24 Tips For Surviving First Year Sciences

I’ve been doing UVic Orientation Tours every September for the past three years. Each year, I provide students with a list of tips for doing well in first year sciences. I think that all incoming science students should have access to this list, so here it is!

Tips for Surviving First Year Sciences

1. There’s no homework in university. You’re given a list of suggested practice problems at the beginning of the term and it’s up to you whether you complete them or not. Hint: DO THEM.

2. You don’t have to go to class! Professors do not take attendance and couldn’t care less whether you attend or not. Overall, I recommend going to class. If your class requires an iClicker, I strongly recommend going to class.

photo credit: Laboratories via photopin (license)

photo credit: Laboratories via photopin (license)

3. It’s much easier to get As in high school than in university. Be prepared to work hard. In first year sciences, one class will often carry the same workload as about three high school classes; however, don’t be scared. They are very manageable as long as you manage your time well.

4. You simply don’t have the time to review every single subject in depth every day. Typically, I would study three subjects in depth (say, chemistry, physics and biology for an hour each, for example) every day. For the other two subjects, I would not study one of them and for the last subject, I would do a quick 10-minute review of a study sheet for the class that I had made the night before while studying that topic in depth.

5. Go to every class (even though you’re technically not required to do so). You will be able to catch anything that the professor emphasizes as important and you will be able to have your questions answered.

6. Expect to work hard (I know I emphasized this in point 3). For first year sciences, I put in 2-3 hours of studying per night (not including time spent studying during the day) during the regular school week and approximately 8 hours per day for finals.

7. Set aside time for yourself. You don’t want to work so hard that you burn out.

IMG_01498. Don’t set aside too much time for yourself. An appropriate amount is 1-2 hours per day. Take an hour to sit back and have dinner and relax and then a minimum of 15 minutes to unwind before you go to bed. Every night, I would watch an episode of a funny TV show before going to bed to help me unwind and clear my thoughts.

9. Go see professors in their office hours as often as possible. They’re there to help clarify any material that you find confusing.

10. Start studying for a midterm at least 3 days before it takes place.

11. Start studying for a final at least 10 days before it takes place.

12. Do every assigned practice problem twice.

13. See #12.

14. Form study groups with students in your classes! You will find yourself enjoying studying more if you study with others. Group studying is particularly helpful with biology.

15. Worst place to study: 2nd floor of the McPherson Library. It’s too loud to even work in groups.

16.Best place to study on campus: Law Library. It’s quiet, big and has plenty of free space. No group studying is allowed there though.

17. Best place for group studying: study rooms in McPherson Library.

18. Buy practice exams from ZAP Copy Centre during exam season. Immensely helpful for studying for final exams.

cells19. Labs will be challenging. Ask questions. Go see your lab instructor for help and put as much effort into your lab write-ups as possible (I’d say an appropriate length is about 4-5 hours).

20. Most professors are supplying students with their own notes now, so you won’t be using the textbook as much as you think. Nonetheless, BUY THE TEXTBOOK. It will save you the massive headache that comes with having to find explanations on the internet.

21. Take advantage of the McPherson Library’s textbook rental section. It saves you having to carry heavy textbooks around all day.

22. If you’re in residence, it’s normal to feel homesick. Best therapy: stuffed animal from home.

23. Best electives: BIOC 102, EOS 170, MUS 308, ASTR 201.

24. Feel free to stop me if you pass me on campus! I’m always happy to help/tutor/talk.

This list isn’t meant to scare everyone who is entering sciences at UVic; it’s meant to help you find success in your first year of studies. I hope you find the tips helpful and that you are excited to begin your journey at UVic!

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1 Response

  1. Kate says:

    Great post Trevor! You struck the perfect balance between the hard truth and encouragement 🙂