Effectively Engaging with Classes

Effectively Engaging with Classes (aka “How to Student”)

1. Understand your professor’s expectations

  • The course syllabus is the best way to learn how your professor will run the class. You might be surprised by how much work instructors tend to put into creating syllabi, and how much they expect students to refer to and use the syllabus.  The LSC’s syllabus checklist can help make sure you find the info you need to know.
  • Use office hours! Most students encounter office hours for the first time when they get to college, so please don’t be shy if you’re not sure what to expect in office hours-that is perfectly normal! Fortunately you don’t have to figure it out on your own, you can check out LSC’s info on what office hours are and how to use them.
  • Cornell faculty are often experts in a specific area, it can help you understand more about their perspective if you learn more about their research interests and the lens through which they are approaching the class material.

2. Make the best use of class time

  1. Go. To. Class.
  2. Be proactive and make a plan for if you need to miss class.
  3. Prep your brain to jump right into learning, instead of spending the first few minutes of class figuring out what’s going on:
    1. Complete pre-lecture assignments. This is crucial for flipped classes.
    2. Quickly review your summary from last lecture.
    3. At a minimum, “preview” the reading before class. This is a specific and highly effective technique, it is absolutely worth 5 minutes of your time to learn about it.
  4. Stay engaged during class.
    1. Unless you’ve got an urgent personal or family situation going on, keep your phone off and put away.
    2. It goes without saying (but we’ll say it for those who might have attended high school in a cave)- stay off social media, shopping, etc.
  5. Take notes! Taking notes not only helps with studying later, it can help you stay active DURING class.
    1. You can learn more about what Cornell Notes are, and how to use Cornell Notes, in the LSC’s wildly popular you-tube videos (seriously, check out the view count on these videos!).
    2. LSC offers a free self-enroll Canvas module on effective note-taking. Why should you invest time in this? Because having a solid note-taking system that you actually use is foundational to being an effective student.
  6. Try sitting in different areas of the room on different days; changing your location can help keep your brain alert.

3. After class

Immediately after class is a fantastic time to start transferring what you just learned from short-memory into longer-term storage that you can more easily recall later. How?

  1. Sit down, review your notes for 5 minutes, and write down a brief summary of what you learned in class today. This is essentially the “summary” section of Cornell Notes, it’s fine to do just this part of Cornell Notes even if that’s the only part you do.
  2. If writing out a summary doesn’t work for you –because you don’t have time or you just don’t like doing it, try recording a voice memo summarizing what you learned as you walk to your next class.

4. Studying

The next step is studying. There are many effective ways to study! (Hint: staring intently at what you want to learn is not one of them- that is called staring, not studying.) What does “studying” mean to you?

LSC has tons of resources on how to study, from reading and note-taking to exam prep, and even learning online. If you want help with time management, or if procrastination is getting in your way, we even have suggestions about how to move through that and get back into your academic groove.


©Cornell University Learning Strategies Center