9 Bad Classroom Habits to Break

By Christine Ascher on April 17, 2018

Getting good grades starts in the classroom, and while showing up in class can be half the battle as a college student, what you do during class is equally important. As you get used to college life, lectures may become a bit monotonous and you might find yourself gradually falling victim to some bad classroom habits that can affect your performance in class. While it can be tempting to just continue with them, especially if you see other students committing them too, breaking some of your bad classroom habits can go a long way in helping you improve your grades. To get started, check out some of these common bad classroom habits and how you can overcome them.

Classroom, desks, whiteboard, screen

Image via https://pixabay.com

1. Checking Your Social Media Feed

Looking through your social media feeds is probably one of the most common bad classroom habits among college students. If you’re taking notes on your laptop, it can be hard to resist turning your attention over to Twitter or Instagram for a couple minutes. Though it may seem like these couple minutes of divided attention won’t do you any harm, the amount of material covered during a typical lecture means that you’ll probably miss something in that amount of time, and it may even become hard for you to catch back up.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to overcome this bad habit. For instance, try signing out of your social media accounts before class; if you have to take the extra step to sign back in, it will become easier for you to resist taking a quick look at your feeds in the first place. You can also use apps, such as Self-Control or Cold Turkey, to block certain websites on your phone and computer while you’re in class. That way, you’ll have no choice but to stay off social media. Another simple way to avoid becoming distracted on your laptop is by going the old-fashioned route and taking notes on paper. While it may take you longer to handwrite your notes instead of typing them, you’ll be guaranteed far fewer distractions and will probably find it much easier to focus on what your professor is saying.

2. Texting During Class

Like social media, texting during class is a major distraction for many students. Even if you’re just sending off a quick text and then returning your focus to class, it will be much harder for you to concentrate completely on your lecture if your mind is simultaneously on your phone. The easiest way to break this bad classroom habit is by keeping your phone hidden away during class. Instead of leaving your phone out where you can see if you’re getting messages, put it safely away in your backpack on silent, so you’re not distracted by what’s going on outside the classroom.

Unless you need to be checking your phone once in a while for a specific reason, there’s no need to have your phone sitting out on your desk during class, especially when it can only harm your focus. If you use your laptop to take notes during class, make sure you turn off your message notifications so you’re not inadvertently distracted. You’ll find it much easier to focus without seeing your phone constantly light up or messages constantly popping up on your computer.

Infographic by Christine Ascher

One of the major benefits—or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it—of coming to college is the fact that there’s no one around who can force you to go to class. And, though some professors may take attendance, in many big lecture classes your professor won’t notice whether or not you’re attending class. Because there’s not necessarily anyone holding you accountable for going to your classes, many students develop the bad habit of skipping class far more often than they should.

Even if you do have a professor who takes attendance, you will probably have a set number of classes each semester that you can miss with no penalty, leading many students to regard this number of allowed absences as an excuse for skipping class that number of days throughout the semester. While missing class once in a while because you’re not feeling well or because you really do need to cram for an exam later that day isn’t the end of the world, be wary of getting into the habit of skipping classes just because you can get away with it.

Though the prospect of sleeping in and skipping a lecture may seem tempting in the moment, you’ll probably have to work extra hard later to catch up on what you missed. In addition, once you start skipping classes, it often becomes increasingly easy to convince yourself to skip again (after all, if you’ve gotten away with it before, what’s to stop you?). The more classes you skip, the farther behind you’ll become, so avoid skipping class in the first place unless you genuinely need to miss.

4. Relying Too Much on Your Classmates for Help

While it’s definitely an advantage to have a study-buddy in your classes, or a study group who you can get together with when you have an exam coming up, make sure that you don’t become overly reliant on your friends in the class. If you lean too much on a friend or a study group, you’ll probably find it easier to lose focus in class, or even to skip class altogether, under the assumption that you’ll have someone to tell you what you missed anyway. Hearing important concepts explained by your professor will always be better than having them explained second-hand by a classmate, so make sure that you’re still attending class and paying attention. This will also ensure that you avoid the danger of becoming a freeloader on your study group—a situation that will be annoying for them, and probably won’t bode too well for you either.

