Choosing where to sit in a lecture hall is far more important than simply finding an empty seat. This is probably something that no one will ever mention to you, but it’s important to consider.
While this choice may initially seem insignificant, consider the following: when you attend classes in high school, you will almost always be within a few feet of the teacher during a lesson. Also, high school classrooms do not need a microphone to amplify the teacher’s voice and all students are typically within the teacher’s line of sight. University lecture halls are significantly different environments. They can be enormous. For example, one of my first-year lecture halls had approximately 1,500 seats! Also consider that you will now be expected to sit in this new environment, with sharp focus, for two or three hour intervals. Additionally, you will be tested on the material presented in these long sessions. My point is that choosing a lecture seat may determine how you interact and consume course material.
It’s Easy to Lose Focus
In large lecture halls, I find sitting anywhere other than the first few rows to be very distracting. Firstly, sitting at the back of a large classroom is more conducive for mind wandering. From this vantage point, everything is visible to you. Add the possibility of having a professor who has little charisma and this situation is ripe for you to lose focus. Secondly, it is common for students to use laptop computers for note taking in lectures. It is inevitable that some students will use this class time to check emails, tune into social media, and watch hilarious cat videos. Believe me, it is very distracting when all this activity is occurring in front of you on other students’ computer screens.
The Benefits of Sitting in the First Few Rows
In addition to the above, sitting in the first few rows of a lecture has several benefits. If you do so, it is more likely that you will be in tune with course material. You will catch more of the important points conveyed by the lecturer and your notes will probably be of higher quality.
The other benefit is that your professor will absolutely remember the faces that are consistently sitting in the first few rows. This is a great way for you to build a rapport with your professor. In cases where you may be seeking research or volunteer opportunities, professors are more likely to want to work with students who have demonstrated a commitment to a course. This type of networking will help you build your academic profile and it will introduce you to prospects that would otherwise pass you by. These opportunities will not fall into the lap of any student just for sitting at the front of a lecture hall, but choosing the right seat can certainly help.
Thinking about where to sit in a lecture hall may seem trivial, but the implications of choosing the right seat shouldn’t be scoffed at. How you consume knowledge and the opportunities that are presented to you may depend on this often overlooked decision.