Lecture Hall Tactics
Three tips for getting on your professor’s good side when you’re surrounded by hundreds of students.
By Lauren Mitchell, University of Arkansas
Nobody likes lecture halls.
The chairs and desks are tiny. You feel less like a student and more like a body filling a chair. When hundreds of students are piled in a room together, it begins to resemble a movie theatre instead of a classroom.
Big classrooms aren’t just annoying and uncomfortable; a lot of students find them hard to focus in. More people means more distractions and fewer chances to be engaged in the lecture itself. It can also feel like there’s a barrier between you and the professor, as oftentimes they don’t have time to take attendance, let alone learn your name.
That doesn’t mean you and your professor have to remain near-strangers, though.
No matter how big the class, it’s always smart to get on your professor’s good side. Not only will this come in handy if you’re confused about the coursework or need to ask for an extension on your paper, but your professors can also write you letters of recommendations and provide connections in their field. Believe it or not, but that professor you think is weird or mean might lighten up if you show that you care (or pretend to care) about their class.
In addition to making your professor like you, being active in a lecture will make the space feel less intimidating and help you grasp the course material better. Sure, it might be easier to lay low and just get your assignments in on time, but I promise that putting in some extra effort will help you in long run. Here are five tips on how to stand out in giant lecture hall.
1. Sit in the Front of the Room
Whether you’re in a big classroom or not, it’s always a wise policy to sit in the front of the class. It’ll be easier for your professor to at least recognize your face if you’re within direct eyesight of them. By sitting up front, you’re showing your professor that you’re alert and ready to be there, so they’ll automatically take you more seriously than someone who’d rather sit in the far back corner.
Unless there were no spots open anywhere else, people who sit up front typically take the class more seriously. Try to get to know the people you sit next to, in case you need a study buddy, a group partner or notes from a day you were sick.
Because you have fewer distractions to worry about, it’s also way easier to pay attention to lecture if you’re up front—fewer people whispering and on their phones.
2. Do the Extra Credit Assignments
Most professors will you tell you on the first day if they offer extra credit. Not all of these assignments are just essays, though—sometimes professors will ask for volunteers to give in-class presentations.
For instance, in my journalism lecture this semester, I recently participated in a panel in which a few of us students debated politics in the media. While the idea of speaking in front of a couple hundred strangers made me a bit anxious, the actual experience was pretty painless.
What’s great about extra-credit is that it’s actually less time-consuming than you’d think, and it’s the only assignment you can’t fail. Professors give extra-credit not just because they’re decent people, but because they want to know who’s willing to work a little harder. Hardly anyone does extra credit anymore, so if you present in front of the class or turn in a few short essays, your name will definitely stand out.
3. Dress for Class
Sweats are comfortable and easy, but a lot of professors take offense when they see their students in nothing but oversized tees and athletic shorts. Imagine if you went to your job to give an important presentation only to find your colleagues hadn’t bother changing out of their pajamas?
I’m not saying dress just to impress your professor, because that alone is kinda weird.
But what I’ve learned is that by tossing the sweats and wearing actual outfits, I tend to feel more confident and collected.
Putting a little time in your appearance will make easier for you take both the class and yourself seriously.
4. Speak Up Every Now and Then
Even if you’re not talkative, you can still speak up in class. As long as you don’t spew profanity or say anything offensive, your professor will noticed that you’ve tried.
In reality, what you say is probably smarter than you believe. Plus, once you make a habit of speaking up, it’ll become much easier to talk in other classes too.
5. Put Your Cellphone Away
It’s tempting to use your phone in a lecture. Most of the time, you can get away with texting in class without the professor noticing. But, if you’ve ever been caught texting or have had your phone go off in the middle of a quiet classroom, you understand how embarrassing it can be. And if you do get caught, it’s not uncommon for a professor to call you out in front of the class or even kick you out of the room. You don’t want to stand out in a bad way.
Instead, make a habit of silencing your phone and keeping it in your backpack. You may think checking Snapchat in the middle of class is harmless, but you’re not always as good at multi-tasking as you think.
Lecture halls don’t have to be intimidating. You don’t have to sacrifice your voice because it’s a little more challenging to stick out of the crowd. Most professors like students who are eager to participate in class. If they know who you are, then it’ll be easier on you if need their help down the road. Learning how to assert to yourself in a large room now will definitely help you in the years to come.