Help me go to class
May 7, 2006 12:06 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to stop skipping classes in college?

I'm in my senior year of college, and I have yet to make it to all of my classes for a single semester. While I know that I need to go to class (my grades reflect this), I find it hard to do when I work nights full time, and most of my classes feel like a waste of time. I really need to go, but I can't make myself. Please help!!!
posted by xyberspam to Education (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of those things you just have to do.

There are a few things to make it easier, though:
If you work nights, schedule your classes later in the day so you're not tempted to sleep through them.

Take courses you want to take - that way you'll actually enjoy going and be upset when you miss class.

Don't schedule other commitments (except for other classes) during or near your classes.

Schedule your classes in a block. Go to one, go to them all.
posted by awesomebrad at 12:12 AM on May 7, 2006

Make study groups outside of class, to help make going to class part of a team/social ethic. Works surprisingly well, if such groups are culturally normal on your campus, but they aren't at all schools.

Sit up front, where your absence will be noted.
posted by paulsc at 12:18 AM on May 7, 2006

Sitting up front made an enormous difference in not only my attendance but my performance in school.

Or think of it this way, do you like your job? Do you want to do it, or something like it, forever? Then go to class, work your ass off and realize that college is the first big step towards a pretty good life, if you work at it.
posted by fenriq at 12:43 AM on May 7, 2006

Do you want to go to college?

If you can't make time to go to class reguarly, don't be in school until you can ?
posted by k8t at 12:48 AM on May 7, 2006

Regardless of where you sit, try to interact with the professor. Before each class, make up a list of three relevant questions. Try to ask at least two of them in class. Ask non-obvious questions about the material.

Consider: it is a lot cheaper to buy books and read them at home than it is to attend college. You are paying (or your scholarships are paying, if you have them) for the opportunity to interact. Use it!
posted by b1tr0t at 12:51 AM on May 7, 2006

Simple rule: You must go to every single class you're paying for, no exceptions. (Non-negotiable - the stakes are too high for failure).

If you're "allowed" to miss a class here and there, it will become a missed class here and there and there and more, and nothing will change.

If you know ahead of time that you can't opt out, there ceases to be that mental dilemma when you know you should get up but want to stay in bed (or whatever). That dilemma - the taste of being able to stay in bed, the possibility being a real possibility, so easy to do, so tempting, is part of what makes it hard to resist. You've got to know that there isn't a choice. Take away the dilemma, and it becomes easier.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:03 AM on May 7, 2006

Schedule classes with someone you have a crush on. Worked for me!
posted by fshgrl at 1:07 AM on May 7, 2006

...most of my classes feel like a waste of time.

...I really need to go.

These two statements seem to contradict each other. Figure out why that is and you'll probably find your solution. Are you just too tired to pay attention in class? Do you pay attention but find the in-class material worthless? Are you have problems understanding the material (perhaps because you're behind) and thus find classes frustrating?

Simply forcing yourself to go to classes without working out why you feel they're worthless in the first place isn't going to help. If you do the former without the latter, you will eventually stop because you won't have convinced yourself it's worth anything.
posted by chrominance at 1:13 AM on May 7, 2006

Start associating with people that go to class and study often.

When I was an undergrad most of my bad habits were directly due to, or enabled by, my friends. A more productive and conscientious group of friends will pressure you to be more productive and conscientious. Yes, peer pressure can be a good thing.

(Either that or do what I did, fall in love with someone who won't date a slacker.)
posted by oddman at 1:28 AM on May 7, 2006

Either go to class, or drop out.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:34 AM on May 7, 2006

If you can, schedule heavy days -- TU, or MWF -- so that you have a solid day of classes and at least a couple of days you can sleep in and be a slob. I was a grind and didn't miss class, but finagling my senior year schedule so that I always had at least a couple of days off sure made it more pleasant, especially since I worked every weekend and many nights.

