The First Week: How to Set Yourself Apart from the Crowd

I’ve heard the first week of classes often referred to as “syllabus week” by many of my fellow students. In part, I can’t say that they aren’t wrong, but it’s still a very important week. This is when you get to make your first impression on your professor, and you only get one chance. It’s a lot like an interview in some ways because it can determine how you’ll be perceived for the rest of the semester. While you don’t need to leave an apple on your teacher’s desk, there are a few things you can do to make sure that your professors see the best of you.

Show Up

I know this sounds obvious, if not downright, ridiculous, but it’s important. The first week of class isn’t optional, no matter what the attendance policy might read. Make sure you show up for your first class and be on time! I can’t stress this enough. In every class I take, there are always one or two people who magically appear after the first few classes. Don’t be that guy or gal! It sets you apart from the rest of the class and not in a good way. You professor is not going to think you take their class seriously and they aren’t going to take you seriously. Even if you’re a great student, missing the first class is going to color the way you are perceived. Don’t spend the rest of the semester trying to undo a bad first impression.

Avoid the Back Row

Alright, this suggestion is simple. Like showing up late, hiding out in the back of the classroom doesn’t reflect well on you. In large classes, this can’t be avoided and shouldn’t be a huge deal. But in small classes with more than enough seating, going out of the way to distance yourself from the professor may suggest that you don’t want to be watched or that you don’t really care.

Ask and You shall Receive

Ask questions, real questions that show that you are listening and engaged with the professor. Nothing says I care about your class like actually participating. Crazy, I know, but it can be hard if you’re shy. Plenty of professors understand that not everyone is talkative, but raising your hand is great way to set yourself apart as a curious and active listener. Professors like questions and will take this into consideration if you need something like a letter of recommendation some time down the road. Just one question can turn you from a nameless face in the crowd into a student whose name they won’t forget. Besides, participation is a factor in grades at many colleges, so you need to get used to participating. You’re best off, starting the trend early.

Stand Out, Stay After

Honestly, there is no better way to set yourself apart from your peers then to engage your professor after or outside of class. Ask about their expectations or see if they can advise you on the topic of an upcoming essay assignment. This one on one time allows you to reveal a little bit about who you are and it also allows you to gauge the professor’s attitudes. You wouldn’t believe how understanding your professor can be of an unplanned absence or one bad grade if they know you are a thoughtful and passionate student.

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Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals

Ryan Schapals is a senior at DePaul University studying Creative Writing and Psychology. Outside of class, Ryan can be found working in the Pysch Lab or at a local health clinic. When he's not distracted by cat videos, he tries to balance his time between playing guitar, writing prose, and running around the soccer field.