By Sarah Wright
If you know that you're going to be groggy and out of it at 9AM, try not to schedule lecture classes for that time. This might not always be an option, but if it is, you should make sure to try to schedule lectures for times you'll actually attend and be alert.
Do Preliminary Readings
If your instructor assigned readings that relate to a future lecture, do that reading before attending. Otherwise, you'll probably be pretty clueless as to what's being discussed, and that will make it next to impossible to pay attention. Knowing something about the subject matter of a lecture before it's presented will help you follow along with what's being said, and will give you a foundation to build upon by taking notes.
Fix Your Attitude
If you assume that a lecture is going to be boring and pointless, it will probably seem that way to you, no matter what its content. Your approach to a lecture may help you get more out of it. Going with purpose and the will to get the most out of it might help change things around for you. If nothing else, you can view your effort to be focused and attentive as a gesture of respect to your instructor.
Be on the Lookout
Being engaged in a spoken lesson is difficult for people who tend to have a more visual style of learning. But listening for specific things in lectures might help you get more out of them. For example, you can try to seek out answers to questions you have about the material. If you have no prior thoughts on the lecture's subject, you can instead listen carefully and try to identify the main point or argument the speaker is making.
Take Careful Notes
You should note not only what you find interesting or important in a lecture, but also things that seem like potential topics for a paper, or things that seem like they may come up later in class or on a test. Come up with a system for identifying certain themes in the notes. Relying on your notes to work on papers and prepare for exams is a good way of making sure that you take lectures seriously.
Go With a Buddy
Do you have a friend who always seems on top of it, and seems to have no problems paying attention and connecting the dots in a lecture? See if you can rope him or her into being your lecture buddy. If they're willing, they might help keep you awake or give you a nudge when something particularly important is being said. Afterward, the two of you can go get a cup of coffee or lunch and discuss what was covered. This might help make the experience more fun, and having a partner to help you understand what's being said might help you get better at being a good lecture student, making them seem less daunting and dreadful.
Attending lecture may not be mandatory, but it is a good idea.