Let’s face it. We came to college to go to class and get a degree. The easiest question to ask a fellow student you’re first meeting is, “So, what’s your major?” Although the ensuing conversation is not usually very entertaining, it can at least lead to the occasional, “Oh, I had that professor, I swear no one ever went to that lecture,” or, “Yeah, no … I don’t really take any science classes…”
The trouble with attending class these days is the presence of alternative entertainment available to us at any moment. I doubt there’s a student here who hasn’t tried to sneak a look at Facebook in class between typing notes on lecture slides only to look up and realize 20 minutes have passed. Even if you’ve forgotten your laptop, there’s still a tempting smartphone lingering in our pocket. Angry Bird levels are similar to Lay’s Chips because I bet you can’t have just one.
So how do we resist the pull of the oh-so-many things more entertaining than the lectures and classes we regularly attend? Throughout my years here I’ve learned two techniques to stay focused, attentive and alert with a minimum amount of strain on your fragile young mind.
The first technique I recommend is snacking. While it may seem as simple as bringing a bag of Doritos from your dorm in your backpack, if you pull an amateur move like that you’ll end up with a hand full of book-crushed crumbs in a loud bag which will irritate your fellow classmates. There is some serous etiquette associated with snacking in the classroom, and I am ashamed to say I have broken it a few times.
An easy mistake to make when bringing food into an academic environment is not realizing its smell potential. I’ve probably been “that guy” who brought a pungent box of Chicken Strata from the CoHo into a discussion, but I like to think I’ve paid it forward by enjoying a fragrant mandarin orange or cutie in a large lecture hall.
Unfortunately, bringing a snack to class nowadays isn’t as easy as it was when I could make the somewhat questionable trade of an all-you-can-eat DC swipe for a one-time-only bag of M&Ms on my way out from the dorms. To combat this, use Ziploc bags. It’s easy to bring an ample portion of grapes, carrot sticks or even just cereal, while catching envious glances from your neighbors.
If we could always snack in class, then paying attention in lecture would be no less entertaining than catching dinner and a show. We all face the perils of lectures, however, which occur just after a meal. This can put you further at risk of falling asleep during that surprisingly un-entertaining GE class on Dinosaurs.
In this case, keep yourself inspired by what you’re learning by combining it with art. I can draw about as well as my dog can play basketball (not very well), but that hasn’t stopped me from attempting to spice up my note-taking by splitting a page between text and relevant doodles.
If you’re stuck in a psych lecture, then why not draw a cartoon of a brain explaining something about itself or a dog drooling onto a bell? And if you’re not the artistic type, then why not take a stab at comedy? Accompany your geology notes with a snappy one liner like “The only thing that blows more than the Stromboli Volcano is the food at the Cuarto DC!”
Trying to write jokes about your lecture notes or planning ahead to figure out the best way to bring that leftover macaroni and cheese to discussion might seem a bit silly, but we have to remember what we’re fighting for. The better we stay focused in class, the less time we’ll have to spend, as they say on Facebook, “chillin’ with Peter J” during midterms and finals week. So remember, kids, be cool and stay in school.If you have had a class with AARON WEISS, then feel free to tell him how he is a hypocrite for writing about paying attention at firstname.lastname@example.org.