to class, but once you are actually sitting and prepared to learn, there are various ways you can stay on top of your note taking and class participation to get the most out of your classroom experience.


Staying alert in class varies between the size of the class and the dynamic in which the class is being taught. Below are a list of tools for each.

Big Lectures

Freshmen year is a year of many firsts – like taking class with hundreds of other students. These classes are usually your general education credits or fulfillments you must meet before you can solely focus on your major. It is easy to sit in the back on a laptop, making a wedding board on Pinterest, or to chat with the hottie next to you in a massive lecture class. Don’t be too tempted – these classes are vital tools for further classes and most of the time an easy A if you can stay engaged and soak in the information.

5 ways to stay engaged in big lectures:

1. Sit in the front of the class. You will be less inclined to people watch or hone in on anything but the professor.

2. Be active in note taking. This could mean printing off PowerPoint slides before class and adding handwritten notes to it or even drawing pictures with captions to enhance your studying when it comes to test time.

3. Keep your phone in your bag, and check it after class. Seeing a multitude of notifications after a 50 minute phone break may even be more exciting than checking every instant for something to focus on other than class. If you are an in state student, each class averages out to approximately $20. For an out of state student, that’s $35 an hour. Save the cell phone for another time, when you aren’t paying big bucks.

4. Get to know your professor. Like any person, a professor is more inclined to work through material with you if you have taken the time to introduce yourself and if they know you are serious about your education.

5. Find a study buddy. In a class of nearly 300, it is easy to either not talk to anyone or to talk to everyone. It’s not a bad idea to sit next to a good student and ask to occasionally work together on classwork. Who knows? You may strike up an unlikely friendship!

Small Classes

Small classes are usually easier to pay attention in, but they also require much more participation, written work and team activities. These classes are often graded between in-class activities and take home work.


3  ways to stay engaged in small classes:

1. Go to class. Small classes are formatted around discussion and ideas. Your ideas can enhance the classroom experience. Small classes are also harder to make up for if you miss, and professors take notice when you’re absent. Some professors often don’t have PowerPoints but rely on discussions. In big lectures,  you can typically do the readings and borrow notes to catch up.

2. Chime in. Your ideas will be valued no matter what and something new could be discovered by you speaking up. It is necessary to participate in order to receive a certain part of your grade and to help yourself dive deeper into the class’s content.

3. Group projects will happen and full participation is required. Group projects generally constitute researching together and then presenting it to the class. This requires meeting outside of your class and working well with others. Most people don’t call themselves fans of group projects, but participation and hard work is important with group work. If you slack, it won’t be your teacher that grades you down, but your group members.

Staying engaged and focused in class is vital to being a successful college student. Some days you will miss class, and some days you may retain very little information from a dense lecture. Try to go to class and plan on being engaged – your drive will determine how your money will pay off.

Collegian Senior Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at

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