7 tips for studying science at university
Many people will begin their university careers within the next few weeks if they haven’t already. It’s exciting! No matter where you study, it’s bound to be a completely different experience. It won’t be what you’re used to, and that’s thrilling.
The unfamiliarity of university is also what makes it so daunting for first-years. If you’re reading this you probably want to/ will be/ are studying science at university. It can be tough to adapt at first and you may well slip up as soon as you think you’ve got this university thing sussed out.
So here are some tips for studying science at university. Happy reading and good luck!
1. Know your subject
You may already have selected your subjects for this year. Hopefully you’ve done your research (that’s what scientists do), and you know more or less what your subjects are about and will be covering. That is such an important step. Your first-year subjects dictate your options later on in your university career and ultimately your career in science. Make sure you know about any prerequisites you will need to complete to study further and learn about the various careers you could get with the end qualification.
2. Stick it out, but don’t stick it out
Hear me out. You may find yourself a couple of weeks into the term absolutely loathing the subjects you’ve chosen. Hey – you may even detest your whole degree. Maybe you’ve realised this just isn’t for you.
Most universities have a window period after you’ve registered. In this period you can change your subjects if you find you’re struggling with them or just not enjoying them. Speak to your lecturers and deans to find out what your options are in terms of changing your subjects.
Be cautious, though. You need to evaluate your subjects. Sometimes you need to complete a subject just so you can do another later on. For example, I had to complete first-year chemistry and botany to get to third-year zoology. Chemistry isn’t my true love, to say the least, but I made the decision to stick it out, because the end goal was worthy to me – I wanted to major in zoology more than anything, so I had to make a sacrifice.
This brings me to tip 3.
3. Don’t be too harsh on yourself
You may have come out of school with a pocket full of A’s. That’s great! But you need to realise that university is different and your marks may not be what you’re used to. That’s perfectly normal. It’s important that you give yourself some leeway.
Remember that for prerequisites, you generally just have to pass. Double check this with your dean or lecturers, but if you just pass your prerequisites, you should be fine to advance into the subject you’re after.
Just be careful to not get lazy. I’m not saying don’t work hard. I’m saying do your best, and if that gives you marks a bit lower than you’re used to, fine, don’t punish yourself.
4. Establish a routine
This is an important step for any university student. Once you have a routine, you can keep up with your timetable and your workload.
Science subjects at university generally consist of at least one lecture a day, and a practical one afternoon that typically takes up the whole afternoon. Don’t roll your eyes at this – this is what you signed up for and you should make the most of it.
If you have a decent routine, you’ll have plenty of time to keep up with assignments without rushing through your practical.
5. Know the standards and stick to them
When you first start lectures, your lecturers will give you a breakdown on how to write essays and how to reference. Pay attention when this happens! It makes working so much easier and you feel so much better about your work if you know you’re doing it right. They’ll tell you this too, but: don’t plagiarise!!!
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
You might not have needed help at school, but don’t be afraid to ask for some at university. It’s all about learning, so nobody should judge you for asking questions and if they do they don’t know why they’re at university, or why they're studying science. Science is all about asking questions, so get used to it.
7. Don’t be mean
Not everyone came from the same background as you. Not everyone speaks your language as well as you do. Not everyone is as smart as you, or as organised as you. Some people have mental health conditions, and sometimes people just have a bad day. Make sure you respect all of that, and don’t be the reason someone hates going to lectures.
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