Advice on Attending College Classes

As part of your search for colleges, you may have the option of attending college classes during a campus visit. There are some great reasons for taking advantage of this invitation:

  • Sitting in on a class can help students who are just starting their search to get a sense of what college academics will be like. This can help increase their confidence on the first day at school. It also can boost their enthusiasm about what is ahead.
  • Participating in classes can give students an insider's perspective about academic life at a university, the rigor of its programs, and student involvement.
  • At some schools, the most interesting and engaging professors offer access to their classes to visitors. As a result, students can expect a great learning opportunity.

Once you have decided to attend a class, here is some advice about how to take advantage of the experience.

Attending College Classes Tip 1: Choosing a Class

Make the appropriate arrangements with each university. You may need to contact admissions or go online to get instructions for attending a class. Generally, the college wants to make a professor aware that a high school student is visiting so that he/she knows who the unfamiliar face is.

When you pick a class, remember that they may not all be the same length. If you are planning other activities that day, be sure the class fits into your visit schedule.

Also, try and find a class in the college major you want to pursue or in an area that interests you. Admissions can probably provide you with a list of available classes. Some courses, such as a college English class, will have small settings that provide for one-on-one discussion. Others, such as science classes, may take place in labs or large lecture halls. 

The more closely aligned to your interest the classroom experiences are, the more they will help you when deciding on colleges.

Attending College Classes Tip 2: Preparing for the Class

Okay, so you are not a college student yet, and certainly, no one would expect you to perform advanced calculus or make a presentation on coastal erosion if you have not been part of the class all along. That said, you are attending college classes to get a sense of the academic quality of the universities, and some advanced preparation will help.

  • Bring a pen and notebook to write down your thoughts about the experience
  • If you are visiting as the guest of a current student, find out what was discussed in the previous class, and see if it is okay to read that person's notes.
  • Know where the classroom is on campus and plan to be there ten minutes early. If it is appropriate, you can introduce yourself to the professor and remind him/her that you are in attendance.

Attending College Classes Tip 3: Participating in the Class

Admissions can guide you in what role you should play when attending college classes. Unless you are invited to do otherwise, plan to be an observer. 

This means that rather than participating in class discussion or activities, you will pay attention to the professor while reviewing the academic merit of the classroom experience.

  • If you want, take notes about the material that is being taught and read along in classroom texts.
  • Evaluate whether the students are engaged or occupying themselves in other ways. Consider whether they respectful of the professor and the class. Above all, think about if this is the type of setting you would like to be in for the next four years.
  • Do not do anything that would distract the professor or the students. For example, surfing the internet, even if other students are doing it, is inconsiderate, reflects badly on you, and is a waste of a great learning opportunity.
  • At the end of the class, thank the professor for allowing you to sit in and be prepared to comment on the experience. You might also follow up with a thank-you note or email.

Attending class during your trip to a university is a significant investment of time, but by following this advice, you will be able to make the most of the visit.

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