I feel like my main advice would just be to be a person and talk to your professors, because they’re also people, and they have also been through the struggles of being a student. Going to your professors and talking to them, and just being honest from a place of I’m struggling with this, or I need help with this, and they will really like to help work it through with you. I feel like professors are your best resource. Utilizing office hours and things like that is really helpful. I remember when I started out, freshman year, I was a little bit scared of my professors. But now that I’ve gotten to know them a bit more, they really just care about the students and want to make sure that they actually understand because that’s their job. They are professors for a reason. They want to make sure that you are getting all along with the course material the way that you’re supposed to be.
My first piece of advice would be to learn your study habits early and not wait until it’s too late to understand how you study. What I mean by that is: I study through active recall and through teaching other students what I’ve learned. I took organic chemistry last year, and the best way that I learned how to remember all the formulas and remember all the content that we learned is I would have a group of friends, and they would ask me a question, and because I was able to explain how to do that specific question or understand of the content. It was easier for me when I got to exams to know how to do it. So if you learn your study habits early on, you are less likely to struggle. Everyone’s study habits change and that’s okay. But that’s my first advice.
The second piece of advice would be to find a group of people who, not to rely on, but who are your support group. Even if it changes throughout the years when, of course, you’re gonna be studying different things, just find that core group of people who you can go to when you’re feeling sad, or even if you need some fun on the weekend. You can sit down, laugh with them, go out to dinner, just find a group of people who you can be stressed with, and who can be your support group.
Another piece of advice I have is, go to sleep because if you’re not sleeping and letting your body recharge, it can be very dangerous for you, because you can burn out or even sometimes just fall asleep during class or exams. So my biggest advice is that one thing I have to learn to myself is the assignment will always be there. If you start early, that’s great, but go to sleep! Yes, the exam is the next day. Maybe it’s in the morning but the more you cram the night before, the more likely you are to forget the content. So go to sleep. Give yourself a chance to recharge, and then come back.
I think another piece of advice I also have is talk to professors, talk to people who, you believe, can not only assist you, but probably can be a mentor for you or an advisor for you. I know Wesleyan gives out like advisors, and of course they can be helpful. They are not always helpful all the time, because not all of them know exactly what your major is, but find professors who you feel like you can connect with, who probably can help you in answering your questions of: what classes you should take, what major you want to be in. Not just professors, we have First Cardinal, which is like a mentorship program where they pair freshmen and sophomores with juniors and seniors. Even then you can get so much more assistance in that respect.
I think my last piece of advice is, don’t be afraid to ask questions no matter how quote unquote, dumb. You may think your question may sound or maybe the professor already said it, and you probably need them to repeat it. Always ask questions because in the end: Do you want to know what’s going on? You want to understand the content. No question of yours is dumb. Always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask, because even sometimes, maybe somebody else had that same exact question, and they were too afraid to ask.
Try your best. I think that’s my last piece of advice, actually. Try your best. Sometimes not everything will go your way. Sometimes you can study really hard and probably not get the grade that you want, but don’t give up at that moment. Try your hardest. Come back. Try a different way of studying. Maybe try starting, studying earlier, find a new place to study, and just try to rearrange what you did before, but always try your best.
My advice would be to not take for granted all of the resources that you have at your disposal. Take advantage of all the professors that are there to help you. I think even professors that you have for class, even if they are not your advisor, are a huge and valuable source of information. They have gone through undergraduate studies in STEM and graduate school and have accomplished so much in their careers. I think that’s one of my regrets: not trying to be as close with my professors as I think I could have been. I feel like they have a lot to share with you and they’re always willing to do so if you approach them.
Honestly the first thing I would recommend would be to go to office hours, most of the time professors make more sense when not under time constraints of lectures and trying to unload a crap ton of information to 30+ students. Office hours is also another moment when you can ask for more example or practice problems.
And that leads me to my next piece of advice; Repetition is key. Keep practicing, Keep reviewing. Honestly, there are so many apps out there that you could practice, let’s say, orgo reactions in line at Pi Cafe.
STEM can be daunting and draining, but I would also say take time to remember what and why you wanted to go into STEM in the first place. Keeping the passion alive will help in fighting fatigue and moments of doubt. But also, give yourself grace. You’re not going to always get things the first time, do well on all exams, or maybe pursue the career you first thought you were. Allow yourself to fail, change course, repeat, take breaks and remind yourself that you are still intelligent, amazing, worthy, and are going to accomplish more than you first believe.
These are the main things I have to give and hopefully it functions as a reminder that you, freshmen, sophomore, junior or even senior stem students are not alone in your 2am Exley study lockdowns or worries about how successful you’ll be in this field. Everyone is on their own timeline and will make it to their respective end goals, eventually.
As a STEM senior, the advice I have for freshmen is to not give into the pressure of doing what everyone else is doing. There are so many paths in STEM at Wesleyan and beyond, and what’s most important is honoring the path that’s right for YOU. I strongly believe that your best experience in STEM will come with remaining authentic with your goals and needs. Also, remember that you have a place in STEM no matter your personal or academic background – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Isabella Polyn can be reached at email@example.com.