If you can't manage that, figure out what's tripping you up -- is it early classes after your night shift, or the latest class of the day that you consistently miss? -- and schedule around your weakness.

It also helps to really like your subject. By senior year, if you're not feeling enough passion for your major that you want to go to class, that might be a sign that you're not doing what you really want to do. If that's the case, you might have this same problem getting to a job you hate. Do you really want to do what you're doing? If not, it's worth it to figure out what that is so you can have a happier life.

Finally, if you genuinely like your subject but you're working so much to survive that you can't focus on it, consider taking extra student loans and cutting back on your work schedule, or taking fewer classes and doing an extra semester so that you can get more out of your studies. What others have said about associating with serious people is good, too -- ideally, these would be people majoring in your subject, so that you can take the same sections and study together. Good luck!
posted by melissa may at 1:44 AM on May 7, 2006

I found much of college incredibly boring. Being raised by television and never doing homework in HS made me a person with a short attention span who never learned proper study skills.

I realized that I needed to make classes more interesting somehow. I started sitting right at the front and decided to not be shy about asking the professor questions or questioning his or her expertise if something sounded wrong. I also read up on proper study skills and learned how to take real notes. I also learned how to study instead of just cramming.

There's also this bullshit line of "it helps to be interested in what youre studying." No, it doesnt. You may love the subject but its still the drudgery of class you're fighting. By being more involved in your classes you should -make- them more interesting to you.

I also learned to feel guilt about mising any classes. Sure, I could skate by by always missing tues and friday but for my own good I showed up, talked to the people around me (the front row wants to talk to you about the class, trust me), and made it a more enjoyable experience. Of course this wont work in all classes, especially math, but with a few changes in your behavior and attitude you can really change the college experience for yourself.

Towards the end one guy asked me "hey arent you the guy who always argues with the professor?" Which was pretty amusing as I never really did argue with them as much as just got off my ass and asked a few questions now and again instead of sleeping in the back and begging for a C+ at the end of the semester.
posted by skallas at 1:52 AM on May 7, 2006

When I found myself skipping most of my lectures and supervisions in college, I decided to fine myself for every missed engagement. More importantly, I told my friends about it, so they could keep me on the straight and narrow.

Every time I missed a lecture, the first person to email me about it would receive £10 (or I would donate it to a charity of their choice). Every time I missed a supervision or failed to hand in work on time, I had to donate £40 to charity.

The potential loss of over £200 a week really kicked my butt into gear that term, and I went to and participated in most of my course. Over eight weeks, I only ended up with about £100 of fines, which for me was equivalent to a near-perfect attendance record.

Having said that, just turning up for things isn't a magic cure-all. Despite my much-improved attendance that term, I ended up repeating the year because my head still wasn't in the right place. Do try the fines system as a day-to-day motivator, but as other people have said, you may want to think about whether there's a bigger problem at work than simple non-attendance.
posted by chrismear at 2:24 AM on May 7, 2006

Consider: it is a lot cheaper to buy books and read them at home than it is to attend college. You are paying (or your scholarships are paying, if you have them) for the opportunity to interact. Use it!

This is exactly right. You (usually) have to pay for college. If you don't show up, what are you paying for?
posted by juv3nal at 2:25 AM on May 7, 2006

...most of my classes feel like a waste of time.

...I really need to go.

These two statements seem to contradict each other.

But they don't. Many classes are a waste of time, but too often, the profs require attendence or grade some kind of make-work you can only complete by attending rather than making class intrinsically valuable.

