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How to Get the Most Out of A Large Lecture Class

It’s the first day of class, you walk in and find out it’s a room of 300+ people. Pretty scary, pretty intimidating. Big groups usually give me anxiety, so a large classroom sounds a lot like my nightmare. On top of social anxiety, big classrooms can also set off my grade anxiety too. Something about what feels like a million people learning in the same room as me suddenly makes me feel shy and like I’m about to ask the dumbest question in the history of college.

But I have some good news! There are coping strategies and actions you can take to make a large lecture feel like a smaller classroom and dampen any anxiety you might feel.

  1. Arrive early and sit toward the front.

In any classroom, I like to sit within the first 2 rows, more towards the center. This way you can hear easily, see easily, and have fewer distractions around you (because there’s always someone watching Netflix during the lecture). It also makes it at least “feel” a little bit more like a smaller classroom, after all those other people in the back are out of sight and out of mind. Arriving early also helps ensures you’ll avoid the increasing anxiety of seeing hundreds of people stream in, and more importantly: no one will steal your unassigned assigned seat!

  1. Get to know your instructor/TA.

This doesn’t mean you have to go introduce yourself during office hours—though frankly, this helps. Simply participating during class, asking questions, and asking how their weekend was can have a big pay-off. Your instructor will get to know you and getting to know them will make it easier to ask for help when you need it.

  1. Get to know your classmates.

Honestly, the most important reason I try to get to know my classmates is so I can have someone to commiserate with when the class starts to get hard. Being able to whine together, cry together—isn’t that just the college experience? But seriously, it helps to have someone on your wavelength you can talk to, or text when you’re stuck on the homework.

  1. Read the chapter BEFORE class.

That way you can follow along with the lecture and add to your notes instead of trying to grasp all the information as it comes.

  1. Take your notes on paper!!

It drives me crazy when people take notes on their laptops. It’s scientifically proven you learn more when you write your notes instead of typing them. How often do you really go back and look at the notes you took on your laptop? Writing notes by hand allows me to add color or highlight in ways to help me remember like blue highlighter means it’s a definition. It’s also easier for me to draw concept maps or pictures of things that remind me of the topic and build on what I already know. Most importantly, it’s so much easier and faster to flip through a notebook when I’m reviewing for exams than trying to sort through all the files on my laptop.

Large classrooms can seem intimidating and it’s easy to feel like you’re lost in a sea of other students. But small steps can help a huge class feel smaller and more personal. Obviously, we all learn differently so above all else, find what works best for you and run with it.