Advice to My Students on the First Day of Class

 fall grass

Sit in the front row. It will make you look smarter.

Know that the people who seem smarter, probably aren’t.

They just put in more time.

You will never have enough time,

but you have more than you think.

Stop playing video games.

Raise your hand.

Visit your professor’s office.

Do not begin with “did I miss anything?”

Do not parrot back your professor’s opinions.

Do not parrot back your father’s opinions

or what you heard on talk radio this morning.

Think carefully.


Ask a classmate to lunch.

Remember, everything that comes easily to you

is hard for someone else.

Teach them.

Give up all your notions about what men do,

what women do,

what you can’t do.

You can do anything.

Join a club. I don’t care if you think it’s lame.

Be lame.

Take risks.

You said you wanted a better life.

Remember, that also means a different life.



Karelia has been teaching writing at community college for over ten years. She is author of The Admirer, The Purveyor, Forgive Me If I Told You This Before (coming Oct. 31, 2014), and Something True (coming January 13, 2015).


9 thoughts on “Advice to My Students on the First Day of Class

  1. Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think of all the possibilities out there, all the diversity in people’s lives around the world. That I know nothing about. We limit ourselves just living our daily lives, paying the bills, etc. I agree with you that we all need to stretch our minds, our lives, our immediate worlds every day by doing something different, taking a different route home, reading an opinion which is completely opposite of what you believe or by taking risks. These are a wonderful way to go through life. Such good advice you have given. Thank you!


  2. I sat right at the front in a medieval history lecture once, thinking exactly your point, that I would appear more intelligent and interested. It was an early morning lecture, I was enjoying College life to the max and unfortunately dozed off about 30 minutes in. The Lecturer was very sweet and pretended he didn’t notice.


      1. I would be a much more diligent student now. The resources of a great University were wasted on me. Now I would handle things very differently given half the chance. 🙂


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