Tips for your first University lecture
If you are attending Manchester, Exeter, UCL, Newcastle, or basically any university in the UK, your fresher’s week starts in 5 days. We hope you enjoyed our previous post about how to survive the next week of debauchery and incorporate some of our tips seriously, such as bringing an ethernet cable and completing your admin early.
This post, however, is all about our third tip — attend those first lectures. These could start during fresher’s week, or immediately after. Regardless, they are coming up. We know your first year does not count, we know you will most likely be hungover, and we know you would rather stay in bed rather than wake up for a 9am lecture about your course. Bear with us, there is a method to the madness.
Strategically attending this first lecture will set you up for the rest of the term and make sure you can do as little as possible while still succeeding. Look out for the points we mention below, and how to handle each obstacle.
1. Does your professor collect a register of attendance?
Yes, some do that now. This is usually because (1) it is a boring subject and they are worried people won’t attend, or (2) because they themselves are boring and are afraid people won’t attend. Whichever reason, they are afraid you won’t attend so entice you to come by punishment. You will know whether they take a register and submit to the university on the first day if you see a piece of paper on a clipboard circle around the whole lecture hall at the beginning, with every student name and number next to a signature box. You are meant to sign next to your student name and number.
So how do you get around this? Remember we said there is a method to the madness. By attending the first lecture, you are in the best position to find friends in the same course as you with the same lectures. This means when you decide to miss a lecture but your friend goes, they can sign you in! And they would expect the same from you vice versa. To ensure you have the best probability of always knowing a friend who is in a lecture we suggest the following:
Make at least three good friends in each course.
Have at least one friend who looks like they will attend most, if not all, lectures.
Always sit with those people when you do attend, so if they notice you not in attendance, they know to sign you in.
If you repeatedly have the same friend sign you in, make sure they use a different pen colour, and spend the time showing them your signature. We have heard of rare instances where universities catch people based on inconsistent signings.
2. Is there a clicker quiz?
This one is more difficult, but not impossible. Some professors go the extra length to have a clicker quiz at every lecture to ensure attendance. If you are issued a clicker during freshers week this is attached to your student ID number and can be used in every lecture, depending on your lecturer. Sometimes they may use it just take anonymous polls when asking, but sometimes they have a quiz at the start of every lecture. It is usually not worth much and is quite easy (if you attended the last lecture), but it is meant to ensure your attendance.
Since it is difficult to have one friend use multiple clickers at a time, you can’t form a friends group where one person is responsible for another. We suggest you form a partnership with one friend only and you plan who is going to attend which lectures, as you have to do some clicker coordination beforehand. We also suggest you choose a friend who is intelligent, as this counts for marks, which brings us to our next point — evaluations.
3. Getting a good grade?
If it is your first year at a UK university, then your marks do not count towards your overall degree score. However, there are a few reasons why you should still be slightly concerned with your marks. The first is the pass/fail point at 40%. If you fail the whole year, then there is a good chance you can lose your spot at university and be asked not to attend your second or third year. That is a polite way of saying you could be kicked out.
The second is if you fail a specific module, and it is an important one, then you may have to retake it again during the summer. Do you really want to be doing that?
Thirdly, there is simply internal and external pride. Do you really want to be telling your parents you just marginally passed your year? If a prospective employer asks about your first year at uni, how do you feel about explaining that 41%?
Finally, if you are planning on doing a year abroad…first year marks matter. Not only do most universities require you to have 2:1 in order to go, they also award places based on the best academic performances. This means that coveted beach spot in Sydney is at risk of being taken by those who leave you in the dust with their marks. So if pride in your own grade won’t do it nor the fear of being kicked out, perhaps a year in Australia or wherever you choose will give you the motivation you need.
