Posted in Lessons by The Books Production Team on August 31, 2008


        Every college expert I’ve ever heard gives the following advice: sit in the front of the class, take notes, participate in class discussion, and go visit your professor during office hours.  The point of all this wisdom is to ensure that a) you are engaged in the material, and b) your professor knows who you are.  As far as basic vanilla advice goes, this stuff is okay.  But there’s a reason that cookies and cream is better than vanilla – it’s a more sophisticated taste experience.  Why eat vanilla ice cream when you know that there is cookies and cream out there?  This is the cookies and cream version of the advice your counselors give you about succeeding academically.


         As you maneuver through your first semester on campus, your powers of scientific observation will quickly lead you to understand that there are only two types of college classes – the big, and the small.  The big class is the kind typically seen in movies, and is most prevalent at large state universities where rock-star professors deliver lectures to an auditorium of 500 students (think Good Will Hunting).  My advice for those of you who find yourself in several of these big classes is this: sit in the back.  If the lecture is interesting, take notes.  If it isn’t, do your other homework.  I learned very early on as an undergraduate that just by showing up to one of these big classes, your subconscious brain soaks up the important information.  This leaves your conscious brain free to fill out crossword puzzles, text message, or – if you are motivated – complete other assignments. 


          Now, on to the small class.  The small class consists of somewhere between 10 and 50 students, and a large chunk of your grade (whether you realize it or not) is based on participation.  In this situation, it doesn’t matter where you sit – it’s not like you can hide from your professor – but it does matter how often you talk.  As a teacher of this kind of class, I can assure you that I give better grades to students I like and, for the most part, I like students who participate.  It’s just human nature – if your professor gets to know you as a person, they will probably feel as if they have a vested interest in your future.  But, there is one important exception to this general rule, and thus we now arrive at Lesson #3: Think Bronze Medal.  Your goal in the small class is to be the person who talks the third most often.  


          Why?  Because out of the two people who talk more often than you, your professor will hate one of their guts.  Watch – as the semester develops, there will be two students who try to dominate class discussion by arguing with each other.  Even though your professor may not let you see it on his or her face, he or she will think that one of these students makes good points, and that one of these students is a moron.  Stay out of the primary argument unless you want to be in danger of being considered the moron.  Again, you can guarantee yourself an A in the course if you can be the conciliator whose comments make you seem open-minded and likeable.  Think of it this way, in Season Two of “The Office” when they hold the Office Olympics, Michael gets the gold medal, Dwight gets the silver, and Jim gets the bronze.  Which one of these three guys would you want to be? (Or date? – if you are female or homosexual.)      

One Response

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  1. Barry H said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    J –

    Here are the results from a straw poll of 5 History/Philosophy professors out at T.P.’s last night: 3 of us agree with your hate-at-least-one-of-the-lead-talkers-guts theory. 2 claim to always like the people who talk the most, no matter what they say. But all are in agreement that somewhere between 3rd and 5th is a sure bet for a solid grade.

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