As the end of summer approaches, the beginning of a new school year approaches. Incoming college freshmen will attend their New Student Orientation sessions with a mixture of excitement, fear, trepidation, and a myriad of questions:
- Will I make new friends?
- Will my new classes be hard?
- What should I major in?
- What do my professors expect from me?
These, along with many other burning questions, will accompany the new college freshman as they enter the world of higher education.
As a formerly failed college student who has now been a college instructor for 25 years, I am keenly aware of the anxiety of these new students, and I want to help. While I can’t answer every question you may have, I can DEFINITELY address the last one: “What do my professors expect from me?”
My expectations will not be unreasonable. I ask my students to follow just five general rules. I call them “The Five P’s.” Any student who follows them will not only get along well with me in my class, but they will also receive the added benefit of better success in the course, which translates into a higher grade.
I expect students to be present. Make sure that you attend each and every class. Sometimes, life might get in the way-a flat tire, an unexpected emergency, and so forth. I understand that. But these should be the exception, not the rule. Do not schedule medical appointments that conflict with your classes. This is a very frustrating issue for professors. Students should not miss a class and then expect the professor to re-teach them the material at a later date.
Students need to be mentally present as well. Do not do homework for another course while sitting in my class…do not fall asleep in my class…do not sit and talk to others around you (unless it is an assigned group discussion).
I expect my students to be prompt to class. If my class starts at 8:00 am, do not walk in at 8:05 or 8:15…or 8:30! I’m flexible during the first week when students are still trying to get used to their schedule. The parking lot is often more full than students will expect, so I cut some slack during the first week. But by the second week, I expect that my students will be on time. And, by the way, if you like to stay up late and sleep in on most mornings, then you should NOT schedule yourself into an 8:00 am class!
Come to class with the previously assigned material completed. If homework problems were assigned, make sure you completed them (or at least attempted them-most professors will allow you to ask questions over previously assigned work). If there was a reading assignment, make sure to have read the necessary material so that you can discuss it intelligently. And if you have any questions about the structure of the course, make sure to read your syllabus first. Asking the professor a question that is answered in the syllabus demonstrates that you do not adequately prepare for class.
Nothing delights a professor more than when students in the classroom discussion. If you have come to class prepared, then you will be able to offer your insights on a reading assignment or ask questions about the homework. Research shows that for every one student who asks a question in class, there are 7-10 other students who had the same (or a similar) question, but they were afraid to ask it. When you participate, other students will look to you as a leader, and they will begin to participate on their own.
This has become a large problem in classrooms over the past decade. The overwhelming “need” for students to be in constant communication with everyone at all times has made the job of the college professor much more difficult. Cell phone chirps, people leaving class to answer their phones, and the distraction caused by students texting while the professor is teaching merge to create a chaotic learning environment-one that is not conducive for student success. You (or your parents or the government) are paying too much money to sit in a class and not pay attention. You owe it to yourself to turn off the phone and tune in to what is being taught.
I am firmly convinced that by following “The Five P’s,” you will give yourself an academic boost that will reflect itself in higher grades, a higher G.P.A., the potential for scholarships, and eventually, a boost as you travel along your career path. And I know for a fact that if you follow them, you will have a much better relationship with your professors.