8 Ways to Succeed in Your Science Classes

Whether you are a new student entering the enchanting world of college or a returning veteran ready to take on another year of university, you have probably heard the terrifying stories about taking science classes at a university level – especially at an esteemed university such as the University of Pittsburgh. Although the stories may have frightened you enough to buy your organic chemistry textbook three months in advance, it is important to understand that even though science courses are difficult and dense, they are not impossible to pass. To be quite honest with you, there is no reason to worry about failing as long as you are willing to put in the work.

As a second-year, pre-med student, I have not exactly taken all my prerequisites, but I have taken my fair share of classes such as chemistry, biology, psychology and even astronomy. It took me a while to find methods of succeeding in these courses. Hopefully, these eight tips will save you a little extra time in the beginning of your semester and help you get a head start toward succeeding in your science courses this semester.

1. Don’t Just Show Up, Pay Attention

In a college classroom, there are always those students with their laptops on full brightness watching Facebook videos or shopping the latest sales. In science courses, this is NOT going to fly. Not only is it important to come to every scheduled class, but you must actually be there beyond your physical place in space. You must pay attention regardless of how boring the subject matter may be to you. You have to be there anyway, so why not pay attention, ask questions and engage in your learning while the professor is there? In the end, you’re only doing yourself a favor.

2. Take Notes That Make Sense to You

In college, everyone has their own style of taking notes. In fact, some students prefer not to take notes at all (I do not recommend that, friends). Nevertheless, learning the best way to take efficient and meaningful notes for yourself is essential to optimizing your learning time in the classroom. My notes from class tend to be really cramped and messy because I like to write down everything my teachers say. Once I get home from class, I neatly rewrite my notes with colorful pens and highlighters to ensure I understand the material. Other students dislike that note-taking style, and they might solely take notes on their laptop. Find what works for you and be consistent!

3. Create a Study Group

Learning with a group of friends is not only fun, but it helps you retain information a lot better. It’s true: two is actually better than one! More collaborative learning results in a broader understanding of a particular subject matter. Even if it is only once a week, grab a couple of friends from your lecture to go over homework problems or just to ask questions that may have come up after lecture.

4. Go Over Notes Daily

It is impossible to pass a science class with the mentality that your only responsibility is going to lecture. I cannot sufficiently stress the importance of going over your notes and readings daily. Most science classes have problems that can only be understood through practice. To practice, you must understand the material and rules like the back of your hand. I like to review my notes by pretending I am a teacher who is teaching the material to young children.

5. Read Ahead

Before you get to class, try your hardest to skim the chapters that are going to be taught that day. I find that if I know that I’m going to be confused on a topic that we’re going to be discussing in class, it’s easier for me to zone into the lecture by already having prepared questions about the topic.

6. Plan Ahead

If you do not have a planner, you need to go get one. As a student taking science courses, your plate will most definitely be full with study groups, office hours, recitations and more. It’s essential to know what’s going to be talked about in lecture, as well as to be aware of review sessions and tutoring opportunities. By making sure you have a set schedule for the day, studying becomes a lot less strenuous because it’s already planned into your day.

7. Take Advantage of Extra Opportunities for Help

Tutoring and office hours are some of the most important resources many universities offer. Take advantage of these resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most of the people that are chosen to work here are more than willing to help you succeed. Plan to attend a session at least once a week for tutoring or office hours. People want to see you do well, and all you have to do is put in the effort.

8. Discipline Yourself

Being pre-med, a science major or just a student taking science classes is a difficult road to walk. There are going to be nights where your friends want to go out but you can’t because you have to study. There will also be times where you want to just quit and change your major or career path because your friends around you are so much less stressed out. However, at the end of the day, we all have a choice. Of course, you could choose to go out with your friends or skip lecture or study group to go shopping, but it’s important to remain disciplined throughout your semester. When times get tough — and they will — try to remember why you started and keep pushing forward.

I hope these tips and tricks are of good use to you this semester as you tackle some of the most difficult classes offered at the university level. Always remember that if it were easy, everybody would do it. You can do this!


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