January 18, 2018

The Don’t-Wait Class for Fall 2011 (Hint: It Can Help the Grades in ALL of Your Other Classes!)

The Don't-Wait Class - photo copyright 2011 Rick Sherrell

What if I told you that one required core class can help your grades in nearly every single other class you have to take in college?

What if I told you that a high percentage of students delay this particular class until graduation nears?

“Wha… what?” you might be thinking. “Why would someone do that? A class that can help all the other classes? Heck, yeah… hitting that first! Why wait?”

That’s right… you shouldn’t wait. Even if the class does include public speaking!

(You knew there had to be a catch.)

In nearly every degree program and certificate programs, Public Speaking or Introduction to Communication, or some variation of those classes, is typically required. Because of the public speaking component—and the high percentage of students who desperately fear that component—many students save this class until The. Bitter. End. of their academic career.

Interestingly, nearly every other class in college requires one of these three types of assignments:

  1. A presentation, either alone or in a group
  2. Talking or working with someone else in class (interpersonal communication!)
  3. A group project

(Psst: Those assignments or projects can be worth a large chunk of grade in those classes!)

Doesn’t it make sense to take Public Speaking/Introduction to Communication Studies/Basic Communication (or whatever this course is called at your college) EARLY?

Let me be specific here: I’m talking about taking this class your FIRST term in college. Or your NEXT term in college, if you are mid-way.

The bottom line is: Don’t wait one more minute to take the class that can boost your skills for your other classes. Even if that class does require some public speaking.

I don’t diminish the fear of public speaking one bit. However, remember this:

  1. Every single person in your Communication class is going to have to give a speech. Does this mean that you’ll feel no fear about giving that speech? Hell, no. You might shake in your Sketchers, but other nervous buddies will support you.
  2. Your prof in the public speaking course will likely have a whole lesson on helping you deal with your speech anxiety–it’s a natural topic in any communication course. If you do not take your Comm course early, however, and you are required to do a presentation in Environmental Science, that prof’s top priority probably won’t be to help you with your fear of public speaking. He/she expects that you worked on that in your comm class!
  3. You don’t want to be super-stressed right before you graduate with a task that you dread. If you do take your comm class early and it goes horribly (that’s unlikely, but let’s just say, “What if?”)? At least you still have more time to retake the class. If you wait until the end of college, the hard fact is that this one dreaded course could also keep you from graduating. Let’s not even consider that!

Have I convinced you? I hope so!

Now what do you do?

First, find out the communication requirement for your college: Public Speaking 101? Introduction to Communication 101? If you are in a degree program that has a set schedule, ask your adviser if you can fulfill your Comm requirement now.

If you are in a degree program or college that doesn’t have a communication req, don’t think that this advice doesn’t apply to you! A communication course can likely meet a Humanities or elective requirement and will still give you all the important benefits I’ve noted.

Once you’ve found your basic comm class, public speaking class, etc., sign up for that course in Fall 2011!

Next, meet your communication professor and get the syllabus. E-mail or make an appointment to see that person. Say,

“I’m an incoming student who will be taking your Public Speaking 101 course. I’d like to learn about the course early. Can you send me a syllabus? One from the current term is fine.”

Know that the prof might change some things around, but the basic course requirements will likely remain the same. You can also ask/say:

“What book will I need for this course?” Reading about communication ahead of time certainly can’t hurt. The books on communication are–believe it or not–a bit interesting, even as a summer read, and you will be SO prepared!

You can even say:

“I’m a little nervous about public speaking (or taking this course). I almost saved this course until the end, but it was recommended that I should take it early. Do you have any advice for me?”

Again, any communication prof is going to be keen on the subject of communication apprehension, fear of public speaking, or speech anxiety. (See? We even have three names for it!).

Finally, after you take your Communication or Public Speaking course, you probably know what I’m going to say next: If you took Public Speaking first, try a Communication Theory, Interpersonal, Small Group, Mass Media, etc. course and use it as Humanities or elective credit. You can never have too much training in communication. Verbal communication is, after all, the #1 sought after employability skill, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (January, 2011).

Bravo to you for taking this step and grabbing those communication skills nice and early in your college career.

Now, go tell a coming-to-college friend to join you!

About the Author: Ellen Bremen (17 Posts)

Ellen Bremen is tenured faculty at Highline Community College and the author of Say This, NOT That to Your Professor: 36 Talking Tips for College Success (NorLights Press, April 2012). Ellen stops at nothing to help students strengthen their communication skills: Peanut butter and jelly to illustrate problematic messages, pipe cleaners to teach communication models, and Post-it notes to reduce speaking anxiety. Ellen holds degrees in Post-Secondary Education and Communication. As an interpersonal communication expert, Ellen has watched students struggle to navigate their classes, especially their communication with professors. Ellen's goal? To help students correctly--not cluelessly--speak/deal with those who teach them. The outcome? Better student-prof relationships, improved grades, and confident and competent communication skills for college and beyond. Ellen's philosophy: College is THE safe training ground for students to practice and hone assertive and professional communication skills. Then, students can transition this sought-after skill to their professional and personal lives. Ellen looks forward to answering students' simple and complex questions about communication in college, and particularly professor-related challenges.


  1. I’m chatting on @campustalkblog: The Don’t-Wait Class 4 Fall ’11 (Hint-It Can Help the Grades in ALL Your Other Clsses!) http://t.co/gFPQyd7

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