How to Survive Introduction to Psychology Without Hating It
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If there is one thing that can put a damper on a new college student's excitement about their new environment, it is the first day of an introductory class. It cannot be proven, but it certainly seems like every introductory class is held in that boring, gray building on the other end of campus. The class usually has about 200 students, is located in a lecture hall with stadium seating that makes it downright impossible to hear your professor who, by the way, talks in a monotone, and if you are really unlucky, the air-conditioning won't work either.
Okay so we are exaggerating its awfulness only slightly but the point remains, introductory classes can be brutal for freshmen. In some instances, the class can be so boring and large that it will ruin a student's experience with a certain subject. It happened to us with introductory classes in Biology and European History when we were in college, and it's possible that it could happen to you. As much as we would like to help every college freshman with this problem, we are a pyschology site, with an interest in making sure that an introductory psychology class doesn't turn off an interested student from the subject.
Here are a few tips to surviving your introductory psychology class from a group of people with a lot of experience in barely surviving their freshmen lectures. Enjoy!
Get to know your teacher
This is particularly important if you attend a large state school and your Introduction to Psychology class has 400 students, but it is a useful suggestion no matter how many fellow students are in your class. Let's face it, even if your teacher was the world's most selfless instructor who wanted nothing more than to make sure each and every student learns a lot, that professor still doesn't have enough time in the world to care about each student's individual success.
Chances are they teach other classes and have research conduct. Also, chances are the introductory class you are enrolled in is the class that teacher invests the least amount of time in. So since the teacher isn't going to make an effort, the onus is on you to get the most out of the class.
Talk to your professor after class, go to see him during office hours even if you don't have a lot of questions, sit close to the front of class, ask insightful questions. These are just a few ways to get to know your professor. Once you get to know your professor, class will likely be less boring and more worthwhile. Not only will you learn more, but you will also be more engaged. Plus, there is always the chance you make a lasting impression and that professor helps open some doors to the psychology careers you have always wanted.
Don't just sit there and take notes
The default use of class time for every first-time college student is note-taking. When you aren't sure what the best way to learn is, you should just take notes, or at least that's what common sense suggests. We respectfully argue that, in this instance, common sense doesn't know what it's talking about, because it has never been stuck copying down notes from a PowerPoint presentation for six hours.
Now before you go burning all of your notebooks and telling your teachers that a crazy guy on the Internet told you to do it, we aren't advocating not taking notes at all, we are only trying to say that if the class is 50 minutes long, not all of it should be spent copying down what the professor is saying. Note-taking is important and it is going to help you pass whatever class you are enrolled it -- introductory or otherwise. But are you really learning or retaining any information if all you are doing is copying down notes? We argue that no, you aren't really learning.
Now hopefully your professor is worthwhile and will try to incorporate some other aspects of class that don't involve just listening to him lecture you about human behavior. But most introductory classes are designed to be lectures, so it's up to you to make the subject interesting and still learn at the same time.
Follow along in the book. Or collaborate with a friend so that you can listen while he takes notes and then the next class you switch. Ask questions. If your professor allows laptops, use them to look up interesting news articles on the subjects. It doesn't matter how you choose to liven up the classroom, just make sure you make cater your learning to what keeps you interested.
Make fast friends with someone in class
When we say friends, we aren't talking about the type of people you hang out with on the weekends and the type of people you go to the movies with, although it certainly would be cool if they became that sort of friend. The type of friends we are talking about are the type of people you study with, the people you coordinate note-taking with, the people you complain about your boring teacher with, and the people you sit next to in class.
Finding a friend in your class will undoubtedly help make the class easier to deal with. Not only will it help to have someone else to study with and learn from when you missed something in class, but it is always fun to have someone who doesn't mind listening to you moan about how miserable your introduction to psychology class is. Plus, psychology is not an easy subject to understand, so if you can find a friend, maybe the two of you will be able to figure out the more complex topics on your own.
Get involved in psychology-related activities and groups on campus
We are writing this article for students who actually want to survive introductory psychology courses, so we are assuming that if you are reading this, you are interested enough in psychology to pursue the subject further after the class is over. If that is the case, then there is nothing more important that pursuing your passion outside of the classroom as well.
It may not seem like there is enough time to juggle classes, homework, social responsibilities and academic clubs, but trust us, you will have plenty of time to drink cheap beer and flirt with members of the opposite sex. The kind of involvement that will help you jump-start a career comes from joining the psychology club, or helping professors with their research, or maybe even looking for an internship or job while you are working on school stuff as well.
This will not only help reaffirm the fact that psychology as a subject is not defined by the introductory classes, and it also may make the subject material in the class more interesting. If you are applying principles you learned in class to work you are doing outside of class, you can't help but become more invested and excited about what you are learning. This will force you to pay more attention in class as well and you may even feel good about knowing the answer to class questions that no other person knows because they aren't involved like you are.