6 Ways to Prepare for the First Day of Class in College

Feeling first-day-of-college jitters? Learn what to expect and how to prepare for the first day of class.
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Updated on June 27, 2023
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Transitioning from summer into the rigors of college can feel abrupt for some students — even overwhelming. College may present different challenges and experiences than high school and a career, but prepared students can thrive from their first day of college and beyond.

Follow these tips to feel more confident and excited for your first day of class in college, whether you're a recent high school grad or an adult going back to school.

1. Plan to Arrive Early

Going to sleep at a reasonable time the night before, waking up early, and getting to class ahead of schedule on your first day of college can offer many benefits. If you arrive early, you can more easily find a seat that works best for your learning needs.

It also doesn't hurt to show your professors that you value their time and will do your best to be punctual. Students who show up late disrupt the class and may get a less-than-ideal seat. Additionally, you might miss out on the opportunity to introduce yourself and get an in-depth overview of the class syllabus.

2. Review Your Class Schedule and Syllabi Beforehand

Before your first day of college, learn your class schedule and review any syllabi already shared by your professors. By reviewing your schedule, you can learn where your classes are and map out routes so you don't get lost.

Carefully choosing a class schedule each term can make your college experience go a lot more smoothly, so put thought into this process. Most universities allow you to add or drop a class within the first few weeks of a term.

The syllabus for a course usually details when you need to turn in assignments throughout the semester. Keep track of any big projects or papers for your classes in a planner to help you see when you might be especially busy that term. Staying organized can help you avoid costly mistakes like turning in a project late or missing an exam.

3. Familiarize Yourself With Important Locations

Knowing where to go for each of your classes from day one can prevent you from getting lost and wasting time. Many students have just 10-15 minutes between classes. If your campus is big, it's critical you know how to get around.

Make sure you know where to find academic buildings, dining halls and cafes, the student health center, restrooms, and libraries.

If you arrive on campus several days before classes start, use this time to walk around and get to know the buildings. You can even time how long it takes to get from one classroom to the next if your schedule is tight.

4. Prepare to Take Notes

Bringing a laptop or notebook to class on your first day ensures you can copy down relevant information and avoid missing key deadlines. Note that some professors may not allow laptops in their classrooms, so be sure to review the syllabus or ask about this policy ahead of time.

Taking effective notes in an organized fashion can help you retain important info that may show up on future tests. Get in this habit early. And make sure to figure out what school supplies you need for college.

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5. Get Ready to Pay Attention

Although many professors prefer to use their first class to get to know everyone and go over the syllabus, this isn't always the case. Some instructors may jump directly into course material, so make sure you're prepared.

If enrolled in a large class, you may not be able to ask questions during the lecture. In this case, write a list of questions you can ask your professor after class. You can also write your instructor an email asking for help or clarification on something.

6. Anticipate Making New Connections

From your first day of college, introducing yourself to classmates can help you forge connections that may prove valuable as the semester progresses. Getting to know your peers can make it easier to form study groups and ask for help with difficult assignments. It's also nice to have some friendly, familiar faces in the classroom.

If you live on campus or in student housing, making friends with those in your building can help you both academically and socially. These students may be taking the same classes as you and can likely give some advice about interesting classes or tough professors to watch out for.

Frequently Asked Questions About the First Day of Class in College

How can I not be nervous for the first day of college?

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It's normal to feel nervous on your first day of college. Just know that you're not alone. Many incoming students feel this way, but these nerves should gradually dissolve as you learn your schedule and meet other students.

Some ways to help overcome first-day jitters include making sure you know where and when your classes are, having a backpack full of basic school supplies, and printing out the syllabi for your classes (if available ahead of time).

Should I buy books before the first day of college?

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Not necessarily. Textbooks usually don't come into play until a few days into the semester, so you shouldn't be in trouble if you don't have them on day one. Also, you may decide to drop or switch a class -- buying or renting textbooks before you commit to your schedule could prove costly.

One way around this is to borrow textbooks from your campus library or put a hold on them. That way, you won't waste any money buying a textbook that you may ultimately end up not needing.

How early should you be to a college class?

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In general, try to arrive at least five minutes before class starts. This should give you enough time to find a seat, take out any needed items from your backpack, and get situated without disrupting your classmates.

Try not to arrive too early -- there may be a different class being held there before yours.

How do you introduce yourself on the first day of college?

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In smaller classes and seminars, many professors take time on the first day of class to introduce themselves and provide time for students to introduce themselves as well. You may be asked to state your name, your major, where you're from, and other basic information about yourself.

In a larger lecture-style class, self-introductions likely won't be necessary. If desired, you can go up to the professor after class to personally greet them and say hello to students around you.

What is the first day of college called?

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You won't find any official answer to this question; however, you may hear professors referring to the first day of classes as syllabus day given that you'll spend most of the class reviewing the syllabus. Most students simply refer to it as the first day of college.