Many students arrive at University and struggle with the transition from school.

Has anyone run/attended a lecture in which some or all of the following topics - or similar - were covered? Note - I am envisaging a mandatory single lecture for first-years which is independent of course/faculty.

How to behave in class

e.g. little/no talking while the lecturer is talking; what to do if arriving late (go in through a rear door, and/or apologise),

How to ask help of a lecturer/tutor

e.g. make an appointment and arrive on time if you want to ensure you get attention; don't arrive unprepared - show that you've done some reading and/or attempted to solve the problem yourself; have a series of well-defined questions ready, rather than just "can't do it"; don't show up 24 hours prior to a deadline set a month ago asking for help that should have been sought weeks ago and expect miracles;

How to engage with lecturers

e.g. forms of address - initial formality (e.g. "Hello Dr/Prof. X") is very likely to be appreciated and then met with an invitation to be more informal (call me "Phil"). Remind that lecturers are often engaged in other teaching and/or research and may often be too busy to chat if you just drop by their office.

How to engage with students

Remind the students that they are adults, this is not school, there are now serious consequences for breaches of behavioural codes.

Note, this subject material is not course or subject specific, nor am I envisaging the lecture as part of a lecture course, where only a subset of the year group attends. I envisage a mandatory class that all first-year students must attend at the start of the year. Furthermore, it sets out only the basic requirements of behaviour - specific lecturers might have their own additional policies on behaviour that they follow in their class.

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    Perhaps my view is overly cynical, but the only effect I can imagine of such a course is letting the students know that you don't really respect them. Even if that is true, I would advise against sending such a message. The students "know" everything you mentioned, but if they don't do it, I imagine they will "learn" it only the hard way.
    – Anonymous
    Aug 5, 2013 at 23:56
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    Apologizing after coming too late is a great way to disrupt the lecture (or anything going on) even further while maintaining plausible deniability. Oct 7, 2013 at 2:14
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    @darijgrinberg: This may be culture-specific, but I agree: Essentially, I'd argue that in the transition from school to university, students have to learn that they should not apologise when entering late any longer (or, in general, enter/leave at any time while a lecture is running), but just silently find a place. Aug 25, 2014 at 10:01
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    @O.R.Mapper It is certainly culture-specific, since I have seen at least one faculty member at my alma mater scold a student for quietly entering/leaving a lecture instead of first asking for permission. Or, maybe it is not just the students that need to transition from one-mode of behavior to another. Feb 9, 2022 at 19:23

3 Answers 3


I attended such a course during my first semester at a community college. It was mandatory for all incoming students, in all fields/majors. This course covered most of the topics you mentioned, plus effective study habits, time management, basic computer and research skills, and brief experience with PowerPoint and givng a presentation. A major focus of the course was introducing students to resources they could use if they ran into difficulties with studies or life experiences. For me, the course was not very useful, since I already had a strong foundation in those essential life skills. However, to other students, the course proved very useful.

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    I think the most useful part of any such course is providing resources for students who are facing difficulties, both academic and personal: tutoring centers, testing centers for students with disabilities, counseling centers, crisis hotlines, safe ride programs, emergency deans, department ombudsmen, ...
    – JeffE
    Aug 6, 2013 at 20:32

These are four very different topics, with distinct answers for each.

How to behave in class

This is typically deliniated by each professor on a class-dependent basis, as expected behavior will vary from course to course.

How to ask help of a lecturer/tutor

This is pretty low-level etiquette, and these sorts of things are typically tacitly conveyed through interactions with the community rather than being formally discussed in a lecture.

How to engage with lecturers

Again, varies from lecturer to lecturer.

How to engage with students

I've seen this discussed in a wide variety of settings, including seminars, course lectures, lab meetings, and individual advisor discussions.

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    Agreed. We had a week long orientation program covering all of these in great detail. A single lecture would probably not be comprehensive enough.
    – Shion
    Aug 5, 2013 at 20:46

I set up an introductory lecture for students. Some of it was along the lines you outlined but there were some additional points which I will mention.

I had the possibility to run a short written anonymous survey asking for (up to three) keywords about their (1) expectations, (2) reason for studying in general, (3) reason for choosing the topic, (4) what they are elt uncertain about with their coming studies, (5) what they considered most important about studies, (6) listing differences and similarities between higher ed. and lower ed., (7) their roll as student, (8) the lecturers roll, and (9) what they look forward to the most. This was collected and could be summarized in an an hour before my lecture so I could use the outcome to discuss their answers directly.

First, I had students discuss in groups of four in the lecture hall to briefly answer the questions: why get an univ. ed.? How does a univ. ed. work? and what distinguishes university from lower level ed.? This formed the basis for going into, and this could possibly differ slightly between systems, the very clear differences between school and university. In school teachers are there to teach you and it is their job to make sure you understand. At the university, lecturers are there to present, help explain and structure material. The learning is the job of the student, not the lecturer. The lecturer facilitates learning. So, bluntly speaking, the difference is that if you do not learn in school it could be blamed on the school but if you do not learn at a university, you need to primarily blame yourself.

I also pointed out the importance of skill such as the written and spoken word, study habits and computer skills (many other specific to the particular education could be mentioned). These skills are usually not mentioned anywhere but are outcomes of almost every course in one way or another.

Second, I outlined the many rolls of someone working at a university: teach, develop teaching, teach and advice graduate students, research (including writing proposals), administration, maintain national and international contacts, and research information to society (please add if you can think of more tasks. It is important to understand the conditions under which the lecturers live.

Third: Professional attitude. Pointing out that studies are serious but also that they should be fun through good social interactions and that students and lecturers in a way are colleagues in a common project, to complete a successful and useful education.

I also re-ran the survey once they were done with the course (which ran a full term) and could then repeat and highlight the differences in their answers. The main point of this is to get everyone to at least have heard the same "truth" about what they were about to embark upon. For some it was no news but many expressed that they received a better picture of what it is all about. There certainly was a lot more understanding for the lecturers reality than earlier.

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