Dear My Failed First Major,
Having pretty much transferred my entire first year's worth of credits because of Early College and Dual Enrollment courses, it never occurred to me that the major I chose as a high school student would change when I officially stepped foot on the university's campus. I had this dream I would graduate with a degree in chemistry with a minor in math. I believed I would make the grades, graduate, and pursue a career in Cosmetic Production in a lab owned by Urban Decay or L’Oréal or MAC. This was the way I wanted to live my life, and this was the job position I desperately wanted once my college career ended.
Instead, all I got from my first semester was my very obvious lack of chemistry study ability, the fact I had hit my mathematics peak in calculus during high school, and the most important lesson I will ever learn as a university student.
Honestly? I despise you, Chemistry, and I loathe you, Mathematics.
However, I bare no ill will towards these avenues of education. Let me explain.
When I began my first semester of college, I had a bright outlook for chemistry, and I was incredibly excited to delve into a subject I adored in high school. I thought I had it in me to pursue this topic from an educational standpoint, but as the grades started coming in, I began to wonder if chemistry and math are the real holders of my heart. Instead of flaking out, I set up a weekly session with a tutor and began meeting my teachers. I genuinely felt as though these avenues of extra aid would be the key to improving my grades and rebuilding my love for such subjects.
To say these options didn't help is a lie, of course, but it was not as much as needed. Now, as - essentially - a first time college student, ending the first semester with a GPA below a 3.0 can be both jarring (especially as a 4.0 high school graduate) and supremely disheartening. To say my confidence took a blow is an understatement. So, for the first few weeks of Christmas break, I wallowed around a bit, thinking about the past semester and where things went wrong. My first thought actually did not include changing my major. First, I wanted to figure out what I could fix. These thoughts included the following:
1. Move closer to the teacher.
This is essential to success. No, I'm not kidding. Do it. Get up there! Own that front row seat! No matter the size of the college, make that teacher learn your name. You're paying them for your success as a student. Make them know you.
2. Update study habits.
Another essential. Studying, as I learned towards the end of the fall semester and first week of the spring semester, is not an accumulation of the amount of hours. I studied like it was my job my first semester. I'm talking 30 - 40 hours’ worth of studying. If anything, my grades suffered. I didn't study much in high school (Heard that often?), and it was a major shock to the system when I realized how different college is. Not because it's difficult, but because I had no idea how to properly retain massive amounts of information at any given time. Short bursts of 30-50 minutes, 3 - 5 times a day, with a 5 - 10 minute break in between is the key. Trust me.
3. Identify weaknesses.
Everyone has an educational weakness. Bad at math? Find a way to get a tutor or see if you can set up weekly meetings with your teacher. English papers not up to par? See if your school has a writing center you can go to for edits. Utilize your campus.
4. Start a study group.
Study groups are a great way to not only meet new people, but they can help with understanding course concepts as well. Chances are, if you don't get it, someone else in your class does. Also, if possible, get at least one other student's number for those days you miss. You gotta get those notes from somewhere.
5. Chill out and relax.
For me, this is one of those "easier said than done" avenues of torture. When it comes to my education, it takes precedence, and I can sometimes get a little carried away and burn myself out early. Don't do this. There actually are more hours in the day than you think. You can make proper study time, but you also need time to step back and regroup from what you're learning. Non-studious contemplation is a way for your brain to build connections and continue slaving away over the information you've fed it for the day. The brain works through course work even when you're not consciously thinking of such things. This is why we can understand something better the next day.
6. Get involved.
Yes, you read that correctly. Education is very important. Feeling saddened by a lack of a social life or simply feeling lonely on campus can be detrimental. Despite what you may think, social lives affect other avenues of life, including education. It is important to get to know people which share your interests. It will help you be happier because you're involved and accepted by a group of students you can go to for things other than your current courses. You not only make friends, but you can also find a way to relax (refer to #5). The happier and more calm a student is on campus outside of class, the more likely it is that grades will continue to rise. I speak from personal experience.
So, those are my top 6 tips for college/studying. Funny thing is, as much as these helped me, they never did help me in chemistry. I ended up changing my major to management with a minor in management information systems before the spring semester of my first year began. I took my time during Christmas break to really dig deep and analyze my personal desires for my education and future career. Luckily, my future didn't change that much. I still want to work in the cosmetic business, but instead of making things, I can simply run everything. Given my personality, I definitely made the right choice and found my right major.
You, too, can find your major of choice. With a little effort and thinking, you can find where you belong.
So, to conclude, I want to say how grateful I am to My Failed First Major. Regardless of the grades or my GPA, I learned so much from that first semester experience, and I will never regret the time I put in to pass those classes. Every minute was worth it. All the hard work showed me I have it in me to do anything I put my mind to - educational or otherwise.
Thank you, My Failed First Major.
The Student Who Found Major Right.