Top 5 Ways to Not Present Yourself As a Serious Student

I would like to present the Top 5 Things NOT To Present Yourself As A Serious Student. And to be crystal clear, serious students are those who are interested in graduate school (and more than likely, beat the competition to get in).

1. “Is this gonna be on the test?”
*Heavy sigh* Not only am I not reviewing information just for my health, but oftentimes lessons learned in class are bigger than students realize. Assignments that build in critical thinking questions? These are great preparation for the skills needed in graduate school. Little do students realize, grad school is heavily reliant upon critical thinking skills.

2. “I missed class yesterday. Did we discuss anything important?”
Great way to notify me of your absence from class. And regardless of how it was intended, it is a little off-putting to ask your instructor if anything important was covered in class. Aren’t all classes supposed to cover important material? Otherwise, why are we here in the first place? (And yes, I have actually had a student ask me this question.)

Honorary mention goes to: “I missed class. Can you give me the notes?” It is probably a much better idea to ask one of your classmates for notes than the actual T.A. or professor. Again, off-putting. And a sign that you are not taking this class seriously.

3. “I’m only taking this class because it’s required.”
You know…. As a student, it is your absolute right to proclaim that (1) you’re not interested in my class or (2) you’re only paying attention as little as possible to pass the test. That’s fine. However, it is also my right to decline to lend support should you ever ask for a letter of recommendation.

4. “I know I missed ___ classes, but I need ___ points to make a ___.”
My response? “Wow. That’s interesting. I hope you are not implying that I’m supposed to give away freebie points to bump you up to the next grade.” I once had a student state that he realized there was a strict attendance policy, and despite the fact that he missed nine classes, he felt like he deserved an A. You have really got to be kidding. Ditto to the student who admitted that he failed to attend any of the Thursday lectures for his Tuesday/Thursday class (and wanted to know why he was failing tests).

And last, but not least:

5. Texting, Twitter-ing, or Facebook-ing your way through class.
I love social media as much as the next person. However, there is a time and a place to keep in touch with friends — and classtime is neither. Some people think that large lecture-style classes buys anonymity, and while your T.A. or Professor may not say anything to you, trust, they are definitely taking mental notes.

Now let’s talk about how serious students tend to comport themselves in the classroom. First, they’re very aware that the T.A. may be their main point of reference for judging their ability to do well in graduate school. This is especially the case if you attend a large university where the norm is the 1000 seat lecture hall. It is an absolute great idea to take your classes seriously, communicate interest in the particular subject area (or related areas, like asking the Social Psychology professor how to get involved in Cognitive Psychology), or ask your T.A. for advice on applying to grad school. Remember, your T.A. is very likely the person who will be signing off on letters of recommendation (or even if not, the professor is likely to ask his/her opinion about your ability to do well in grad school). Do your best to impress!