By the time school was nearing the end last year, Biology might have been my favorite class. I liked the material, my classmates, and my teacher (shoutout to James Booth), and had established a variety of studying techniques that seemed to work best for me. All was well. This, however, did not come easily. For the first five months or so, I was pretty sure that I just lived in a void of stress and misery as I waited for graded work to be returned. And when a lab report was assigned as homework for the course of an entire week or so, I would finish it within a day and spend the rest of the week re-reading it over and over again. I was like a broken record, except the lab report was the record, and I was simply a tool. But anyway – I climbed my way out of that hole (or void, rather). On that note, here are five tips for incoming freshmen taking Bio class this year.

First, try not to be discouraged by your first, second, or even third assessment grade. Adjusting to the Bio grading system can be quite the hurdle, and so struggling to achieve your desired grades is entirely reasonable. Be it a poor lab report or a low percent-grade on the first quiz of the year (out of six, perhaps, or some other miniscule, glum denominator), understand that to sometimes feel like you are barely scraping by is entirely normal. This is why we love the Pass-Fail system.

Relatedly, be sure to include as much detail as possible when writing answers on lab reports, tests, quizzes, and frankly anything graded. For example, if you use the word “Osmosis”, be sure to define it, regardless of whether or not you have done that ten times over in the same paragraph. Should you use the word “diffusion” in said definition, define that, too. Sticking to the realm of sciences, one might call it a fractal. 

In addition, be sure to ask questions. The convoluted diagrams of alpha helices and DNA strands on the slideshow will never unravel unless you show no fear, and unleash your beautiful innerself. Your courage is begging to be seen, and your curiosity deserves to be nourished. Nom nom! 

One outlet for any questions you may have is your class. In general, bonding with your classmates is key to a successful and enjoyable Bio experience. Thinking back to Bio last year, I envision prancing through a valley with my gals and pals, all of us together an animated line of happy phospholipids. Be sure to resist cheating, however. Love and academic integrity will lead the way! 

Finally, pay attention in class. Sometimes you have to close your notebook, forfeit the chess match, and pause the crossword to listen to your teacher. Akin to spoken word poetry, the live lectures of your teacher are more important than any other learning material in the course.