Most college students are afraid to ask questions in class because they are afraid other students will judge them. They are also afraid to query a professor outside of class because they’re nervous the instructor will get angry if they deem the question’s answer as obvious based on the course material covered. My advice: GET OVER IT!
The material a professor will teach at the beginning of a course serves as the foundation for the rest of the semester. If something puzzles you early on, you run the risk of not understanding the rest of the material that is related to it. If you do not ask for clarification, you will not score as well on exams and papers that reflect your knowledge of the topic and your final grade for the class will be lower than what you wanted because you spent the entire semester in a state of confusion.
I have seen students flourish after they have asked for help because they finally understand the material but I have also seen students give up after a few topics did not make sense to them. I personally do not care if other students feel a question I ask is obvious – if I’m not understanding something, I’m going to figure it out any way I can! – and after the professor has answered, I feel like I can do better in the course. An added bonus is that the professor (a.k.a. the person who calculates my final grade) has a favorable opinion of me because I expressed a genuine interest in what he or she was teaching.
In the long run, asking questions and getting help will get you much further than remaining silent and confused all semester. You can either ask questions in class or get help from the professor privately but you should never be too intimidated to ask for help.
Jessica Seals is currently a senior at the University of Memphis majoring in political science and minoring in English. She is the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society, and Black Scholars Unlimited. Jessica also volunteers to tutor her fellow classmates and hopes to attend law school in the near future.
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