Even if you’re usually a confident person, speaking up in class can be a bit daunting. If you’re a naturally quiet person, it’s terrifying. However, it’s important not to let fear hold you back from getting the most out of your classes… after all, you’re paying for them with loans and shifts at McD’s, so you want to get your money’s worth.

Preparation is Key

Are you holding back from speaking up because you’re afraid of looking dumb? Some people might say that you should just not worry about it, but that’s unlikely to work. Instead, you can reduce your chance of looking stupid by reading up in preparation for class. Take a look at the course textbook, the syllabus, and any class notes you’ve been given to find out what’s going to be covered. Make a list of questions that you want to ask in class. If you’ve read through the material carefully, these questions are likely to be valuable ones that get right to the heart of the topic, not simple misunderstandings that make you look dumb.

Change How You See Your Classmates

Do you see your classmates as monsters who are waiting to jump on you as soon as you make a mistake? Or as people who will gossip about you behind your back if you give the impression of being a teacher’s pet? If so, it’s time to change your perceptions. Your classmates are a lot like you: if you’re confused, then it’s likely they are too.

In a small class, you can change your view of your classmates by getting to know them. Invite them to join you for a study session so you can chat about the classes together – it will help you feel less alone. In a huge class, there’s no hope of getting to know everyone, so a different approach is called for – in this case, remind yourself that most of your classmates have no idea who you are and are unlikely to give you a second thought once class is over, no matter how big a mistake you make when speaking up.

Be Confident

Remember, you are a valued member of your college or university and you deserve to have your opinion heard just as much as others who may speak up all the time. Even if you are an introvert or tend to be on the quieter side, there is value in giving your opinion, especially if it brings a different perspective to the discussion. Remember to speak slowly, make eye contact with the professor and classmates and always be respectful when making comments. Like any skill, the more you practice speaking up in class to give your opinion, the easier it will become each time.

Keep Trying to Speak Up

Speaking up in class is tough, but it’s important. If you don’t ask questions when you don’t understand something in class, you could fall behind and face even more embarrassment when exam time rolls around – and it comes around surprisingly quickly. Set yourself goals for speaking up and try your best to stick to them.