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Why Go to Class?

What You Don't Think About Now Might Hurt You Later


Male professor addressing group of college students in classroom
Andersen Ross/Digital Vision/Getty Images

It can be flat-out impossible some days to find the motivation to go to class. You haven't had enough sleep, you just need a break, you're probably not going to learn anything important, you have other things to do, there's something much more exciting going on, the professor is bad, the professor won't notice, you won't miss anything -- and you just plain may not want to go. Even if all of these excuses are true, however, it's important to take a step back and gain some perspective about why going to class in college really does matter.

1. You'll learn what you need to know. You never know when your professor is going to drop that critical sentence in the middle of the lecture: "This will be on the exam." And if you're home in bed instead of in a seat in class, you'll never know how important today's lesson really was.

2. You'll learn what you don't need to know. Conversely, your professor may say something along the lines of "This is important for you to read and understand, but it won't be part of the upcoming midterm." Learning what you don't need to focus on in class can be just as helpful as knowing where to spend most of your efforts and how to study later.

3. You might learn something interesting. Even if you're only taking the course for your gen. ed. requirements and you're pretty sure your professor could win a Most Boring Professor Ever award, you just might -- gasp! -- learn something interesting in class today. Remember: You went to college for a reason. Other students chose not to go or weren't afforded the privilege. So something inside of you wants to be there ... meaning you just might enjoy it when you learn something interesting in even the most dreary of classes.

4. You can catch up with friends before class. Even if you're still wearing your pajama pants and barely make it to class on time, you likely will still have a minute or two to catch up with some friends. And even if you just commiserate about how you're still recovering from the weekend, the camaraderie can be nice.

5. You can catch up with friends after class. Sure, making it through the lecture might be rough. But afterward, you'll be in the right place and with the right folks to do something fun afterward.

6. You can get the latest gossip. While staying in bed and reading your Facebook feed on your phone might make you think you know what's going on with your friends, chances are there's a lot more that isn't being posted. If you head to class, you can get the latest news while also staying on top of your academic game.

7. You'll save time studying later. Even if your professor just goes over the reading, that kind of review will help solidify things in your mind. Which means, of course, that the hour you spend in class reviewing material is one less hour you have to study later.

8. You can ask questions you couldn't ask if you tried to review the material at home. College is different than high school in a lot of ways, including the fact that the material is much, much more difficult. Consequently, asking questions can be an important part of your education. And it's much easier to ask questions of your professor or TA when you're in class than when you're home trying to catch up on the material you missed.

9. You can get some face time with the professor. While it may not seem important now, it's incredibly helpful for you to familiarize yourself with your professor -- and vice versa. Even if he or she just sees your charming face in class every day but doesn't interact with you much, you never know how your class attendance might help you later. If, for example, you need help with a paper or are close to failing the class, having the professor know your face when you go talk to him or her down the road can definitely help you make your case.

10. You can get face time with your TA. Just like it's important for your professor to at least know that you're in one of his or her classes, it's important for you to make yourself familiar to your TA, too. TAs can be great resources and making sure they know that you're putting in the effort to go to class and learn the material can be important.

11. You're paying a lot of money per session; don't waste it! Try doing some basic but shocking math. Let's say you're paying $5600 just in tuition this semester. (That's the tuition-only cost at UC Berkeley for Fall 2012.) If you're taking 4 courses, that's $1400/course. And if you're in class 14 weeks each semester, that's $100/week per class. Lastly, if your course meets twice a week, that's a whopping $50 you're paying for every class session. Wouldn't you head to class lickety split if someone offered you $50 to go? If so, why wouldn't you go if you're paying someone else $50 for the same opportunity?

12. You can get coffee on your way to class. Tired? Too tired to go to class? Then grab a cup of coffee on the way. You'll wake yourself up, get a jump start on the day, and learn something to boot. All it takes is a little effort to pull yourself together and head out the door.

13. Going to class is like going to the gym: You'll feel guilty if you don't go but awesome if you do. You know how, on some days, it's nearly impossible to make yourself hit the gym? But on the days when you do go, you're always glad you did, right? Going to class often works the same way. You might lack the motivation at first, but it nearly always pays off later. Make yourself feel proud all day for going instead of guilty all day for not.

14. You'll learn something interesting that might change your life. You never know when inspiration will strike in college. In lecture today, your professor might mention an organization that sounds interesting. You might come home, look it up on Google, learn that its mission resonates with you, end up volunteering with them, and ultimately land a job after graduation. Does that seem far-fetched? Maybe. But maybe not! Inspiration and epiphanies can happen at any moment. Set yourself up for them by going to class and keeping an open mind about what kinds of things you can learn about and fall in love with.

15. You'll be reminded about why you're in college. Is college easy and lovely and enjoyable 24/7? Not in the slightest. It's really hard, takes a lot out of you, and knocks a lot of people down along the way. Throw your backpack on and remind yourself why you're in school. There are a lot of students out there who don't have the opportunity you do to go to college; use today as a way to regain some perspective on what a privilege it is to be working toward a college degree.

16. You'll get some exercise while walking/biking/etc. there. If you don't think your brain can get anything out of going to class, at least your body can. Since you'll have to walk/bike/etc. to get your tush from where you are now to a seat in the lecture hall or lab, you'll at least get some exercise from going to class today. And that's a good reason to go, right?

17. You might learn something you can use later to impress your friends. One of the cool things about being a nerd (yes, there are cool things about being a nerd!) is that you know all kinds of dorky little facts that impress people at random times. And how do you learn these little tidbits of information? By going to class, of course. So don't miss out on whatever random facts you'll learn by going to class today.

18. You can talk to that cutie you've had your eye on. Is class for your academic pursuits? Definitely, and those should always take priority. But it doesn't hurt if there's a cutie in one of your classes who seems smart, interesting, and approachable. If you're interested in getting to know him or her a little better, going to class is a great place to start. Even if you both are commiserating about what else you'd rather be doing, neither of you would be talking with each other if you didn't show up for class today.

19. You can be more prepared for your upcoming assignments, papers, labs, exams, etc. It's hard to be prepared for upcoming assignments if you don't go to class on a regular basis. Can you wing it? Maybe. But the amount of time you spend trying to undo the damage you've done by skipping class is likely much more than the amount of time you would have spent just going to class in the first place.

20. You might actually enjoy yourself! Sometimes, college can be downright fun -- even in class. Where else, after all, will you see your professor blow something up or learn about the amazing architectural feats of ancient Rome? You went to college to expand your mind, to learn all kinds of new information, to learn how to think critically, and to live an examined life. So even on the days when it's super hard to find a reason to go to class, perhaps one of the most important reasons is to remember that -- dare it be true! -- learning might actually be fun.

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