3 tips for returning to campus

Illustration with text stating, 3 tips for returning to campus with a red arrow CREDIT: FSU PUBLICATIONS AND COMMUNICATIONS DEPARTMENT

The Fall 2022 term is shaping up to be the first time many students will get the opportunity to engage with peers and professors outside of a Bongo or Zoom session.

In this article, you will find three tips to keep in mind when taking in-person classes. Let’s jump in.

1. Take advantage of the campus space

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If you have been participating in online classes over the last two years, you have probably heard advice to keep a space in your home dedicated to schoolwork that is separate from where you relax. It is psychologically beneficial to keep your work-life and home-life separate so that you can better partake in both. One of the benefits of being on campus is that striking a work/life balance is much easier than when working from home.

When your classes are done, or you have a long break between them, it is tempting to go home. But, if you have the energy to keep working, then it’s a great idea to take the opportunity to find a nice spot on campus, settle in, and devote some time to schoolwork. Whether you prefer a quiet environment or the ambient noise of passersby, there are numerous locations on campus suited to solo or group work. The library, as one might expect, is a great place for this: there are designated quiet zones, a ton of study carrels, small and large tables, and bookable rooms.

2. Take notes efficiently

Taking notes in class can be challenging for many students, but good notes are extremely helpful, both when learning new information and preparing for an evaluation. There are three important things you should practice to increase your note-taking efficiency:

  • Don’t try to transcribe everything the professor says
  • Use some form of shorthand
  • Review your notes shortly after you take them
First of all, it should be noted that without a specialized device, no student can write or even type with complete accuracy at the same speed as a professor talks. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that notes are only worth taking if they are a copy of everything presented during a lecture. Helpful notes need not, and should not, be full transcripts or copies.

Notes are meant to act as a guide to help you navigate the course content in the future, so it is always better to paraphrase rather than trying to write down every detail. Instead of trying to take notes on everything presented in the lecture, try to pick-up on signals that indicate something is important. Changes in tone, pace, formatting on slides, and the obvious phrase, “this would make a great test question,” are all things that can help you discern what is important to take down and make you a more efficient note-taker.

Full sentences will often leave you lagging behind the lecture. When possible, always try to use abbreviations and some form of shorthand. You will be able to take notes much more efficiently if you abbreviate particularly long words and use one-character symbols to represent commonly recurring words (like using ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, ‘^’ instead of ‘or’, a ‘c’ with a line over it instead of ‘with,’). These little changes add up over time. You can also use arrows or any other markings to quickly signify relationships between concepts instead of using conjunctions.

My last note-taking tip is to review your notes shortly after you take them. Note-taking doesn’t end when your class does. You are almost always going to write something down that you won’t be able to fully parse when you come back to it days later. I highly recommend looking over your notes shortly after class to make sure you understand what you wrote down and take some time to clarify and elaborate where needed. It is very frustrating to take notes that are incomplete or indecipherable when you start to study. Reviewing your notes shortly after class will also help your brain solidify the information you just received.

3. Sit near the front

Regardless of whether you are primarily an auditory or visual learner, the most important advice I can offer to get the most out of lectures is to minimize distractions as much as possible. This includes not engaging in activities that will cause you to be distracted, but also avoiding distractions created by others.

The two most common distractions facing students are others talking while the professor is lecturing and students using devices for leisure while in class. These can be enormous distractions if you have trouble tuning out others, and the best advice I can give you to avoid these is to sit near the front of the class.

Most professors take a hard stance against talking while they are lecturing, so students who like to talk during a lecture typically sit at the back of the classroom where they believe they can talk freely. Sitting up front also has the benefit of keeping other’s actions out of sight. The more students sitting in front of you, the greater the chance of having your attention pulled towards screens showing Facebook, Instagram, Tik- Tok, YouTube, etc.

If you are having trouble learning because of the inappropriate actions of others, then you are almost certainly not the only one finding it distracting. Keep in mind that the classroom is just as much your space as it is everyone else’s. Do not hesitate to bring these distractions to the attention of the professor, even during class.

Sub-tip: Class is for learning, so if you happen to be tempted to check social media, browse the Internet, watch videos or play video games while in class, do everyone who is paying to learn in-class a favour and turn off your wi-fi.

When you return to school this September, remember to take advantage of the opportunity that many had taken for granted two years ago. Utilize campus space, take stellar notes, stay focused, and enjoy the return to campus.