5. Avoiding Asking Questions

Raising your hand during class to ask a question—especially if it’s during a big lecture—can definitely be intimidating. As a result, the reluctance to ask questions is probably one of the most common bad classroom habits among college students. If you find yourself wary of raising your hand during class, remember that there are probably a lot of other students who have questions of their own, whether they’re voicing them or not.

By getting your questions answered, you’ll end lecture in a much better place, and you won’t have to waste time outside of class trying to figure things out on your own. If you feel too uncomfortable to ask a question in front of everyone, don’t be afraid to go up to your professor after class to talk to them one-on-one. Your professors are there to help you, so make sure you don’t let your fear of asking a stupid question get in the way of that.

6. Relying on Readings and PowerPoints Posted Online

Many college professors help their students out by posting the PowerPoint slides that they go over in class online, so that students can look them over when studying. Knowing that your professor makes lecture information available to you online, in addition to the fact that your assigned readings probably go over much of the same material that is covered in lecture, may cause you to feel like it’s not as important for you to pay attention in class, or even like you don’t need to attend class at all. However, unless you’re one of the rare few students who really can teach themselves just as well as their professor could, slipping into this way of thinking can be disastrous for your grades.

For one thing, your professor likely covers subjects in far greater detail than their PowerPoint slides, and they probably have their own way of explaining topics that vary from your readings. If you’re not paying attention, you’re in danger of missing a lot. Plus, it’s always easier to just pay attention in class than to have to go back and try to teach yourself the information that you missed later on. Though PowerPoints and readings are great resources for when you’re studying, relying solely on them and disregarding lectures can be one of the most harmful bad classroom habits for your GPA.


7. Working on Other Assignments During Class

When you’re sitting a big lecture hall with your laptop open and a long list of items that you need to complete on your mind, it can often be tempting to let your attention stray to assignments for other classes—or even assignments for the class that you’re in, that you want to get out of the way. Especially when the semester gets busy, you may feel the need to use your lecture time to get some extra work done, whether it’s working on a paper, applying for summer jobs, or just catching up on emails.

However, any time you divide your attention between lecture and something else, your performance in both areas will suffer. In addition to missing what your professor is saying, you probably won’t be able to do your best on the work on the assignment you’re trying to complete anyway.  In addition, though you may feel like getting an assignment done during class will put you ahead on your to-do list, you’ll probably have missed some important information during your lecture, which means you’ll have some catching up to do—so you may not be as far ahead as you might think.

Classroom, chalkboard, student, phone

Image via https://pixabay.com

8. Coming to Class Late

Unlike high school, there are no bells in college to tell you when you’re late to class. Depending on your professor, you may feel like this means that there’s no harm in coming to class a few minutes late. However, if you regularly show up late to class, you’ll be making a pretty poor impression on your professor. Walking into a classroom late is distracting both for your fellow classmates and for your professor, who will definitely come to remember you as a student who is never on time, even if they don’t call you out on it.

While coming into class late every once in a while shouldn’t be too big of a deal, unless your professor happens to be a big stickler for promptness, making a habit of it is disrespectful both to your professor and to your classmates. If you can, try to get to class early so you have some time to get situated before class starts. In addition to ensuring that you’re not making noise rifling around in your backpack when your professor starts to speak, this will also help you prepare for the beginning of class, so that when it starts you’re ready to jump in.

9. Packing Up Early

Like coming to class late, packing your things up early, before your professor has wrapped up, is another one of the bad classroom habits that is worth trying to break if you’re guilty of it. Even if there are only a few minutes left in class, your professor may still say something that’s worth noting down, and if you start putting your things away early, you might miss it. Putting away your notebook or laptop before class is officially over can also be disrespectful to your professor, as it makes you seem overly eager to leave—not to mention the fact that you might be making noise that could prove distracting for them or for your peers. If once in a while you have to leave class early for a specific reason, let your professor know before class starts, so they’re not caught off guard.

Though you may not be able to be the perfect student all the time, kicking some of your bad classroom habits can have a huge positive impact on your overall performance in your classes. In addition, it will help you develop more positive relationships with your college professors, if only by showing them that you’re engaged and ready to learn. While it may take you some time to conquer your bad classroom habits, it will definitely pay off in the long run!

By Christine Ascher

Uloop Writer
Hi! I'm Christine and I'm currently a senior at the University of Southern California, where I study English Literature, Economics, and French.

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