I had this problem all through undergrad and to an extent in post-grad. I never found a way to make it work. I skipped somewhere in the range of 60-80% of my classes in college (down to 10% or so this year). My grades suffered, and my knowledge of the material suffered (to a much smaller extent). The only thing that worked for me is to find a few profs you respect and stick to classes instructed by them. When class was interesting (rare!) and I was concerned about what the prof thought of me personally (more rare!), I made it to class. When either of those things were absent, I slept/played through class with abandon. My advice would be to avoid the bullshit classes because there's no incentive to attend and schedule the class you're most likely to get to (a small seminar with a decent prof?) at the start of your day. If you're anything like me, getting there was half the battle and if you made it to the first class, you'd make it through the rest of the day without a problem.
posted by jaysus chris at 2:32 AM on May 7, 2006

If you don't show up, what are you paying for?

The piece of paper more and more employers expect you to have before they will consider your application?
posted by jaysus chris at 2:36 AM on May 7, 2006

Are you a visual learner, an audio learner or a hands-on learner? This makes a big difference to how important lectures actually are to your education.

I studied computer science in college and also worked more than full time to support myself through classes. I was always so exhausted that I never made it to all of my lectures. I'm a visual and hands-on learner, though, so I always found that if I read my textbooks and finished my programming assignments then I did fine in my classes.

Figure out how you learn best. If it's audio, get a friend to record lectures for you. If it's visual, buy the class notes from the university's note-takers (you can do this for a lot of classes - or just look at a friend's notes and read your textbook). If it's hands-on, make sure you get the homework assignements and do them.

I disagree that you have to attend all of your lectures. You should attend as many as you can, but in the U.S. the post-high-school system is so fucked up that many people have to work well over 40 hours a week simply to pay their tuition and living expenses in college. In that circumstance you do whatever you can to survive and stay in school. I graduated with a 3.88 GPA in CS while holding down two jobs (and attending a bit less than half my class lectures over 4 years). It's a hell of a lot of work, but it can be done if you focus on doing the homework assignements and showing up for all of the tests.
posted by rhiannon at 3:03 AM on May 7, 2006

I agree with Melissa on the scheduling thing.

I've found that if I have to be at school/on campus just 2 or 3 days a week for the entire day, I end up going to class.
posted by k8t at 3:18 AM on May 7, 2006

The piece of paper more and more employers expect you to have before they will consider your application?

I'm sure there are some genius kids and some really bad schools that make an exception to this, but I imagine that students generally learn something along the way to getting that piece of paper.
posted by juv3nal at 3:19 AM on May 7, 2006

For most people, school is an extremely loaded topic. Sex isn't just sex; eating isn't just eating; school isn't just school. Yet for some reason, we're more open about the ways sex and eating intertwines with our psyche than we are about school.

School is good for us.
School is a privilege.
Our parents want us to go to school.
Doing well in school = being smart.
If you skip school, you're a bad person.
Teachers deserve respect.
You should have "school spirit."

I don't agree with any of that stuff, but it's hard to avoid those feelings. You may be different from me, but my relationship with school (I spent 15 troubled years dropping in and out of college, got two degrees, and now work as a teacher) was complicated because of all the emotional baggage. Truth was, I hated school, but I felt guilty about hating it. Hating school meant I was dumb or bad.

Eventually, I owned the fact that I hated school. I got comfortable with the hatered. I also owned the fact that my hatred was not just due to deficiencies in me. It was partly me, but it was partly problems with the school and the teachers. And it was partly no one's fault -- other than society's, for pretty much forcing school on me. School and me were just a bad match. I'm highly intellectual and love to read/study, but I only love it when I do it at my own pace. Lectures, homework and tests run against my grain.

There are some things in life one must do: pay taxes, go to work, take out the trash, go to school. But that doesn't mean you have to like them. Once I saw school as something I had to do -- not something I had to like or something that was good for me -- I was able to do it. I wish I could go back and tell my young self, "I know it's bullshit, but just do it right and get through it. It will be over much faster that way, and you'll never have to do it again."

