It's finals season, y'all! The libraries are packed to the brim, you haven't slept in days, and everyone is irritable. There are thousands of calculations to determine what the lowest grade you can get on the final and still pass, and if you're like me, you're over personal boundaries and can be found hysterically crying in public. And then you get to the actual final - and that's a personal hell on its own. And the same thoughts will run through EVERYONE'S head while you take this exam.
2. When the physical exam gets handed out, and you look over the first page
5. When you keep skipping questions to "come back to them."
Whether your major is Human Bio, Chemistry, Neuroscience or any other that deals with a lot of numbers, theories, experiments and impossibly memorizing facts, you know the pressures of pursuing a career in this field. So without further ado, here are seven truths about being a science major:
1. There is no “syllabus week.”
Coming back to college in the fall is one of the best times of the year. Welcome week has become most students' favorite on-campus holiday. But then you have syllabus week: another widely celebrated week of no responsibilities… Unless you’re a science major that is. While your other friends get to enjoy this week of getting to know their professors and class expectations, you get to learn about IUPAC nomenclature of alkanes on the first day of organic chem.
2. Your heart breaks every time you have to buy a new textbook.
Somehow every professor seems to have their own “special edition” textbook for class… And somehow it’s always a couple hundred bucks… And somehow, it's ALWAYS required.
3. Hearing "attendance is not mandatory," but knowing attendance is VERY mandatory.
Your professor will tell you that they don’t take attendance. Your professor will put all lecture slides online. Your professor will even record their lectures and make those available as well. Yet if you still don’t go to class, you’ll fail for sure. Coming into lecture after missing just one day feels like everyone has learned an entire new language.
4. You’re never the smartest person in your class anymore.
No matter what subject, what class or what concentration, there will always be someone who is just that much better at it than you.
5. You get totally geeked out when you learn an awesome new fact.
Today in genetics you learned about mosaicism. The fact that somebody can have a disease in part of their total body cells but normal throughout all others gets you so hype. Even though you know that your family, friends and neighbors don’t actually care about your science facts, you HAVE to tell them all anyways.
6. There is never enough time in a day.
You are always stuck choosing between studying, eating, sleeping and having fun. If you're lucky, you'll get three of these done in one day. But if you're a risk taker, you can try to do all of these at once.
7. You question your major (and your sanity) almost daily.
This is especially true when it’s on a Tuesday night and you’ve already consumed a gallon of Starbucks trying to learn everything possible before your . Or maybe this is more prevalent when you have only made it through about half of the BioChem chapter and you have to leave for your three hour lab before your exam this afternoon. Regardless, you constantly wonder if all the stress is actually worth it, but somehow always decide that it is.
As an English major, I wrote a lot of papers. So it should be no surprise that several of them were written hours before they were due, which I would not recommend if possible. But we don't live in an ideal world, so:
1. Don’t panic.
You will write much faster if you are mostly calm, collected, and focused. Freaking out never helped anyone.
2. Read the paper’s requirements thoroughly.
Nothing sucks quite as much as writing an entire paper and then realizing that you missed a crucial part or guideline for the paper...and then rewriting.
3. Pick a topic that you already know and understand well.
It can be fun to learn by writing papers on unfamiliar things, but last-minute essays are not good for that. Your goal right now is to show your professor that you understand the material.
4. Find sources that are clear, easier to read, and shorter in length.
Longer does not necessarily mean more valid. You need information that is easy to find and use.
6. Focus your topic even more by doing a topic list or even an unorganized idea page.
Some of these will overlap and make great main points; others will be discarded. Use the ones that are cohesive and communicate the same point but with different approaches.
7. Create a thesis.
Your thesis needs to be concise and argue a point. The thesis should also contain your main points and why they are in your arguments.
8. Take your page requirement or convert word requirement to pages and multiply by two.
This is roughly how many paragraphs you will need. Though two of these will be your introduction and conclusion.
9. Create your outline using your points from your idea paper and the main points in your thesis statement.
You should have about the same amount of main points and subpoints totaled as paragraphs that you need: five pages = 10 paragraphs, so two for introduction and conclusion, and eight for main and subpoints.
10. Make notes in your outline as to which sources go with which points.
Page numbers or at least chapter numbers are helpful to include here.
11. Once your paper is planned, take a five-minute break.
Go to the bathroom, grab a snack, or take a walk around the library.
12. Queue up your best paper-writing music and write.
Try to average about half a page or so for each point on your outline. Though this is not a strict guideline.
13. As your productivity wanes, take another five-minute break.
Just don't start scrolling or anything else that will distract you for longer than five minutes. The best thing is to stretch your legs. If you are in a real time crunch, sometimes creating your works cited/bibliography page feels like a mental break. You just don't want to slump.
14. When your paper is written, and if you still have a bit of time left, take another short break maybe for 10 or 15 minutes this time.
This break is also a good time to create the works cited/bibliography page.
15. Then proofread/edit your paper, even if for only five minutes.
You may catch simple mistakes that will save several points on your grade. It's worth doing.
16. Make sure all of the sources you cited are on your works cited page/ bibliography and that all the works you have on your works cited page/bibliography are used as sources in your paper.
Use Word's search tool and search for the identifier of the source (last name of author or title).
17. Finally, submit that paper!!!
You did it! Take a break, treat yourself with something small, like a coffee or pizza, and try to give yourself more time to write for your next paper.
While last-minute papers are not ideal and can be quite stressful, they happen often in college. So learn how to deal with them instead of being scared of them. Happy paper writing!