How to Make the Most of Your Science Degree
September brings a clean slate to achieve our goals, whether they are geared towards academics, personal and professional development, or extracurriculars. Make the most of your science degree with tips from four of our National Young Leaders! Good luck!
1. Take non-science courses.
My advice to a new science student is to create breadth in your academic and scholarly activities. Most first year science programs are completely science intensive, leaving little room for other academic interests. For both academic and personal development, it is very important to branch out and explore other areas of learning. By taking courses outside of the sciences, you will gain skills and ways of thinking that will complement your science knowledge and make you a more well rounded student. So if you have always wanted to take that photography, literature, or history class, I urge you to register. Your experience in a non-science field will make you a better scientist in the long run.
2. Get academic help when you need it.
Make the most of your TAs (teaching assistants). They are valuable resources because they are more likely to remember being an undergraduate than your professor, and are willing to give you their non-sugarcoated views. If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask them for help; however, they will appreciate if you have at least tried to figure out what you do not understand. It is okay if you ask them for advice about studying for midterm(s)/ final, but avoid continuously asking them what will be on the exam. Not only does that get annoying, but most likely they do not know what will be on the exam either.
If you do not understand the TA’s response to your question, try to re-phrase their answer in your own words. It helps both of you realize what is being miscommunicated. Feel free to let the TA know if you do not understand them; they will not be offended. Other techniques include drawing diagrams, trying to “teach the TA” what you learnt, and going through examples.
3. Seek research opportunities.
Try to explore your interests early on in your post-secondary career, since this can help you refine your passions and aid in personal development. The science stream has a wide array of opportunities such as research and internship positions. Start looking for these opportunities as early as your first year to avoid hassle during your third and fourth years. If you are planning on pursuing a Master’s degree, your third and fourth year will be especially hectic due to your thesis papers.
Now how do you find these opportunities?
- Listen to your professors during lectures and/or chat with more senior students. Professors and upper-years often come into lectures and inform younger students about opportunities on campus. These information sound bites usually occur at the beginning of lectures, so come early to class!
- Hallways will be filled with boards and posters, with valuable information about opportunities you can take on inside and outside of your school. Oftentimes, thesis students actively seek research participants through posters. You can participate in studies to get a feel of what research is like.
- Read emails sent from your professors and school. These email digests often include opportunities you may not otherwise come across.
- Ask. There are several students and staff who are aware of various opportunities. Many of them are happy to let you know about opportunities they are involved in. Don’t forget to thank them afterwards!
- Research. The Internet is filled with great opportunities and is one of the easiest ways to obtain information about these opportunities. Check out science websites, student-led websites, your school website, and the NSN database. Actively seek positions because you never know what you will learn, or the doors you will open.
4. Get involved beyond academics.
University is an exciting time for meeting new people and broadening your experiences. Getting involved on campus is a great way to achieve these goals. Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to begin.
A great place to start is Clubs Fair! Every university will hold an event where campus groups set up booths and invite students to learn about their club. These groups can range from charities to sports teams to fraternities/sororities. Chances are, if you have a hobby, there’s a club for it! Getting involved with a student group is a great way to enrich your university experience!