I know some people will be offended by this. (School is a church for some people, and one shouldn't defile it.) And it's not even good advice for everyone. Some people will be more motivated if they can find a way to make school interesting for themselves -- or if they can learn to feel guilt about skipping classes. I spent years trying both these things, failed, and then switched to facing my feelings dead on. Worked for me.
posted by grumblebee at 6:56 AM on May 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

What I did was give myself permission to skip classes for one course. There was always at least one course a semester where I could cram the day before the midterm and the day before the final and still pass. (think mandatory degree requirement + boring professor = unmotivated to attend). Fortunately, my degree had a lot of choice, so the vast majority of the time I got to choose interesting classes that I wanted to attend.

Early in the semester, I would also drop classes or rearrange my schedule if I found out that the booklist, schedule, or professor sucked. If it is at all possible to avoid crappy non-engaging classes, do so.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:37 AM on May 7, 2006

Later in the college years, I had much smaller classes. No big lectures or anything like that. For me, that the teacher and other students would definitely notice my absense helped me go more regularly.

I don't think it's a big sin to not have a semester when you didn't miss a single class. Real people miss a day of class or work now and then. It's how much and which ones and why that matters.
posted by lampoil at 7:53 AM on May 7, 2006

Think of going to class now as good practice for attending all the meetings you will be required to go to in your future working life.

Scout out good nap spots near your class locations. Obviously, make sure you have an alarm of some kind - your phone, watch or whatever.

Wake up at the same time every day, and get out the door, even if your classes don't start until later. Go hang out at the library or a coffee shop or the classroom. It's harder to skip class if you are already up and about.

Arrange with the instructor that your attendance will be required for you, even if it isn't required for your classmates.

Good luck in your last year. Make the most of it now. You'll be working the rest of your life, but you probably won't have much opportunity to interact with people who care about learning and knowledge once you leave school.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:56 AM on May 7, 2006

I took the "heavy days" scheduling technique and it worked. I had four classes per semester, and three of them were Tues-Thurs. Especially in my senior year, I could have one seminar on Tuesday and one on Thursday, along with one regular class that actually met both days (so two classes on each day, one of them quite long) and then ONE class in the middle of the day on MWF. It left me plenty of flexibility on my weekends (didn't have to be back til noon or 1pm on Mondays), which was nice. Also, once I was "up the hill" on Tues/Thurs, I was "up the hill" and I would stay there.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:57 AM on May 7, 2006

Here's what I did when I had a full-time job that extended to around 1-2 a.m. three times a week:

(1) The day after you have a late night at work (which appears to be every day for you), don't schedule classes before noon or 1 p.m. Seriously. Just don't do it if you can at all help it, 'cause early classes after late work will get skipped when you're ridiculously tired from work. You'll tell yourself at the beginning of the semester you can handle earlier classes, and you'll beat yourself up about it when you don't make 'em. It becomes an issue of pride, when it's really all about sleep cycles and exhaustion. Save yourself from that cycle right now and DO NOT schedule early classes.

(2) Don't take more than around 12 credit hours per semester, if you're allowed to go that low, when you're working full-time. Take summer classes to spread out the courseload a bit, and you should still be able to graduate on time. Summer classes are often cheaper per credit hour, too.

(3) And yeah, if you must take a class that begins earlier than noon or 1 p.m., make sure that's the ONLY class you take that begins that early. So maybe you'll have a Tuesday-Thursday class at 11 a.m.—but those are the only days you wake up that early. Adjust your work schedule slightly if you can so you're going to bed a little earlier the night before that class—even a little change will help.

(4) If you get off work at midnight, don't stay up hours after that. Doesn't matter if your friends/housemates are still awake—to stay sane, you need to get sleep.

Now, on a schedule like the one I propose, it may be more difficult to fit in studying/reading, 'cause you're waking up late, going to classes, grabbing a meal, and then it's not long before you have to go to work. And sometimes you're going to feel like you're missing half the day by waking up just before noon. But that's the price you pay for having a job at night—you just need to grab reading time when you can at work, or if your job doesn't give you that opportunity, get ahead on your reading and studying on the weekend.
posted by limeonaire at 10:12 AM on May 7, 2006

Maybe college isnt for you? Or you need to learn a more hands on trade. I know too many people, both men who have been in college knocking around for 10 years waiting to get a degree {I know one who has spent 15 years in a community college} because of the insistence on getting a degree who has changed programs several times.

