How to be successful on your first day of classes

The first day of classes can be full of emotions: you’re excited to explore new topics and make new friends, but also perhaps nervous because you want to succeed. You’re walking into a room full of new people and engaging with a first-class faculty member you’ve only read about on our website. While this moment may seem daunting at first, this is just one step in your journey to becoming a well-rounded student at Gettysburg College, and we’re here to make sure you get the most out of your first day.

Health Sciences Prof. Josef Brandauer, who also directs the Johnson Center for Creative Teaching and Learning (JCCTL) and guides its mission to promote learning within and beyond the classroom between students and faculty, shared a short and helpful how-to list for feeling confident and empowered on your first day of classes. This list was based on an article written by James Lang to help teachers prepare for their first day of class.

1. Keep an open mind.

Professor Williams outside on stairs with students

Go outside of your comfort zone. We often hear from students years after graduation that the “outside-the-box class” that they took had a transformative impact on their education and lives.

2. Get to know your classmates.

Students studying anatomage tables in a lab

You all have the same goal: you want to learn. Throughout the course of the semester, you’ll rely on the people around you as collaborators or for encouragement. Feeling part of a community is important for your learning – distinguish yourself by being kind!

3. Learn how to learn.

Students sitting at their desks inside a white classroom setting

Learning how to learn is an essential component of your Gettysburg liberal arts and sciences education. There’s lots to be said about how humans learn, including from Gettysburg graduates! If you only have a few minutes, take a look at this article to learn eight tips for better study habits.

4. Understand what’s expected of you.

Student and teacher talking to one another while sitting down

After you walk out of the first one or two classes, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I broadly understand the work my professor expects of me this semester?
  • When is the first assignment due date?
  • What’s the best way to reach out to my professor with questions (office hours, email, Navigate, or other way)?

It’s difficult to succeed at a task if you don’t understand what’s expected of you. If the syllabus does not answer your questions (read it carefully), don’t hesitate to ask. We are here to help.

Learn more about Gettysburg’s first-class faculty and how they help shape the lives of our students during their time on campus.

By Health Sciences Prof. and JCCTL Director Josef Brandauer
Photos by Miranda Harple and Shawna Sherrell
Posted: 08/28/22