As a freshman, walking into your college classes can definitely be intimidating—especially when half of the class roster is filled with juniors and seniors. Your first instinct? Blend in with the crowd: Find a happy medium between the silent kids in your class and the chatty ones that always seem to have the right answers. And when that doesn’t seem to work? Speak only when prompted and find ways to rack up participation points by answering the easy questions that require one-word responses. Sound familiar?
It’s understandable to feel a tad uneasy moving into your first year of college-level classes. You’re forced to adjust to a new way of learning, and it can all be extremely overwhelming to digest. Even though you may be a freshman, there is no reason for you to believe that you are not capable of challenging those upperclassmen who seem so relaxed in your classes.
Push aside the hesitation you have simply because you are afraid of humiliating yourself by saying something wrong or saying something stupid or saying something that just doesn’t make any sense. Embarrassing things happen to people every single day! It is OK to be wrong in a classroom setting. Despite what you may believe, that is the point when you actually begin learning. Yes, it is possible to learn from your mistakes!
So peel back that layer of shyness, and share all of that knowledge in your brain with your classmates. Don’t be afraid to follow these tips to help guide you along the way:
- Make sure to keep up with the assigned reading and finish work for the day that it is due. By preparing yourself for the class discussion, you have infinitely enhanced your ability to successfully participate in class. Skim through the reading once more, before class begins, in order to refresh your mind of the material you will be discussing. By doing this, you will have instant access to the information necessary to support the points you will be asserting during class.
- Use your notes to your advantage! Not only will you sound intelligent for bringing up a topic of debate, but you will also have the tools necessary to defend the statements you make throughout the class discussion. Who will be able to argue with a student that is fully equipped with evidence to back up his or her claims? That’s right—no one!
- Make it a goal to say something at least once per class. When class is in session, remind yourself that you are there to learn! Immerse yourself as best you can into the topic of debate, even if you know very little about a particular subject. Once you set the goal of speaking up once per class, it will get easier to just seamlessly start participating without having the goal in mind.
- Enable yourself to learn from others through active listening. Who knows, maybe one of your classmates will respond in a way that triggers your own personal opinion. Before you think about what to say and how to go about saying it, you must first be willing to listen to the others around you.
- When in doubt, just say it! There have probably been many times when you left class feeling a little disappointed in yourself for being too afraid to share your own thoughts or ideas during a class discussion. True, everyone may not have the knack for public speaking, but if you have something to say, gosh darn it, just say it! Don’t be selfish by keeping those thoughts inside your head; you could be preventing your peers from exploring a perspective they never would have thought of on their own. Now, we wouldn’t want that to happen, would we?
Honestly, what it all comes down to is confidence. Confidence is key when it comes to building up the courage to speak in front of your classmates. But once you conquer your fears, college doesn’t seem like such a scary place.
About the author: Samantha Jamison is a student at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She is working toward a degree in English with a double-minor in mathematics and communication arts.