In speaking with premeds struggling in school or simply wanting to optimize their grades I have come to realize there are many causes that can hinder their performance. One area I always address is their behavior in the classroom. I believe in order to have made it to the college level nearly all students ae capable of doing very well. There are simply factors that some students capitalize on better than others. Below are the 5 tips I think are important to optimize one’s performance in the classroom.
- Show up to Class Nowadays in this technological age there are many tools that one can use which sometimes makes it seem as though physically being in class is unnecessary. I believe going to class can be very beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, you will pick up material that you cannot obtain any other way. Getting to class early enough you can often times interact with other students as well as the professor. These students tend to be ambitious ones who can potentially supplement your knowledge. Make friends or at least develop acquaintances from this group. You will likely see them again in other classes or in medical school. This was the case for me. Being in class also lets the professor know who you are and this may be handy when you need that letter of recommendation.
- Strategically Choose Your Seat There are many studies out there on classroom position and each has mixed results. It is hard to account for the confounding variables. I advise students to select a seat which is as far away from distractors as possible. It may not be wise to sit next to the exit or in an aisle seat where people will constantly walk by. Sitting at the back can be distracting due to movement and noises. If your neighbors are talkative then it would be best to pick up and leave that spot. Studies have shown that students who sit closer to the front and in the center tend to engage more in class. Be honest with yourself and try different locations to see what works best for you.
- Turn off or put Aside your Gadgets It is important to remove anything that will disturb your focus in class. As hard as it may be, your GPA will thank you later. The average attention span for the average college student is about 10 minutes so the temptation to surf the web or check your email will be too great.
- Read Ahead of Time Having familiarity with the subject will certainly make the classroom experience smoother. We tend to appreciate things more when we have a preview of what is to come. This is why movies have trailers. Likewise, books have preface and table of contents to give you an idea of what you are getting into. Going into a lecture blind can hinder the learning experience since there will be terms used that you may need time to look into. If you are prepared by reading ahead then you will know which areas you will need to pay a little better attention to. My recommendation is not to spend a lot of time pre-reading but simply get the main points down. Consider reading the chapter objectives or summaries to at least familiarize yourself on the topic. Or you may listen to an audio lesson while getting ready for class in the morning.
- Ask Good Questions Before, during and after class is your opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Professors love to give out little joules to those students who show interest in the subject enough to come to class early and stay late. Often times, the questions one asks speak volumes about their understanding of the material. Do not be afraid to speak up and ask a question because other students are also wondering the same thing. This will also give the professor a clue as to how he or she is communicating the message. Although I encourage asking questions I do believe you should put some thought into the question. I personally believe there is such a thing as a “dumb” question and I think many professors (sometimes subconsciously) also agree. This again goes back to the previously mentioned areas. Doing the above will allow you to be prepared, engaged and focused enough to ask proper questions. Failing to follow them may lead to one of those “dumb” questions. These would include questions that were already asked or ones that 99% of the class already knows the answer to. A question should address a topic which will efficiently add to your knowledge in that particular setting. There are some questions that may be better answered by a book or a classmate rather than having the professor spend 10 minutes answering in front of everyone. Some questions may be better answered at a different time such as after class or during the professor’s office hours.
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