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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Attend All Classes

Myth #2

"I can afford to skip a class or two."
"I'll get a friend to take notes for me."
"If I leave early, I'll get a jump on the weekend."
"I never get anything out of class when I do go."
"I need the extra sleep much more than the class."
"That jerk doesn't deserve my attendance."
"I'll reward myself for my birthday."

Reality #2

You must attend all classes.

Woody Allen once said, "Showing up is 88% of life." Let me adapt that for college: Attendance is 95% of college academic life. If you skip class for one of a hundred excuses you may fabricate, you lose…every time. Recently a student came to me with a partial assignment saying that he did not know about the additional requirement that had been announced in class for the past two weeks straight. My response was, "Whose fault is that?" No more discussion. You simply cannot get the information or assignments straight if you're off playing touch football, catching a movie, or just sleeping in.

What happens when you miss a class? Several things:

You miss assignments and amendments to assignments. Teachers must amend projects by the very nature of academics: Information changes, equipment is not available, or stuff happens. In any case, you have to be there to get the scoop.

You get behind. Even if someone takes notes for you, you fall behind. It's tough enough to understand your own notes two or three days after you've taken them-unless you review them soon after you take them. After a while you slowly but surely slip so far behind that you'll never catch up. It's a slippery slope and it's hard to climb back up once you've slid down.

You project an I-don't-give-a-damn attitude to the professor. Trust me. Professors notice the no-shows and give no breaks to students who skip class. NONE. Think about it. Professors take their subjects seriously. They spend years preparing and researching to qualify to teach. And then students skip class with no more excuse than it was a great day to sleep in or to get an early start on the weekend. Professors notice the no-shows.

Just the opposite message comes through when you do make it to class. You show that you're concerned, dedicated, and ready to learn. In fact, it has been my experience that if a student makes the attempt by being there for every class, turning in all the assignments, and by calling or stopping by for extra help-I will go the extra mile or two to help. Most teachers I know are in the profession to help people. But we can only help those who are available and willing to meet us halfway.

Survival Tips:

Set a 100/100% show-up goal. Make it your goal to show up to 100% of your classes 100% of the time. Start off with that fixed in your mind. Put everything else in second place, right from the first day on campus. School is your primary job. If you were to miss work every time you thought it was a nice day or whenever you had a headache, or-you fill in the excuse-think about how long it would take your boss to fire you. Go for perfect attendance. It sounds like an elementary school concept, but believe me it's critical.

Communicate with the Professor. Call, e-mail, or send a note with a friend if you're sick. Sounds kind of goofy? Maybe, but it makes an impression. Again, it sends an important message: "I care enough to let you know I am on the injured list, but I'm still on the team." Again, use e-mail, phone, fax or personal note, but make sure you try.

Ask two people for their notes. This may sound like overkill to you, but it's not. As I mentioned before, it's hard enough interpreting your own notes, let alone someone else's. By getting copies from two classmates, you're more likely to piece together what actually happened.

Double check about assignments or handouts. Be absolutely sure that you check with two classmates or the professor about any handouts given out in the class you missed. Also, check on whether any new assignments were given, or if modifications/clarifications were made. I have found that this is one area where students constantly fumble. While they get the notes, they often forget to ask for handouts or special instructions given. Usually, the result is that you may turn in a project only partially completed and receive a poor grade.

Audio tape, if permitted. To get 100% recall of a class you missed, audio taping is the best way. Asking a friend to tape a class you'll miss is a bit burdensome, but very useful. You (or your friend) must check with the instructor first. Don't tape without the professor's permission. Some teachers do not like being taped. Most will not care. By the way, I have found that taping classes even when you are there, especially for those classes where you're having trouble, is a great idea. My daughter did that in college and found that taping supplemented her notes and helped her studying tremendously. But remember: Always ask permission first.

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