I seem to have been among the lucky few that escaped enduring lectures crammed with 1000+ students in my first year. And although the rest of my non-seminar classes at over 200 people weren’t exactly tiny, the dehumanizing anonymity of simply being known by my student number was something I fortunately never had to bear.
On the other hand, on my first day of second year I walked into all except one of my lectures to find less than 50 people staring at me. Tutorials did not exist. Participation was now 25% of my mark. HELP.
Over the last two (or so) months, I have come to a couple of conclusions regarding small college classes:
1. You have to do your readings.
And stay on top of the work. And have something interesting to say for each class. Falling behind is the worst, because most of these classes are discussion based and move at breakneck speeds. If you fall behind, you’ll end up spending hours just trying to catch up. This is especially prevalent when you are taking a literature class.
2. Do a little bit of work everyday.
My Old English class is three times a week, with a good two hour chunk of homework for each class with a quiz every week. I’ve found myself literally spending time working on either the grammar or translations everyday. Doing a little bit everyday makes it seem manageable, and, because its a language, its almost like being in immersion!
3. Try and say one thing per class.
I know, it sounds stupid and formulaic, but if you’re shy or just don’t like talking in class, make a point of at least contributing once per class. It will seem like you are making a constant and regular commitment, and for bonus points, the teacher will remember your name!
4. Go see your professor!
This is probably even more important to see your professor when you’re taking small classes rather than gigantic ones, because your professor is the one who is going to be grading you and interacting with you 100% of the time. They like being asked questions, or even that you found something they said really interesting! On that note…
5. Don’t skip lectures!
Yes, professors will now notice and care if half of their 30 person class is missing. Especially since most small classes have attendance sheets (at least, all of mine do!), it is in your best interest to make it there. If you miss a class, go to their office hours and ask what they covered. They will definitely appreciate your initiative, and its a great way to have an excuse to go and begin to build a rapport with them.
In the end, small class sizes are to your advantage. I’m finding that because I’m forced to stay engaged and on top of the material, I’m definitely getting more out of my second year courses than I did last year! And although small classes generally come when you’re an upperclassman (or if you’re taking ridiculously strange classes like me), getting into the habit of doing the above will help in any class, no matter the size!
Do you have any other tips for surviving small classes?