Seminars are easy to shrug off and forget about until the end of the semester. You’ve already attended lecture, possibly even skimmed the reading if you were feeling particularly studious. At the time, it seems as though there’s no need to have the same information rehashed for an extra hour of your life. Missing seminars means you’re hacking away percentages of your final grade at the time, but nailing all your essays and exams will save it, right?
Take it from someone —among many others — who has learned it the hard way: skipping out on seminars means not only losing a chunk of your final grade, but missing out on crucial information that could assist you with the essays and exams you’re counting on to save your grade.
For those unfamiliar, a seminar is a weekly class where information from lectures and readings are discussed at length with a smaller group of students. Facilitators who lead the seminars are usually teaching assistants or sometimes the professor. They break down concepts from lecture, adding detail and shedding light on any confusion. Varying from course to course, a percentage of your mark will come from your participation in these seminars, whether that be from insights, comments or questions regarding the material from that week.
The first reason to go to a seminar is obvious — at the very least, a whole 10 per cent of your grade is on the line. Your seminar mark is without a doubt the easiest part of your final grade to earn — show up, listen, engage and leave with an entire 10, 20, sometimes 30 per cent boost to your grade. Take it while you can get it — you won’t know if you need it until it’s far too late.
Marks aside, seminars can be a crucial part of your learning experience in the hands of the right seminar leader. View lectures as groundwork and seminars as a judgement-free place to build on this foundation. In lecture, there’s little space for going back to ideas, asking questions or exploring concepts in-depth. While lectures lay all of the concepts out for students, seminars are meant to ensure understanding of course material through conversations and questions. By showing up and actively engaging with the material, you’re not only raising your grade but teaching yourself and those around you as you digest the concepts of the week.
If the course material still isn’t clear by the end of the seminar, the teaching assistant or professor in charge is there to answer any questions weighing on you. There’s no reason to back down in asking these questions whether or not you’re getting graded on them. Throwing out ideas in a seminar is contributing to not only your learning experience but your peers’ as well.
Sure, an extra hour of sleep may be nice, but in the long run, an hour of breaking down course content will be a lot better for you. The bonus it’ll add to your overall course mark certainly doesn’t hurt either.