4. How are you evaluated?
During this first lecture you will be told all about course evaluations. Currikula will dedicate a post to evaluations next week, however you should look out for the three general categories below.
a) Individual work. This includes essays, presentations, and other forms of individually submitted work. Currikula will continue improving to help your score on these sorts of evaluations.
b) Group work - also everyone’s favourite! One person does the assignment while the other’s try their best to contribute…or at least make it look like they are. If you are someone who expects other members to do most of the work - make sure you partner with intelligent people who are hard workers. Coasting along while others pick up the slack does not work when everyone has the same mentality. At least one person in your group has to carry everyone else. Therefore, you should become friends with these people from the first lecture, and if you don’t plan on going to any future ones make sure you stay friends with them some other way. You can spot these people by their appearance. If they wear smarter clothes, look showered, are taking notes, own the textbook, and have made any other sort of effort to look presentable at this lecture, you can bank on them being more committed to group work. Have fun coasting along (we never said life was fair).
c) Exams and in-class tests. We could tell you to take copious notes in the lecture and start revision at least one month before the evaluation, but the reality is you will open the text book for the first time a week before and start cramming. We will leave it at that.
4. Other information and expectations?
Do they expect you to participate in tutorials? What are their office hours? Do you need to sign up for anything in your course portal? What referencing style do they expect you to use? How long is are the lectures?
When are the tutorials? Is there anything on your course timetable that may be incorrect? Are there any extra classes that you are supposed to attend? Most of these will be discussed at the first lecture so it is important you attend, take notes, and make a plan. Trust us, it’s easier this way.
5. Tips for your first lecture
It could be a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or any other day of the week. This is university, so regardless of the morning you most likely went out the night before. It could be 9am or 10am, but that does not matter if you were planning on staying in bed until noon. Use these tips to be in the best shape for your lecture.
Drink lots of water. When you get home from your night drink at least 1 litre. Every time you wake up in the middle of the night drink more. When you wake up in the morning, drink even more.
Know the location beforehand and how to get there. Don’t waste precious sleep time figuring this stuff out. If your degree is a common one then chances are all your lectures will be in a similar area. i.e. You can expect your Business Management lecture to be held in the Business School Building.
Food is very important. You don’t want to be the double H in your lecture, which is
Hungover AND Hungry. At least grab a small bite beforehand, we suggest pastry over cereal as you can bring that with you. Although…
Who to sit with. If you have already made friends with course-mates during fresher’s, you are one step ahead of the game. You can attend the lecture with them, chat beforehand, and make more friends. If not, don’t sweat it, there will be lots of opportunities to make lecture friends. We suggest you arrive at least 10 minutes early, find someone, and just start a conversation. Say hi! “How are you feeling after last night?” You’re all going to bond over exciting topics or boring lectures. Conversation will never have been easier.
The pre-lecture device check and usage. This needs to be done before every lecture, seminar, tutorial, or group meeting, but is especially important for your first lecture. Opening your laptop, iPad, or any other device only to hear a loud moan… cough um, “ inappropriate noises” in the background while everyone looks at you in embarrassment is not the desired first impression at a lecture. If you do decide to bring a device to your lecture so you can browse Facebook, Snapchat, or engage in any activity other than take notes you must follow these three steps before you enter the lecture hall.
Volume. We spoke to Apple and can confirm the silent button on the iPhone has been placed in the most easily accessible area so that you can turn your phone to vibrate before your lecture starts, so use it. We have suggested they include one on all laptops and iPads to make this easier for you and are collaborating with their engineers on this task.
All devices must always be muted during your lectures if you want to avoid the death stares when you phone goes off.
Visuals. This is especially true if you like to sit at the front of your lecture hall. Make sure all noneducational browser windows have been closed, or at least minimised and away from disruption.
Device usage. If you are not using your devices for academic purposes, we get it. Students text, check Instagram, and Snapchat in the middle of lectures. Lecturers even get this. However, there is some etiquette you should follow. The general rule is as follows: the closer to the front you sit the more academic your behaviour should be. A lecturer most likely won’t notice or care if you are in the back taking selfies, but at the front of the class it is not appreciated.
6. Post lecture
The lecture is over and you know what to expect for the rest of the term, so what do you do? You could either go back to bed, ask if it is too early to go for a pint, or go to your next lecture. The choice is up to you and how you feel.
We always suggest making more friends if your stomach can handle not sleeping for the rest of the day. Maybe ask if some others want to grab a bite to eat? They are probably starving as well. Whatever it is, you should now know the key factors which decide how much effort will be required on your part to be successful in this class.