How to Succeed in a Science Major

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It's the first week (or weeks) back to school. And though you may be going through some sleepy mornings as you adjust to your new class and schoolwork schedule, that fresh back-to-school excitement is just the motivation you need to make this your most successful year ever.

On top of picking up great study habits, you can also plan for longer-term success, whether that's looking a few months ahead to exams, or years ahead into when you enter the job market. Try these four tips to shine in your science major and set yourself up for career success.

Review Your Notes Weekly

Let's start small: Make time at the end of each week to go over your notes for each class. While weekly review may not be the most exciting study time, it can have a huge impact on your understanding of the course material.

For one thing, you can identify concepts you find challenging early – not the night before your exam. You can also consolidate notes you took from classes, readings and labs in one place, so you're not scrambling to find all your study materials later. And if any of your notes are unclear (or, no judgement, any of your handwritten notes are illegible) you can fix them now – while you still remember what the professor was talking about.

See an Academic Advisor

Navigating college can be tough, especially if, like many students, you're not sure exactly what you want to focus on or what kind of career you want. Start your school year strong by meeting with an academic advisor in your department.

Your advisor can help you select classes, help you secure financial aid and offer career counseling. They can also identify opportunities in the department for you to gain experience.

Volunteer in a Lab

If you've set your sights on a career in science, you can start laying the groundwork for it early – even if you're still in high school. Check out the website for your department, look over the list of researchers, and identify a few whose work sounds interesting to you – or simply ask your academic advisor who might be a good fit. Then send a quick email asking if they need a lab volunteer, or approach your professor after class.

As a volunteer, you may be tasked with helping wash dishes and keeping the lab space clean. But you'll likely also have a chance to shadow upper-year and graduate students doing experiments and get a sense of what working in a lab is like. And, most importantly, you'll find a mentor in your department who can help you as you go through school.

Look for Summer Placements and Programs

We know, we know – you're just getting on track after this summer, not planning for the next one. But if you want to gain valuable career experience you should start looking soon. Some summer scholarships have application deadlines in October or November, which means you need to start looking now.

Take some time over the next week or two to make a list of scholarship or grant opportunities available – and ask your department's academic advising office for help. By planning early, you can get a summer job that not only earns you money but lays the groundwork for your career.

References

About the Author

Sylvie Tremblay holds a Master of Science in molecular and cellular biology and has years of experience as a cancer researcher and neuroscientist. Before launching her writing business, she worked as a TA and tutored students in biology, chemistry, math and physics.

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