What is a College Lecture?

The spring of your senior year of high school is an exciting time—within the next few months, you’ll be finding out where you’ve been accepted to college and making concrete plans for the future. Shortly after that, you’ll be expected to create a course schedule for your first semester. Colleges offer many different types of classes—from focused laboratory sessions to small discussion-based seminars. One of the most commonly offered courses is the college lecture. College lectures often have large class sizes, necessitate avid listening skills, and incorporate required reading assignments.

Curious if a lecture-style course is right for you? Keep reading to learn what to know about college lectures.

College lectures typically come with large class sizes

More often than not, college lecture classes are quite large in size. This is especially true during your first year of college, when you’ll probably be taking high-demand introductory courses. Depending on the size of your school, lecture courses may enroll up to several hundred students. Due to the number of students, lectures are usually held in large auditoriums appropriately called lecture halls.

In very large lecture courses, you may go through an entire semester without speaking directly to your professor. Instead, you may be instructed to meet with your TA (or teaching assistant)—likely a graduate student who is there to assist your professor in running the course throughout the semester—who can help you by:

  • Answering specific questions regarding concepts discussed in class

  • Discussing ideas or thoughts you have regarding reading assignments

  • Clarifying questions you have about assignment or coursework requirements

You can stand out in your large lecture class by getting to know your TA and by introducing yourself to your professor, even if it’s briefly, after class.

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College lectures require close listening

Your professor will likely stand at a podium and talk—with or without visual aids—during each lecture session. You will be expected to follow along and take notes. In high school, you may have had a few classes that were based in this lecture and note-taking style. These were good practice for what you’ll encounter in college.

It’s not always easy to know what information said by your professor is worthy of going into your notes. Chat with your TA to get some advice if you’re having trouble knowing what you should focus on when your professor speaks. With some practice, you’ll become an expert listener and note-taker. Additionally, since so much of the content of lecture courses is created in class by your professor, it’s important to attend every class period. Skipping class can mean missing out on important information you’ll need for your exams and coursework.

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College lectures incorporate reading assignments

Your professor is likely to assign a reading assignment that you’ll need to complete in order to prepare for each lecture. These readings can be lengthy and time-consuming to finish. Some students skim reading material when they feel pressed for time, but it’s important to avoid this habit. Completing readings before class is important, because it gives you background for what you’ll be learning from your professor and allows you to prepare focused questions for either class time or your TA.  

Most college courses meet one to three times per week. Therefore, you’ll typically have at least one day between your classes to complete your reading assignments. Think of creative ways to get these assignments done, such as reading on your bus ride to campus, during your lunch break, or for an hour before bed. The more you stay on top of your reading assignments, the easier it will be to follow along during class and to get the most out of your lecture courses.

[RELATED: What is a College Seminar?]

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