In my classes, I always want to be perfect. It is not a profound or unique sentiment, but I enjoy success. After attending class, completing all the assignments, and putting in hours of extra work to prepare for a test, I hope that it pays off and I can get rewarded with a good grade. Even if I know I haven’t prepared to my fullest, I at least hope to get lucky. So, when I got a Sakai notification that my CHEM 102 acid/base test had been graded, and I saw a rather unfortunate grade, I panicked. I questioned my validity of being a student at UNC. I compared myself to my peers and wondered why I was inferior. Mostly, I was overwhelmed that the course continued to introduce new material when I had yet to master the previous unit. Realizing that brooding over these thoughts wasn’t helping me improve, I decided to work on changing my mindset and to use that bad grade as a turning point towards progress.
Category: Tools and Strategies
When I first came to Carolina, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in, but I knew I was pre-pharmacy and so I signed up for CHEM 101 my first semester, along with other courses that piqued my interest. After a few bumps in the road and many nights of doubt, I finally settled on a Chemistry B.S. as my degree and started my planning. As I begin my final semester of undergrad, here are some of the most valuable strategies I’ve learned for how to manage science and math courses at UNC, and perhaps beyond.
Coming to UNC, I thought that I had a relatively good grasp on Spanish, having taken Spanish classes for 5 years from 6th grade to 10th grade. Since it had been two years since I had taken Spanish, I decided to enroll in Spanish 105 for my first semester thinking it would be muy fácil (very easy). To my surprise, very little English was spoken throughout the entire semester. So not only did I have to switch my STEM-centered brain to grasping grammar concepts but I had to adapt to directly understanding words in Spanish instead of translating to English in my head. This was a challenge for me but along the way I picked up some handy study habits that helped me to succeed.
Every summer, I struggle to find a routine that works for me. I feel like every day is unproductive because I don’t have a set schedule like I do in the fall or spring. However, I had a lot to do this summer and I knew that, to be successful, I needed a new approach. I looked up some apps and decided to download Routinery, a free app that helped me follow my schedule and accomplish my goals.
The one year mark of the pandemic has come and gone, and I’m not sure exactly when or if things will go back to “normal.” However, I do know that I have adapted somewhat to remote school and work. Even though technology governs much of our lives right now, I have found ways I can still use it for good – especially when it comes to physical activity.
After almost a year of remote learning, I finally felt ready to tackle my online classes when the spring semester started. But while I was getting things done in synchronous classes, I was ignoring one of them altogether: Biological Chemistry. Since the course was asynchronous and didn’t have any early deadlines, I prioritized doing assignments for my other classes, while Biological Chemistry went on the back burner.
Sometimes it feels much easier to just ignore academic duties when I feel like something will become overwhelming. I realized very quickly that staying focused while attending a Zoom call made things even more difficult than I anticipated since I could distract myself with things like Netflix or online shopping. To nobody’s surprise, this habit was not allowing me to fully understand the content of my courses, and I was often left scrambling to catch up.
Since my freshman year of college, one thing I have noticed about myself is that I tend to get stressed the day before and the day of an exam. This would often lead to me performing beneath my potential. It ended up being a never-ending cycle. Slowly, throughout my years of college, I have developed small coping methods that have worked for me and might work for you as well!
When I think back on how my study habits have evolved over my time at UNC, there is one key change that had a dramatic effect on how I prepare for exams. During my first semester, I adopted the strategy of reading textbook chapters, notes, and lecture slides over and over again in hopes that somehow this would magically deposit information into my brain. I also did practice problems and practice exams, but I dedicated a large chunk of time to this strategy of obsessively rereading material. It didn’t take very long for me to realize that once the test was put in front of me, almost all of the information that I thought I had retained went straight out the window. I knew that I needed some way to supplement my approach of doing practice problems with a strategy to retain important concepts and information as well.