As a Freshman in college, I thought I knew what it meant to “study.” What I didn’t understand was when professors would lament on occasion that I was “unprepared,” (or once: “woefully unprepared”) when we didn’t even have a test that day.
Later, teaching Freshman Composition at a state university, I had plenty of opportunity to appreciate the irony of gazing at 22 puzzled faces as I asked how one could possibly come to class so completely, so totally, so . . . woefully! unprepared.
So what does it mean to actually be prepared? Here’s a short list, roughly in decreasing order of importance:
- You’ve completed any exercises, assignments, studio- or lab work that is due at the beginning of the class period.
- You’re up-to-date on any reading assignments noted in the syllabus or mentioned in class, and you’re prepared to discuss what you’ve read and its relevance to the course of study.
- Decisions and research regarding the subject, focus, scope, or approach to an assignment or project have been made as requested.
- You’ve reviewed class notes from the previous class.
- Any questions arising from the reading or lecture, or questions about upcoming quizzes, tests, assignments, and projects are noted and ready to be asked.
- If you’ve missed the previous class, you’ve gotten class notes from a classmate, as well as notice regarding any changes the professor may have made to the assignments, projects, or the syllabus.
- You are able to correctly use the vocabulary words introduced in the reading assignment.
- You’ve made appropriate progress on any term-long assignments like notebooks, sketchbooks, journals, and the like.
Being prepared, like being fit, or being able to draw well or argue persuasively or perform lab work with skill and efficiency, is its own reward. As with so many things, a positive momentum builds when you stop avoiding and start investing yourself and your time in what you need to do.