Most of us took high school biology at some point. Some of us probably received A’s in the course, so it might seem as though college biology shouldn’t be that different. This is particularly true since most biology students are freshmen. But college biology, like any college course, is structurally and academically different from high school courses. With that in mind, here are seven ways to optimize your potential in college biology and even earn that A.
Pick a good class time
College students, especially freshmen, don’t always have leeway in when their classes will be. Biology, however, often has several sections for both lecture and lab. A lecture course tends to run fifty minutes to an hour, 2-3 times per week, while a lab generally runs for three hours once a week. With this in mind, know the times when your brain is most prepared to work, especially for the hands-on labs. If you must sign up for a time you don’t prefer, try to sign up for the part of biology where you’re stronger. For example, if you hate mornings, but are strong in the lecture portion, sign up for that 8:00 AM lecture. Save the lab for an afternoon slot.
Scope out professors
How you feel about a professor often influences how you feel about the class. Try to get information on each of the professors offering biology. If you’re easily distracted or a kinesthetic learner, seek a professor who covers information quickly and moves through material at a good clip. The same is true for lab instructors; if you’re not naturally hands-on, seek an instructor who will rely on manuals and notes to supplement experiments.
Biology, especially lab experiments, requires great attention to detail. Some professors take off several points for what seem like slight lab report errors or discrepancies in experiment results. Therefore, ask exactly what your instructor wants from a particular experiment, or what he or she wants you to focus on in a particular lecture. If the professor is evasive or vague, you may need to learn to skim, read, or listen for key points. One hint is to focus on what the professor most often repeats or what his or her diagrams reference.
Use your supplies
Sometimes biology classes will require students to purchase a specific microscope (which you can find microscopes at places like microscope.com), dissection tools, or other equipment. Make those purchases ASAP after the start of he semester. Then, use them as much as you can as a way to double-check work or chart new findings. If your supplies malfunction or break, alert your instructor. He or she may have loaners you can use until you can get the supplies replaced.
Find your interest
No matter how well-written the textbook or how dynamic the instructor, some students find biology boring or hard. If you’re one of these students, a good remedy is finding something in biology that you like and learning more about it on your own time. For example, if you’re more interested in people than cells and animals, focus on genetics. If you love animals but don’t care about their ecosystems, focus instead on species’ cells, organs, and dietary needs.
Make it fun
Biology can be dry to the student who isn’t a science maven. You may need to shake up your study routine a bit. Make a game of memorizing lecture information, especially sequential things like the cell cycle. Set material to music, or move around the room while studying. Set a goal of studying for a certain period before rewarding yourself with something like a coffee, a nap, or some TV.
Seek extra help
If you’re not doing well despite hard work, it’s time to seek extra help. Ask your professor or lab instructor about on-campus tutoring, and then make appointments to attend sessions. Some instructors will even give students help one-on-one or in small groups. If you have a particular disability, such as dyslexia, that may hinder your grades, let instructors and the college disability service office know right away. They can set up modifications that will level your playing field.
College biology is often a tough course, even for students who have always enjoyed science. With tips like these, you can get through the course more easily. You’re more likely to earn an A, but even if you don’t, you will have assured yourself a good grade and a memory as a dedicated student.
About the Author: My name is Lizzie Weakley and I am a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. I went to college at The Ohio State University where I studied communications. I enjoy the outdoors and long walks in the park with my 3-year-old husky Snowball. If you like Lizzie’s writing style, follow her on Twitter @LizzieWeakley or find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lizzie.weakley.