Ninety percent of success is just showing up.
When you start college, lots of people will give you advice. “Go to class” is the best advice there is. Wait a minute. Going to class is a choice? You don’t have to go? No, you do not have to go to class. But be warned—freshman who do not go to class usually fail out. Upperclassmen who do not go to class get poor grades and fail classes. But it is a choice—no one makes you go.
You do not have to go to class, but that seems economically foolish. For example, I teach a 4-credit class. I calculate that most students pay nearly $100 to attend each of my 80 minute classes. International and out-of-state students pay more, about $150 per class. I get paid whether students show up or not.
When you take a class, you will often find that there is a lot of stuff to learn. It seems amazing that there is so much information on a single subject. But guess what? Your professor looks at it a different way. The professor’s challenge is to distill a large body of knowledge down into a tiny sliver that can be squeezed into 45 hours of lecture. What your professor teaches in class is what they deem to be the most important things to know.
Read that last sentence again.
You are being taught the most important things you need to know on a given subject. It is what you will be tested on. And if you miss a class, you miss a lot. In a very real sense, the professor is telling you this—we have limited time together. I am going to teach you the most important things you need to know for the exam, and for the subject in general. If you take future classes in this subject area, the stuff I am teaching you is foundational—you need to know it.
Sometimes you should miss class. You have a contagious illness. There is a family emergency or other crisis involving someone close to you. You have a religious observance. So what do you do if you miss class?
You could send an email to your professor and ask if you missed anything important. This is a bad idea. Of course you missed something important! Every minute was important. Try this strategy instead.
- Get the notes from the class, ideally from 2 students. Not all students take good notes. By getting notes from two sources, you are likely to get the most important points you missed.
- Write the notes into your own notebook. It is not enough to read someone else’s notes. Write them out.
- If anything is not clear, write to the professor (or visit during office hours) and ask questions. Tell them you missed class and got notes from other students. That signals you are not wasting their time. Then ask your question—you will be glad you did.