So the semester begins once again…

At the beginning of any course, be it seminar or lecture, we see the establishment of a hierarchy amongst students: there are the ones who speak up, the ones who ask questions, and the ones who fall to wayside and remain quiet. Here are some ways to avoid being silenced, feeling intimidated, or missing out on class participation credit:

1. The beginning of the class sets the tone for the rest of the semester. If you can, speak up early; commenting at least once during the first week of a seminar helps you settle in and get more comfortable with talking to your classmates.

2. During the beginning of a lecture course, don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is an unspoken assumption amongst students that asking a question is somehow connected in some mysterious, vague way to a person’s intelligence; this is false. Chances are, the topics you’re confused about are also confusing to 50% of the class. Be inquisitive! That’s how knowledge works!

3. Seminars are notorious for cyclic, unconnected comments. Instead of holding on to one nugget of information to contribute to the discussion when it’s somewhat relevant, try something radical: listen to what your peers are saying and respond directly. LOOK THEM IN THE EYE. Start a discussion with the people at the table; talk to THEM, not the professor. Chances are once you realize that a) you have a basic agree/disagree opinion about everything and b) you can set the tone for conversation, the seminar is your oyster! Your professor will definitely take note.

4. Don’t be afraid to approach your professor after class or during office hours early to establish some type of familiarity. In a lecture of 150 students, each face is hard to remember in connection with a name, so make sure to talk to them at some point. LTP: professors are also human beings.

5. DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT leave online response quotas for last minute, and don’t presume that because you’re online you can put in less effort. if your professor uses the courseworks discussion section for questions, comments or debates, dig into it just as you would in the classroom. Your professor reads all the contributions and often incorporates your ideas, so give them something to think about!

Remember, we’re here to learn and grow as thinkers. That means enjoying a good, spirited discussion or leaving a lecture fascinated by the material: on a deeper level, it means discovering a new way of knowing. Be open-minded when approaching a new subject or radically different material – you’ll be impressed by how much more you can accomplish.

And if all else fails, that’s what the shopping period is for.