Although all American classes at different schools and institutions differ from each another in a variety of significant ways, there are universal expectations all students in all classroom settings are expected to follow. There are some things that students can do both before and during class in order to increase their chances of thriving.
Before walking into the classroom, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts. Focus on the topic of the class, and prepare yourself mentally so that you can best take part in classroom discussion and activities. Make sure that you have completed all homework assignments to the best of your ability. Most homework assignments review material presented in previous classes, as well as prepare students for upcoming material. These assignments are designed to help you succeed with the information on your own. It is also helpful to review notes, readings, and handouts from the last class before heading into the next one. This will help you focus on the objective of the class and refresh your memory about the material. If you are having problems with homework or other assignments, or you need help with information presented in class, speak with the professor immediately. Set up an appointment where you can meet with the instructor to discuss your concerns. The longer you wait to get help, the harder it will be.
It is imperative that you are on time to class. Besides showing disrespect to the instructor and your fellow classmates, being late to class means that you may miss important announcements or presented material at the beginning of class. Once inside, pick a seat free from distractions, including moving away from peers who may distract you. Make sure that you can see the blackboard, the projection screen, and any other visual aids (maps, charts, etc.) that the teacher will be using, and that the teacher can see you so that it is easier to participate and ask questions.
When you are taking notes, do not try to write down everything that the professor is saying. Instead, listen for the most important information. Writing in shorthand or in an outline may be helpful. Besides taking notes, write down any questions you may have so that you do not forget to ask them. Throughout the class, review the class objectives with yourself. Your notes should closely follow those objectives set forth by the teacher.
Finally, before leaving, take time at the end of class to make a short to do list. Write down homework assignments and any upcoming tests and projects. Also, note any meetings or study groups you in which you will be participating in the days before the next class.