What do you like to do?

I know for me three hours of lectures at a time, made me fall asleep. I was bored to tears by professors who expected us just to sit and listen for hours and hours. There was maybe two exceptions to that rule.

Id rather read and am a very visual learner. This was one reason I went into a different honors program that had a more hands on approach and smaller classes and pursued an art ed. major. {though that definitely had its limitations}

Perhaps you need an alternative setting or more on hands major....

Dont stay in college bored to tears, wasting endless money just because you think you are "SUPPOSED TO". The poster who wrote that you are paying more for interaction is correct, you could just read the books at home, free from the library.

I really am of the opinion that college isnt necessary anymore. It sounds like something is missing in it for you, or youre just doing it because you feel you must. Perhaps you are overscheduled also.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Budge at 10:22 AM on May 7, 2006

I'd pick up a book on Flow and see if you can't get into a state of flow during your lectures. Flow is, roughly speaking, a state of intense concentration (think being "in the zone"). However, luckily for you, it has been studied scientifically, so you may find some good techniques on concentration, which should help the classes not seem like a waste of time. And the book is only like $10 ;).
posted by jhscott at 10:26 AM on May 7, 2006

Calculate how much your tuition+fees works out to per class meeting? It'll be a much bigger number than you think (I seem to remember doing this and getting $75 or so, and this was at a state school; though I could be misremembering).
posted by advil at 12:18 PM on May 7, 2006

Maybe you would do better at a much smaller college. If there are only 5-15 people in a class, attendence is a much bigger deal to everyone and the classes are much more interactive.
posted by desuetude at 3:11 PM on May 7, 2006

Lots of good points above (speaking as someone who has plenty of reason to read this question). I would say, though that while I agree with almost all of what limeonaire said, I have to counter this point:

(3) And yeah, if you must take a class that begins earlier than noon or 1 p.m., make sure that's the ONLY class you take that begins that early. So maybe you'll have a Tuesday-Thursday class at 11 a.m.—but those are the only days you wake up that early.

I did that this semester -- 3 classes on MWF starting at 10 AM (wayyy too early for me ;-), with only one T/Th class at 2 PM. Sounded fantastic for my sleep patterns. It wasn't. I slept in more and more on T/Th, until eventually I just didn't bother waking until 2 or 2:30 -- so I could rationalize that it was too late to go to class. Between the sleep and a million other committments in February, I missed nearly a month of that class before I saw the need to withdraw.

Meanwhile, having two mid-week free days, as heavenly as that sounds (and was!), killed my "work" days. When you wake up at 2 or 3 PM, you don't feel like sleeping until 4 or 5 AM... and you sure as hell can't wake up at 9 the next day! Especially as I've never been a morning person. Bear in mind I didn't even have a late night job... I was just an undisciplined time-waster. (Still am.) Despite only taking nine hours this semester, with four days a week off, it may have been my toughest semester ever.

I hope this helps. I know it's changed my scheduling plans. Best of luck with figuring out what works best for you.
posted by SuperNova at 11:54 PM on May 7, 2006

i appreciate the avid responses. Unfortunately much of the advice about picking and choosing my schedule is hard to apply. My school only teaches the required classes (Electrical Engineering) at one time each semseter. So as far as picking and choosing, if you need a class, when they schedule it is when you take it. (This has resulted in some real screwy schedules) I've tried the block schedule thing, and that sometimes works. I think that part of my problem is I've learned to learn on my own, and I find it hard to play the "game." I just have to stay strong and wait out one more year.
posted by xyberspam at 12:09 AM on May 8, 2006

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