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For many people, it is an ongoing struggle: is it worth it to go to a lecture today? Though the thought ran through our heads in high school, in college it is a legitimate question. Most professors do not make lecture mandatory nor do they take attendance. Of course, there exist many professors whose lectures are so great that the thought of missing class never crosses students’ minds, but for those stuck with an average or horrible class, it is a legitimate question.

This dilemma becomes more complicated when considering time span: missing a single class is one thing, but missing many lectures for the duration of the semester is another. There are many factors to take into consideration when deciding if it is better to quit the academic buildings and just do college from your dorm room. Note that this article will not be addressing seminar-style classes.

The Purpose of Lecture

For some people, lecture is an opportunity to listen to someone distinguished in a certain field deliver information to a room full of students. For others, it is a wasted hour of being talked at. Either way, chances are your professor will be at the front of the room, attempting to introduce and clarify new information. As an added bonus, it is a way to get recognized by a professor by being active in class; if you choose to interact further, he or she may eventually be the one to write you letters of recommendations!

When done right, a professor will make this chunk of time engaging and helpful. However, because that is not always the case, students may feel that they can either learn the material on their own.  This is especially true if a professor lectures directly from a textbook, isn’t clear in the delivery of the information, or introduces nothing new to presentations. So if you feel like lecture is a long-term commitment that isn’t worth it, here are some factors to keep in mind.

Tuition Cost and Price of Each Session

This is a massive one. Tuition costs at colleges all across the United States are at their highest. Ever. CollegeBoard estimates that the average tuition paid for an in-state resident of a public university is $8,893, while for a private university that number soars to $30,094. A large chunk of that tuition goes to your professors’ wallet. And although lecture may not be for you, the cost per-class can be anywhere between $80 to $150, so you sure are paying for it.

Subject Matter

It may be a good idea to reevaluate if you are thinking of skipping a lecture in a subject you are weak in. For example, I would not be able to teach myself math no matter how hard I tried. If I was saddled with a horrible professor, it would probably be even worse! However, you get a feel for concepts that your professor finds important. Many explicitly say that “you will be expected to know this for the exam.” Having a friend that takes excellent notes that you can learn from may make the difference!

Class Structure

Something to keep in mind is the way the lecture was designed to fit into the course. If the lecture an introduction to new material, there may be an emphasis on learning the rest of the material on your own after the lecture. This is in contrast to if the lecture is supposed to be a time to solidify concepts you should have studied before the class, usually via readings. The latter tends to be true of introductory science classes, for example. Before deciding to skip lecture for the rest of the semester, figure out if the way you are approaching the class is different than the professor intended.

If, when weighing the pros and cons, you decide it is in your best interest not to show up for lectures, it will be important to make sure you have a good friend in the class that can notify you if test dates change or the professor mentions opportunities for extra credit. Finally, it is also good practice to pop in every once in awhile to make sure that you are on track with your self-studying.

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the author

Lillian is a member of the Pitzer Class of 2017, where she is an anticipated Biology major. She is a first-generation college student that is interested in dental medicine (floss please!), mental health, visual arts, and political activism. Combining these interests, it is Lillian's life goal to heal communities on a micro and macro scale through medicine, art, and activism. You can learn more about her on her personal website. Since she will be retiring from TP at the end summer '14 in order to prepare for her study abroad in Ecuador, please subscribe to her blog to follow her journey!

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