Words of Warriors So You Want to Be a Chem Major: Surviving the Sophomore Triad
When I tell people I am a biochemistry major, I get two reactions:
"Hey, me too. Welcome to the No Sleep Club”.
“Oh gosh, that sucks. I’ll wave to you as I pass by your lab on my way to the beach.”
The most intimidating year for Chemistry majors can be sophomore year, when students often take Organic Chemistry, Biology/Genetics, Physics, a GE, and sometimes a PEA. This is my current schedule. The classes are challenging, but all are doable, and the work put into studying and homework is reflected in the final grade—professors are not trying to fail you.
Weekly assignments and Friday quizzes in Organic Chemistry are great motivators to study consistently. I try to use the homework as a means to study, not looking at the answer key until I have completed a problem and trying to do problems without looking at my notes. This helps cement the concepts into my long-term memory, which is important for the cumulative final.
The Biology and Genetics class does not have weekly homework: students need more intrinsic motivation to stay on top of studying. I review notes after each class period or at the end of each week. I find it helpful to make to a study guide or flashcards for myself in the several weeks leading up the the exam instead of a couple days before. This strategy allows time to go to a professor’s office hours if any questions arise. When I meet up with friends to study, we each take a section of material and teach each other. The practice of teaching allows me to affirm what I know well and discover gaps in my knowledge.
My tips for succeeding in Physics is understanding each problem on the homework, being able to plug variables into equations, and understanding the relationship between the variables in a particular equation. Redoing homework problems and completing the study guide is how I study. Additionally, reading through my notes at the end of each week and watching videos online if I need a different explanation for a particular topic is helpful.
To manage taking all three classes at once, I enjoy doing the Pomodoro method of studying which allows me to stay focused for several hours. This technique recommends a 25 minute period of studying, followed by a 3-5 minute break as a “reset.” Often in the breaks I move around. I enjoy writing out my notes on white boards while listening to music. Moving around keeps me mentally and physically awake, and actively writing helps me remember the material.
I go by the moto “study hard, rest hard,” meaning that when I am hanging out with friends, I try not to stress about school, and when I am studying, I try to stay away from distractions. It is a tough balancing act between self-care, studying, and social life—but it can be done. Believe in yourself.