Student Life

First Day of College? No Problem!

From navigating class (with COVID!) to exploring your new college environment, here’s what to expect your first day of college classes.

Student Contributor, Mary Bellm

September 07, 2021

First Day of College? No Problem!
Calling all students: here’s what you can expect for your first day of college class.
Don’t know what to expect for your first day of school? If there was a thread on “how do I handle my first day of class” when I entered college, you can bet I would have scrolled for all of the little tips that make adjusting to a whole new part of school that much easier. If you’re looking for tips to handle the first day of college classes, look no further! If you are able to go to in-person class this semester, it might be different than before. If you’ve been online this whole time, then it will be an even bigger change! Masks, cleaning your desk off, speaking a bit louder and clearer than you usually would, and keeping your distance as much as possible are all things that we have to continue doing on campuses across the country. The only change for my college, Truman State University, is that classrooms are back to full capacity as of this writing.

What To Expect

You can count on professors of your college courses handing out a syllabus the first day of class. If there’s an electronic copy, it’s a good idea to download it. I mark up mine by highlighting important dates I need to transfer to my planner in the document editor. Your syllabus will have important things like absence policies, calendars (which may or may not be changing!!), and your professor’s policy on late work. Make sure to have something to keep this in if it’s a physical copy, like a folder or a binder, and hang on to it the whole year. Make note of your professor’s official office hours. These will be invaluable if you need to talk about a grade or an assignment. Sometimes, though, if you have a question, you can email them or drop by if it’s not their official hours.
Your professor will also go over required textbooks and materials, if they haven’t sent that out ahead of time. Now is a good time to ask about any recommended materials versus required ones. You might be able to get away with borrowing a friend’s recommended text or go in on it together, or it might not be worth your time — so ask! Pick a seat that will work for you!! If you have a hard time paying attention if you sit in the back, sit in the front! If you get nervous that the professor will call on you and you don’t want to talk, sit in the back! Sit next to someone you know if they can help you, or don’t if all you’ll do is distract each other. The seating game is really a mix of personal preference and what is open when you get to your class.
Expect to take a few notes the first day over important syllabus items, or if the professor jumps right in, notes over class content. Also expect to do a bit of work the first couple of days - it might not be due until next week, but knock it out sooner rather than later! This will leave you time to adjust to what will pop up later in the week, and reduce any stress once all of your professors start loading on the assignments. If I have any free time during my first few days of class, I use it effectively! This is a good time to scope out spots to hang out or study if you have a class in an hour or two, figure out where your next class is, or catch up on social media for a bit in your dorm. If you’re completely online, you should still get up and do something if you have free time—sitting all day isn’t good for you!

General First Day Advice

As with all first days, there are a few things that don’t fit into a category but I think you should know. This is in reference to a few things, but especially classroom seats! Pick it and it’s generally yours…except when it’s not. Unless the professor assigns seats, or asks you to remain in that seat, there’s an unspoken rule that if you picked a seat, it’s yours. Pick wisely! If you need to dash out the door for your next class, don’t pick a seat in the back on the other side of the room. And if someone ends up sitting in your unassigned assigned seat, pick a seat close to where you usually sit, and snag it back next time. This also applies to talking to new people after the first week. I wish someone had told me that I didn’t have to be friends with my roommate. I felt like we had to be friends because I didn’t really know anyone else and limited my talking to other people until a few weeks later in my classes. If you’re introverted like me, it does take some time to make some friends, but having one person in each of your classes takes the stress off if the teacher announces group work or you need some homework that you missed! A tip I should mention is: email your professors at reasonable hours. I’ve learned this from my years as a college student: more likely than not you will have to spend a few late nights studying or working on homework. That’s totally normal! If you’ve got a question in the late afternoon, I’d say from 4-6pm, it’s usually ok to send an email and it’s up to the professor if they will respond or not. If it’s later than 10 pm, I usually schedule an email to send at 6 or 7 the next morning. That way, I can still get help, it doesn’t get lost in the professor’s inbox from sending it late the night before, and I can check it before I go to class if they are able to assist me. I hope that your first day goes well, and that you’re able to confidently navigate this school year with some of my advice.

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