You’re sitting in class, your dinosaur-aged professor is rambling on about the periodic table of elements, and you’re about to fade into dreamland.  Instead of letting yourself slowly slip away, you can  – almost subconsciously — trick yourself into staying alert and not miss out on important lecture material.

This won’t apply to every class, and those classes that are strictly lecture from start to finish with no time for interaction might leave you struggling still, but hopefully you can adapt these tips to even the hardest of classes.

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Practice Active Listening and Take Notes

There are two types of listening: active and passive.  Before you start fading out on me, I’ll get to the point.  When you’re daydreaming in class, you are using passive listening.  You hear the words, you partially process them, but you probably won’t remember them.

To avoid that, there’s a two-in-one fix: take notes.  Taking notes helps you to actually remember what you are only partly processing and by taking notes, you are forced to transition into active listening and you’ll remember it better on your own!

Of course, in case this trick doesn’t work, you still have good notes to refer to in a few weeks when you are reviewing what was discussed all semester.

Sit in the Front Section of the Room

Hold on, hear me out.  I’m not saying you have to sit in the very front row if you’re afraid your friends will judge you or the professor will spit on you.  But at least move up to the second or third row depending on how many rows there actually are.

It is way too easy to get lost in a college classroom where professors often don’t bother to learn names (particularly in general education and lower level classes).  Don’t hide in the back of the lecture hall where you can get away with not paying attention.  Sit where the professor can see you so you won’t be tempted to fall asleep.

Even if the professor doesn’t learn all the names, most of them (that I have had) will at least learn the ones who sit up front, talk in class, and actually stay awake during a lecture.

Sit in the Same Seat Everyday

While I’ve never met a professor that assigns seats for their class, by the second day every student in the room has their seat picked out.  If you try to change, brace yourself for a fight (okay, maybe not, but you shouldn’t try it).

Sitting in the same spot every class period actually has some benefit, though — other than avoiding a massive brawl.  It will help you to remember what you learned in the class.  When you’re reviewing for or taking a test, you can think back to context clues to help you recall a certain lecture.

Of course, don’t pay so much attention to your contextual surroundings that you forget to actually listen to the professor, but be aware of what is happening around you and what others are saying.

Avoid Sitting in the Same Seat for Multiple Classes

In college, it is likely that you will have more than one class in the same room because even professors move from room to room during the day.  When this happens — either in the same semester or not — don’t sit in the exact same seat as you do in the other class.

Find another spot so you can take advantage of the previous tip.  We’re getting into some pretty deep psychology, but if you’re taking in the same context clues for two different classes, you might accidentally mix up Chemistry and English!

Of course, if you start having a lot of classes in the same room, it might be hard to avoid sitting in the same seat, as well as sitting up front closer to the professor.  When this happens, you have to weigh what is most important to you and what you feel will help you the most.

Participate in Class

This once again goes back to actively listening.  Most professors want you to ask questions — and answer them — during class when you can.  Set your mind on doing that and you’ll be forced to pay more attention so you don’t embarrass yourself by saying something stupid in front of the whole class.

Participating regularly might just get you a boost in your grade with some professors too, so it’s really worth your time to do it.

These tips aren’t rocket science, though they do get into some hefty psychology and mind tricks.  Really, all you have to do is think positively that you can do something and you are more likely to do it. (That’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy, in case you were only passively listening in your communications class).

What are you waiting for? Go trick your mind and start paying attention in class!


Image:  Jirka Matousek

paying attention in class