The First Day of Class

Some words of wisdom from your
English Department Advisors
This is one section of a set of informational slides
designed to give new students an overview of what to
expect during the first semester of college.
The other sections are:
The First Six Weeks
The Second Six Weeks
The Last Weeks and Exams
A year by year checklist (Appendix)
The whole set is posted as one presentation in the “For
Students” section of the English Department Website under
the title “Tips for New Students.”
The professor will probably introduce himself/herself and put his/her
name on the board. This is the way the professor wants to be
addressed. Take note.
The professor will hand out a “syllabus.” A syllabus is a description of
the course and a schedule of assignments. Some professors may put
the assignments (or the whole syllabus) online. Either way, you are
responsible for reading and following the whole syllabus.
Professors usually take attendance at the beginning of class. If your
name is not called, make sure that the professor knows you are there.
This is a way to make sure that you are in the right class and that the
university has the record for your enrollment.
Don’t be late.
Do you know where your classes are? Make sure you know the building and how to get to your classroom in
advance, or else allow extra time on the first day to look for your class.
If you are driving into campus, plan on at least 15 minutes to find a (distant) parking space and 15-30
minutes to get from your parking space to your class.
Anticipate that the only available parking will be a long walk away from class. Don’t waste time circling,
hoping for a “better” spot. (If you want a good spot, come in at 7 AM and don’t move your car during the
Check the Raider Express route. Maybe you can save time by riding.
Silence your cell phone.
Do not eat or drink unless professor allows it. (On the first day
of classes, assume the professor doesn’t allow it.)
Raise your hand to be recognized—unless the professor
invites/encourages “call-outs.”
If you don’t understand something, ask questions.
Listen respectfully to your classmates as well as the
Unless invited by a professor to address him/her by first
name, the correct form of address is “Professor Last Name” or
“Dr. Last Name.”
Never make any derogatory comments about other groups
even if you think the group isn’t represented in class.
Don’t carry out private conversations during class—this
includes texting people in or outside the class.
English professors are generally friendly people who
want to help you.
Professors have a different role in your life than other
people you know.
Professors are not family, buddies, wait staff, coworkers, retail sales staff or police officers.
Professors are not your employers in the sense that
they do not pay you, but they have a similar role in
your life in that they assign work that you must
complete by a specific date.
Address your professors with the same respect and
consideration that you would show an employer.
Professors are usually happy to answer questions
both in and out of class.
Each professor will organize his/her syllabus
differently, but here are some things to look for:
1. Professor’s office, office hours, email and/or
phone number
2. Attendance and late work policy
3. Texts you need to buy/have access to
4. Class policies and expectations
5. Dates of major deadlines (exams, papers, etc.)
6. The reading and/or writing assignment for the
next class.
Office hours are the times that a professor
sets aside for walk-in visits and/or
Most professors are on campus (and even in
their offices) at other times, but the office
hours are the best time to get hold of them.
If a professor’s office hours don’t work for
you, ask for an appointment.
Most English professors are willing to meet
with students outside of office hours.
Attendance Policies
Each syllabus should have the professor’s attendance
policy clearly stated. If you can’t find the attendance
policy on the syllabus, ask.
Most English instructors will have a hefty penalty for
missing more than a set number of classes. Make
sure you know the penalty before you start missing
In some classes, exceeding the allowed number of
absences may cause you to fail the class even if you
had a passing grade on all the work.
University excused absences (for specific university
activities, military service, etc.) are not subject to the
attendance policy. However, personal emergencies
and crises are not automatically excused.
In English classes, you are expected to have a
current edition of the assigned text when you
come to class.
Most classes will not review the text for you
but will build on what you have read for the
purposes of discussion and/or further
If your professor requires a folder, a blue
examination book, a thumb-drive or other
special equipment, get these while you still
have money.
Schedule of Assignments
The reading assignments in English classes are
usually meant to be completed before you come
to class.
Make sure to mark major deadlines on your
personal calendar.
If a writing workshop or peer review is scheduled
for a particular date, absence may hurt more than
other absences. (Showing up unprepared will be
just as bad.) Mark those days on your personal
calendar also.
Changes to the schedule of assignments are
often necessary. If you miss a class, check with a
classmate about possible changes and/or new
assignments announced while you were away.
The professor’s rules about the use of
computers, cell-phones and other electronic
devices are usually (but not always) stated in the
syllabus. If they are not, and you wish to use one
of these devices, ask permission.
Consumption of food is allowed in some classes
but strictly forbidden in others. If your syllabus
doesn’t say anything about food and drink, ask
the instructor.
Different instructors will have different late work
and make-up policies. The professor should
include this information in the syllabus.
Most syllabi will include a section that gives you a
weight for each assignment. Look at this section
carefully. Not all assignments are worth the
Most syllabi will include a section that gives you
the professor’s grading scale for that class. The
university does not have the same grading scale
for all classes.
At the end of the semester, the professor will
average your grades according to the weights
and grading scale stated in the syllabus and
convert to grades on the 4.00 scale.
Bring paper and writing supplies to class.
Try to participate in the class discussion if
there is one.
If your professor asks you to write or tell
about yourself, do so confidently. The goal is
not evaluation but getting to know each
As soon as you can during the first week, go
to the bookstore to get texts and supplies.
No mistake on the first
day is so great that your
whole college career will
be ruined.
College is like high school
without training wheels. It may
take a few days (or weeks) to
find your balance, but soon
you’ll be as comfortable in
college as you were in high
Remember that all the other
freshmen who just came from
high school are just as confused
and uncertain about things as
you are. (They may not act it-but
are you acting as confused as
you sometimes feel?)
If you pay attention to
instructions, ask questions
when unsure, and trust your
instincts, you will soon find
things a lot less confusing
and overwhelming.
In a couple of weeks, you’ll
know where important
things are, you’ll know
more people, and you’ll be
much more comfortable.

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