We've been a part of a lot of seminars, and we've found that it's hard not to make judgments about a student by how he or she acts during a class. Whether you're an "A" student or a "C" student, here are five things your teachers notice about you during class.
When we say, "Here's the most important piece of advice I can give you about college essays," we notice which three of the 20 students in the room don't bother to write down the advice that follows. We also know the 17 who do take notes are engaged enough to want to make the most of our time together. It tells us who's serious about getting into college. Imagine if you were a chemistry teacher and one of those non-note-takers got a "C" and came to you to ask for extra credit so he could improve their grade. Not gonna’ happen this time.
Imagine if you were on a date and the person was yawning during dinner, doodling on the tablecloth and generally looking bored. Wouldn't you be a little insulted? Doing those things in class is like saying to your teacher, "I don't want to listen to you, and I don't want to be here." Students who pay attention, who have pleasant expressions, who even acknowledge us with a nod of the head or a courtesy laugh at one of our stupid jokes, come across as engaged learners.
"Do we have to do this?" is a bad question. "What's an example of a college with strange essay prompts?" is a good question. The questions you ask (and whether or not you ask questions at all) say a lot about you as a student. Questions that seek to help you better understand the material, or that just show you're interested and want to learn more, are good ways to show your teacher that you are an engaged learner.
When we ask, "Who remembers from our essay seminar how you take ownership of a story?" the students who respond are those who’ve been writing things down and engaged in the discussion (see questions 1, 2 and 3). Participating in class is a good strategy. It shows the teacher that you want to be there, that you want to be a part of the discussion, and that you’re engaged in the process.
If a student is having trouble understanding, or if they ask a question that seems silly to you, or if they're just not as smooth and socially successful as the rest of the class, do you roll your eyes, snicker at him, or whisper a comment to one of your friends and then giggle? If you're mean, trust us, your teacher notices and will think of you as a less-than-nice kid. The nice kid who leans over and offers to help the struggling one, who whispers, "Hey, want me to show you how to do it?" For better or for worse, most teachers like that kid.
Ultimately it's important to be yourself, but always strive to be your best self and help those around you. Trust us, your teachers—and your peers—will notice it.