In huge, crowded lecture halls, how can I stand out to professors and not feel overwhelmed?

College Experience

Our counselors answered:

In huge, crowded lecture halls, how can I stand out to professors and not feel overwhelmed?

Robin Boren
Founder The College Doctor LLC

Momma knows best...

Remember your mother begging you to read ahead on school assignments and you just rolled your eyes at her? Well, it turns out mom was right (isn’t she always). She was advocating the psychological principle of Advance Organizers. The goal is for students to be introduced to new information prior to actually receiving formal instruction on a given topic. Find a favorite website, such as Khan Academy ( or Free Video Lectures ( There, a short tutorial can be viewed exposing you to key concepts preceding the next day’s lecture. With just minimal planning, this simple cognitive strategy will help you better integrate the material and clarify complex lessons.

Anne Johnson
Director of Admission Iowa Lakes Community College

Practice makes perfect!...

One of the best things you can do to “practice” college classes is to begin taking them in high school. If your state doesn’t offer college classes as a high school option, take a class or two in the summer. If you’re ready to start college classes and haven’t had prior experience with them, take a small load – anything over 12 hours qualifies as full-time – and a mix of large and small classes. If you’re going to be part of a living group, ask returning students for their recommendations when you attend summer registration. Choose at least one class you can say you’re taking because it’s of interest and not just a requirement.

Kiersten Murphy
Executive Director and Founder Murphy College Consultants LLC

Tips to keep you focused...

Transitioning from smaller classes in high school to a large lecture hall in college can be daunting.  First and foremost, it is important that you attend class and treat it like any other class in which you are enrolled.  You want to sit in the front of the lecture hall so that you won’t be distracted when the students in front of you pull out their laptops and start browsing Facebook.  You might even want to audio record the class so that if you miss something you can review it when you are back in your dorm. Remember to stay focused – this class is an investment in your future.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Make your education your own...

Lectures can be valuable learning tools if used properly.  To maximize their value, you need to use them as a jumping off point for discussions with your professors-- the college’s greatest resource.  Use their office hours to talk about what you heard and read.  You will make an impression on the professor, while also enhancing your education.  Yes, it is possible to simply sit there, listen, move onto the next lecture, and eventually graduate.  But ultimately, how you approach your college opportunity will determine whether you come out with simply a diploma or whether you leave having gotten an education. 

Pam Proctor
Author The College Hook

Take notes on notes, prepare to participate, and meet professors...

1) Take copious notes and review them immediately after class. Underline and take "notes on your notes." Extensive note-taking helps prevent your mind from wandering. 2) Force yourself to ask questions or contribute. If you don’t have the opportunity in a large lecture, you’ll usually be able to speak in smaller breakout sessions. Before class, formulate some questions that you want answered. 3) Meet your professors. One student discovered that he was one of the few students who networked with his philosophy professor during after-class office hours. Those meetings turned into a friendship that led to casual dinners, where the two discussed ideas over sushi.

Wendy Andreen, PhD
College & Career Planning

Up Close and Personal

Large classes can be overwhelming or a place where some students feel like they can disappear in the crowd. Neither of these are options for making the most of your learning experience. 1. Be brave - begin by sitting in the front section (it doesn't have to be the first row). 2. Once you receive your professor's office hours, make it a point to go by or make an appointment for a brief introductory visit. Don't wait until there is a problem. 3. Ask questions in class and be prepared to answer questions. 4. Large classes usually have a TA for breakout or smaller sessions. Get to know your TA! He/she is a connection to the professor and could be your advocate, if necessary. 5. If the professor asks for volunteers for a project or to participate on a liaison board for the large class, step up and accept!

Rachel Smith-Vaughan

Speak with your adviser and ask which sections of the courses are the smallest 

 Make sure to sign up for the professor’s office hours. Speak with the professor about the course, ask questions and relate relevant experiences. Always attend the break-out sessions with the ‘teaching assistants” as they will review the information in more detail. Learn to take concise notes; discuss the information with classmates; read ahead in your text book to gather prior knowledge of the subject before the professor’s lecture. Research the possibility of joining the university’s Honor Program. This will provide access to smaller classes and possibly the ability to register for classes early.

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Get to Know those Profs

Despite the popularity of smaller classes, large lecture halls are still a way of life at many college campuses, especially affecting freshmen. This is particularly true of very popular and required courses in a variety of academic disciplines. So how do you stand out? It's always good to meaningfully participate in class, but that still doesn't mean you'll be able to get to know your professor and classmates. But there are other ways. The most popular is to stop by at office hours. All professors have them: that's when students can ask questions, go over papers and projects, and check in before a test. Professors like to talk, and they are generally researching in their areas of expertise. So if you want to know more - or share what you know - stop in at the appointed hour. Another way to get to know the professor is while you are planning for the summer, particularly if you seek an internship. Most professors would be delighted to share their expertise and contacts with a solid student. In the days of online learning, their is another tool, of course, and that is e-mail. Why not try sending the professor a message? It shows you're anxious to learn. Don't worry. As your courses become more difficult, your class sizes will naturally grow smaller, a sure way to get to know both professors and classmates.

Helen Cella

In huge, crowded lecture halls, how can I stand out to professors and not feel overwhelmed?

Visit them during their office hours

王文君 June Scortino
President IVY Counselors Network

using office hours

students should visit professors during the office hours regularly if it's possible with waiting too long. it may has nothing to do with homeworks but take advantages of seeking connections from professors.