Heading off to college? In many cases, you’ll be expected to know what’s expected of you from the start–even if no one ever told you what that means. In this post we offer advice for your first day of class.
What the Class Will Look Like
Every instructor does things differently, but, generally, most use the first day to review the syllabus and course expectations with students. Many also try to get to know their students. Some will take attendance and simply ask you to shout “Here!” and tell them if you have a nickname you would like them to call you. Others may subject you to various ice breakers.
After these preliminary activities, many instructors will remind you of the homework for the next class and let you go early. Others will jump right into the course material. They may have even assigned readings for the first day that they expect you to discuss. Usually, however, this course material is of an introductory nature and not as intense as later material will be.
What You Should Bring
You should be prepared at least with a pen and a notebook. You can bring the textbook if it makes you feel more comfortable, but few instructors will ask you to refer to it on the first day since they know many students wait to go to class to see if the textbook will even be required. Of course, if your instructor emailed the class with readings for the first day or other homework, you will want to bring the text and the homework.
Should You Buy the Textbook Ahead of Time?
Many articles suggest that you save money by waiting to see if the textbook will be used in the course since some professors assign a text, but barely use it. However, if you choose to do this, you are running a risk. Some instructors will have assignments due the second class. If you have not yet bought your textbook, you may find that the school bookstore has run out of copies or run out of the cheaper used copies. You will also be stuck paying for what is most likely a more expensive text because you will be forced to buy at the school bookstore rather than be able shop around online for a better deal. You could choose to buy a cheaper book online anyway, but then you could be waiting for weeks for it to arrive, especially if you bought from an individual seller and not an online retailer. To be safe, you can consider buying your textbook ahead of time and seeing what kinds of return options are available to you, should the instructor announce they won’t be using the text.
What if the Instructor Says They Won’t Be Using the Text?
The instructor may say they won’t be using the text because the department assigned it and they don’t like it. Or maybe they say the text is only recommended, not required. Perhaps they’ll say that readings from the text are listed on the syllabus, but you won’t be discussing them in class. Should you try to return your textbook?
It really depends. For example, if the instructor says they hate the textbook, you probably will find they aren’t drawing much material from it. However, if the text is recommended or listed for your own reading, you might want to keep it and actually read it. For example you may find yourself in the following scenarios:
- You’re in a science course where the readings are assigned but not discussed. Others choose not to buy the book for this reason. However, if you do the readings, you will be better prepared for the course and may find that it gives examples of how to solve homework problems–problems the instructor did not go over in class before assigning them.
- You are reading a complicated text like The Iliad or The Divine Comedy. There is a companion book assigned that will explain the reading. You don’t have to read this since you will discuss the readings together, but if you do read the text, you’ll be more confident about approaching the text and discussing it.
- Your instructor assigned their own book as “recommended” reading. You read the book and now know what kinds of questions and approaches they are interested in. You can address these topics in class and in your papers. For example, you may realize they’re concerned with gender issues or economic questions. You can talk about gender issues in your paper.
- Your instructor recommended an MLA handbook and you don’t yet own one. You should probably keep it. It will be easier to reference and more accurate than a website on MLA.