AMU APU Online Learning Original

5 Essential Tips to Remember for Your First College Class

By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Academic Advisor II, School of STEM

When you start something new like your first college class, it’s okay to have those first-day jitters; after all, you’re starting a new adventure! College often presents you with different and challenging experiences, but understanding what to expect in your classes can alleviate your stress and thrive from your first day in class to graduation.

Preparation and good time management are key to doing well in your classes. Here are five essential tips for your first college class and all of the other courses you take for your degree or certificate.

#1: Review the Archived Syllabus before the Class Starts

Carefully choosing your courses each semester can help make your college experience run a lot smoother. For most courses, you can review an archived syllabus in the ecampus before you register for a college class. Just find the “Academic Plan & Forms” menu and locate the “Schedule of Classes” link in the “Courses and Registration” column.

A new page will open, and you can search for the class’s archived syllabus. Select the course you need and click on the “Additional Course Details” button. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and you will see a blue hyperlink to download the archived course syllabus.

The Success Center within the ecampus also has an additional resource that explains the process of downloading an archived syllabus.

By taking time to review the syllabus prior to the class, you can better manage your time and understand the instructor’s expectations. Please keep in mind that the archived course syllabus is from a previous semester and only serves as a reference. Be sure to use this syllabus as a general reference until your instructor opens the classroom and you have access to the most recent syllabus.

Once the course opens, if you have thoroughly reviewed the instructor’s expectations and have found that it is not the right time for you to take the class, please reach out to your instructor and academic advisor for assistance.

#2: Familiarize Yourself with the Layout of MyClassroom

You will not have access to your online classroom until the first day of the course. However, there are some MyClassroom video tutorials in the ecampus to prepare you for your first college class.

We understand that entering a new, online class for the first time may be confusing. As a result, these short training videos were designed to help you with the navigation and functions of MyClassroom.

Be sure to read the weekly announcements posted in MyClassroom; these announcements will provide you with critical information that your instructor wants you to know. Announcements can be anything from a password that is necessary to enter your exam or a change to an assignment’s due date.

If you still have questions regarding navigation once your first college class starts, reach out to our Classroom Support department. You can also call your academic advising team at 1-877-755-2787 ext. 3200, and we are happy to assist you.

#3: Prepare Your Study Space for Your First College Class

Not everyone studies in the same way, so we wouldn’t expect your study space to look the same either during your first college class. Only you know what will work for your style of learning and school-life balance, and it may take some trial and error to get it right. Here are three factors to take into consideration when you’re creating your study space:

  • Create a focused atmosphere with your supplies around you – Not having all your supplies located in your study space can have you running back and forth to get your materials. Having to get up frequently to find items can lead to more distractions and decreases your study time.
  • Use good lighting – Lighting that is too dim can put a strain on your eyes or trick your mind into thinking it’s time to sleep. Too-bright lighting can lead to headaches or excessive heat.
  • Cut down on environmental noise – Outside distractions can be difficult to maintain, so if you cannot cut out all noise distractions, try white-noise machines or noise-cancelling headphones.

#4: Complete Your Assignment in Week 1 So That You Are Not Dropped from Your Class

Each class has a required first week activity that must be submitted by Sunday of that week by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. If you do not complete this assignment during the first week of class, you may be automatically dropped from your course.

Requirements for the first week’s activities vary, depending on the course. Some classes only require an introductory forum post, while others may require an introductory post and a post about the first week’s reading.

The goal of first-week activities is to start your class in a productive way, but to also make sure students are comfortable interacting with each other and the instructor in an online, social environment. The online classroom is a collaborative environment where you may have to work in groups, so getting to know your classmates early in the class can help increase your energy level and motivation to stay engaged throughout your course.

#5: Clarify Class Expectations and Objectives

The first day of class may create some nervousness, even for adult learners. it helps to create a mental checklist of things to accomplish on your first week in class.

The first week of class serves two basic purposes. It sets the tone for the course and clarifies learning objectives and instructor expectations.

This information can be found in the class syllabus or in the course schedule. By reviewing the course objectives and asking your instructor clarifying questions, you’ll better understand the type of learning, performance, and classroom behaviors you are expected to exhibit. In addition, asking for clarification during the first week can aid in determining if you are ready to take the course now or should exchange it for another course.

Reach Out to Your Academic Advising Team if You Need More Help

It’s always great to be prepared for your classes and knowing where to reach out should you require more assistance is the first step. If you have questions about assignments or course content, please reach out to your instructor. Be sure to check your mycampus email address for a response, even if you emailed your instructor from your personal email address.

If you have a question about program guidance or university policies or you just need a dose of motivation, reach out to your academic advising team. We’re here for you from your first college class all the way to graduation.

About the Author

Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her third year as a Senior Academic Advisor II with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.

Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world.

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