We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but let’s face it, half of us do it anyway. Plus, judging by appearance and prior knowledge does sometimes work. (Example: M. Night Shyamalan movies…)
College classes are the perfect example of things that can be accurately judged from a first impression, no matter how fleeting. Let’s take a look at some of the most common experiences you might have on your first day and what they might mean about the class ahead.
What happens: Your prof shows up 10 minutes late, frazzled and smelling heavily of espresso.
What it means: Feel free to come to class in your PJs and contribute to class discussion with garbled comments that aren’t fully formed, since your prof will neither care nor be able to tell the difference.
What happens: A PowerPoint presentation is already up on the screen when you enter, and the prof has a writing implement in his or her breast pocket.
What it means: Watch out, sister! This prof isn’t going to take any shenanigans. S/he is likely to be a hard grader, so start assembling your study group pronto with the cute dudes who sit near you.
What happens: The prof hands out the syllabus, reads it word for word, asks if everyone has the textbook, and dismisses you early.
What it means: Don’t be fooled by the early dismissal. This is a by-the-book prof who isn’t too keen on original ideas and probably doesn’t want to hear yours. Learn to read and regurgitate what’s in the textbook, and fast.
What happens: You all meet at the coffee shop and the prof buys everyone drinks and pastries.
What it means: Count your blessings. Your prof is either really nice or really insecure—better hope it’s the former.
What happens: You do an icebreaker activity with the other students in your class.
What it means: Your prof used to be a corporate motivational speaker. Polish off your phrases of cynicism, because you’ll probably need them for the kind of crap you’re going to hear in this class.
Ready for the big time? Start studying your profs’ mannerisms, fashion sense (or lack thereof), and office decor (yes, that does require you to attend office hours). It might be a pain, but it’s not a waste of time. When you supplement your in-class comments with similar body language or slip in that “Far Side” reference that reflects a cartoon your prof has outside his office door, you can start welcoming those A+’s with open arms!