5 Nerdy Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Classes

As finals season nears, the last thing you’re thinking about is preparing for next semester, I know. After all, mid-November marks the countdown to Thanksgiving and the proceeding bliss of winter break. However, upon doing some end-of-semester reflection, I began to realize the abundance of resources at The New School and beyond that I could have capitalized on (but lazily did not) over the past couple of months. When I learned about said resources throughout the semester, my brain filed them away for later use; now I’m wiping off the dust these files have collected and wishing I had reached for them sooner. We’re all freshly registered for Spring 2020, so I’d like to proactively remind you of some simple ways you can get the most out of your next batch of classes. 


  1. Read your syllabi. Yes, this is an obvious one, but hear me out. Not only will a syllabus show you what you can expect over the course of the semester (useful for making travel plans around your schedule!), but professors will often hide extra-credit points and bonus assignments that you’d only know about had you read it. Reading your syllabus takes ten minutes, tops, and you’ll thank yourself at the end of the year for those few extra credit points that bump up your grade. 

  2. To all taking a ULEC: take notes during the lecture. Before you roll your eyes at me, let me set the scene: you’re crammed in the back of a crowded auditorium with your fellow classmates. The professor is standing at a podium on stage saying a bunch of important stuff, and yet online shopping suddenly becomes very tempting. The stuffy nature of the back of the auditorium is making you drowsy, and you consider napping. Resist the urge! Focus on the lecture for at least a few minutes at a time, jot down anything that resonates with you, and prepare to sound smart in your recitation class. There’s nothing worse than the silence that follows the dreaded “so who can tell me what we heard in today’s lecture?” question. 

  3. This brings up my next point: TALK! This has been the number-one point of frustration among my friends and classmates during my time at The New School so far; many of our classes are discussion-based, and yet discuss we often do not. You’ll get more out of your class the more you put in, and talking is the easiest way to participate. Break that awkward silence after the dreaded question and the rest of the class will be secretly grateful, I promise.

  4. When you’re stuck on something, anything, go to the University Learning Center. I’m stubborn when it comes to receiving help, but I recently made an appointment for extra credit (per my first piece of advice!) and I found talking about my ideas to an academic extremely reassuring. Whether you bounce ideas off of someone or workshop an assignment, the learning center offers whatever help you need free of charge. Take the help and run with it. 

  5. My last piece of advice is to use the following free outside resources to your advantage. To think about how much better my freshman year projects would have turned out had I known about these is upsetting. Learn from me. 

    1. ​​Lynda.com is an online learning platform for software, creative, and business skills. The two most noteworthy things about this site: it’s free for New School Students and has in-depth video tutorials for the entire Adobe Suite. I repeat, the entire Adobe Suite. Why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!​​

    2. The New York Public Library Picture Collection is like an analog version of Pinterest. It holds thousands of archives of raw images and illustrations for you to explore and check out for weeks at a time. They have records of virtually everything. Take an hour, drown yourself in beautiful vintage prints, and thank me later. 

    3. My last tidbit of advice is for freshman in particular. Take advantage of the First-Year Workshops while you can, especially if there’s a medium you’ve been yearning to explore outside of class. They’ll be extremely beneficial to the rest of your journey at The New School, and before you know it, you’ll only have one more semester to access them! 

Happy studying, nerds! ​