Seminars are important to your overall mark

You’re not going to want to go. It’s going to feel so easy to sleep in that extra hour and turn up to the lecture as if everything’s fine. But it isn’t fine; you’re impacting your grade, and you won’t even realize it until it’s too late. Seminar grades are some of the easiest ways to keep your marks up, especially in first year, when professors tend to split components pretty evenly in terms of weight in your final marks.

Here’s the deal. In most classes, your weekly seminars will be worth between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of your overall grade. If you never go to a single seminar (which, for some reason, happens more often than you’d think), you could be dropping anywhere from two to three entire letter grades. If you can get pretty much perfect marks in the rest of your classes, you can come out with a B, but you’re not going to get 100 per cent in everything.

So don’t think of seminars as marks you can afford to lose. I’m going into my fourth year at Brock University, and I’ve noticed that professors are starting to be less forgiving with regards to missed seminars. Several have had a ‘miss more than two and you fail the seminar’ policy or something similar, and others will be pretty harsh on how many marks you lose for any you do miss.

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It’s not even just about the marks; these seminars are usually a pretty great opportunity for you to ask questions about things you might not understand, or clarifications about anything in the syllabus that you might find unclear. When assignments or midterms are coming up, your seminar leader will typically set some time aside to field such questions, so you’re even bolstering your other marks by bothering to show up for seminars. What’s more, seminars are usually your best opportunity to actually meet the people you’re in a class with; this is where you’re likely to find study buddies and friends from the class.

It’s worth noting, by the way, that seminars don’t start right away. In each semester, the first seminar of a new class will always be after the first lecture, unless you are explicitly told otherwise. So, if you have a seminar on a Wednesday, and a lecture on a Thursday, you won’t be going to that seminar in the first week even though classes start on Wednesday; you’ll go to the lecture on the Thursday, and then the Wednesday after that will be your first seminar. It’s confusing, but it’s the way the Badgers do things.

I’m aware that it can be daunting for some people to talk in front of strangers, the way that a seminar setting demands. The good news is that professors are aware of this too, and I’ve noticed that they’ve become a lot more accommodating of people who struggle with anxieties about this sort of thing. A lot of TAs will set aside time in a seminar for smaller group work, and grade you based on participation there, and others will even be willing to allow you to participate in a forum on Sakai or a direct email as a way of participating in seminars. Attending seminars isn’t enough to get you a passing grade; if you’re struggling to find the will or courage to participate in seminars, you should talk to your Professor or TA about it (whichever one is leading your seminar). Almost every professor is willing and able to make arrangements for students who are struggling in this regard; it will be well worth your while to talk to them about it.

Seminar marks are too precious to waste on idleness. That so many students do waste those marks is incredibly frustrating, because if you’re willing to even lightly skim the readings and ask a few questions, you’ll come away with easily-obtained and decent marks that will set a good ground floor for the course as a whole. So just go, for your own sake. It’s your own time you’re wasting if you don’t.

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