Participation is 10% of my grade for three of my classes, but I haven’t spoken once in lecture. I feel like I don’t have anything to say and I’m scared to make a fool out of myself. If I keep this up, my grade is going to drop a whole letter. Any advice?
Even for extroverted people, participating in class lectures can be intimidating, especially at Hillsdale where it feels like everyone knows everything. Alas, do not fear, you don’t have to live with this anxiety for your entire college career. Here are some really simple ways to ease your nerves and earn back that 10%.
The number one way to beat nerves is by being more prepared. Obviously, you should prepare by reading the assigned material, but you can take the extra step and discuss it with friends. This helps you feel more comfortable with the subject, and it opens up new perspectives that you otherwise may have overlooked. It’s like a practice run of class where you know nobody will judge you.
A second and slightly more intimidating option is to go into office hours. It is important to get to know your professors regardless, but it especially helps to meet with them if you are having a difficult time adding to class discussions. I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised to find out they are not as scary as you think. They also understand a lot of the stress you have about talking in class — that’s why they make it a requirement. Knowing your professors better than what you get out of a 50-minute lecture will make it seem more like a discussion and less like an exam.
Finally, do not be embarrassed. Whether it’s fear of judgement from peers, teachers, or just not wanting to be wrong, your self-consciousness is unfounded. Everyone in your class either was or is in the same boat as you, so don’t feel out of place. No one is going to remember that one silly or redundant comment you made in Constitution sophomore year. The fact that you are trying testifies enough to your intelligence.
The hardest part of participation is just taking that first step; it only gets easier from there. College is about growth, and this struggle will only help you in your future endeavors. I hope this helps, Shelby.