The relief of getting a seat in a class that is required for one’s major may fade for students who find the class more challenging than expected. For these essential classes, some Trojans have tips on how to persevere and make a good grade.
Cathy Huang, a senior biomedical sciences major from Chayi, Taiwan, said that cell biology was the hardest class she has had to take for her major.
“I took cell biology in 2014 spring with Dr. (Christi) Magrath,” Huang said. “She is nice, in the first place, and she is very smart. Then, after meeting her, I realized that I had to get my life together.”
According to Huang, the key to succeeding under the pressure of copious material is for students to take notes and read the materials thoroughly.
“I took really good notes; I drew really good pictures,” she said. “Whenever there is picture, I drew it out, and would write all side notes that she gave and I would circle it.”
Huang also said it helped her to read her notes twice every day in preparation for exams, skim through past exam papers to know what to expect and consult the professors.
“Whenever you are confused, ask the professors,” she said. “If they do not have a flexible schedule, ask other professors in the department.”
For Kalen Busby, a senior English major from Holtville, acing a subject is a matter of dedication.
“If you don’t care about the subject, then it is going to be hard,” Busby said. “I care about grammar because, obviously, I have to teach it in the future.”
Advanced grammar and history of English language (HEL), according to Busby, are some of the tougher subjects in the English major. Course material for HEL starts with the International Phonetic Alphabet, a way of writing words according to the way they sound and not the spelling rules.
“It sets foundation for when we talk about old English, middle English,” Busby said. “When we talk about those, we know exactly how to pronounce the words.”
Busby said that studying hard was the only way to succeed in the class where one has to start from the bottom.
For computer science students learning different computer languages, web development class has one of the more difficult languages to learn, according to Sahil Hamal, a junior computer science major from Kathmandu, Nepal.
“All the languages that we do are based on programming languages,” he said. “When it comes to web development, the language kind of shifts.
“So, it’s more about HTML, CSS, which are not complete programming languages. So, it was something new for me. I had to make something from scratch. It was a challenging experience, but it all seems easy by the time you’ve made progress.”
Hamal said it was important to get the basics down right away in such classes.
“After you know the basics, all the other things start to get easier,” he said.
Despite the challenge of learning the basics, Hamal said there were tougher challenges — group projects.
“The hardest part about this (class) is how to work as a team: who does what section and how you manage time among yourselves,” he said.
Billy Hines, a senior political science major from Enterprise, also stressed the importance of participation.
“If you don’t participate in class and don’t engage in discussions, you will not get A’s in your politics classes,” Hines said.
Hines said he found political theory to be the most challenging course in his major so far.
“It was all Plato-Aristotle philosophical stuff,” he said. “Because it is theory — it’s not based on facts or reality — it’s all about how one person views reality, which makes it abstract and not firm.”
Whether it is the abundance of material, its unfamiliarity or its abstractness that brings students down, one piece of advice seems consistent — if students put in the work, they will get the grade.