First Day of College Nightmares and How to Avoid Them

I’ve been teaching at a community college for several years and at the beginning of each quarter I usually see a few students in my classes with a look of panic on their face. The deer in the headlights look is usually the result of several easily avoided situations.

1. Being Late

You open the door to a classroom after the instructor has begun speaking and feel the eyes of everyone in the class turn to look at you as you try to make your way to a seat as inconspicuously as possible. This is the stuff of nightmares. In fact, I’m willing to bet that sometime in the weeks leading up to your first day of college you had a dream much like this and woke up in a panic.

Students are late to class on the first day due poor time management, not knowing where the classroom is or not being able to find parking.

How to avoid this problem? Do a test run. Pick the same day of the week as your first day of classes so you’ll have a sense of what the traffic is like. Leave at the time you plan to leave to get to class on time. Drive to campus and time yourself. Gather up your bag of books, just like this was really your first day of class, and head off to find your classroom. Time the walk from the parking lot to the classroom. Allow yourself a couple of minutes for a quick stop in the restroom.

On the first day of class, allow additional time to find parking. If you are attending a mostly commuter college, parking during the first couple weeks of class can be challenging. You don’t want to be driving around in a sweat looking for a parking place and watching the minutes tick away toward the start of class. Even if you have to sit in an empty classroom for fifteen minutes before the class starts, you’ll be much less stressed and you won’t arrive out of breath and searching for a seat.

2. Going to the Wrong Classroom

The instructor finishes taking attendance and says “Is there anyone whose name I didn’t call?” Sheepishly, you raise your hand. After a couple of questions from the instructor, it becomes clear that you are in the wrong classroom. Now you have the double embarrassment having everyone in one classroom watch you leave while you head to another classroom where everyone will stop and stare when you arrive.

How to avoid this problem?

Sometimes classrooms are changed at the last minute due to enrollment. If you registered for classes several weeks ago, double check your class listing in the online catalogue to make sure you still have the right classroom.

Check with others in the class. As a result of your wise preparation for the first day, you’ve arrived in plenty of time. Look around at your classmates. Do they have the same textbook as you? Does the textbook at least mention the topic of the class? If you’re unsure, you might want to check with the other people in the class to find out what class they are taking.

3. Not Checking Your Campus Email

You’re a few minutes into your first class and you’re feeling pretty good. You got there early. You’re in the right room and you even had a pleasant conversation with the person seated next to you. The instructor arrives and appears to be enthusiastic and interesting. And then it happens. The instructor refers to an important message that she sent to everyone a few days before classes started via their campus email. Campus email? Your eyes go wide and you feel a pit deep in your stomach. You glance to the left and the right to see if anyone else is freaking out just a tiny bit.

Everyone who enrolls in college is given a campus email account. This will be the primary form of communication on most campuses. Instructions for accessing your account can be found on your school’s webpage. Take the time before the first day of class to figure out how to access the account and also to familiarize yourself with your school’s webpage. You might be surprised what other information you might learn there.

With a little bit of preparation, you can begin your college career with confidence.

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How to Succeed in College: Five Reasons NOT to Skip Class

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