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Dear Dale,

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?

-Shy Shelby

Dear Shelby,

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.

-Dale