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Other Chemistry Major Advice

  1. Feb 25, 2017 #1
    Hi all, sorry if this is a little emotionally charged but I am a second semester sophomore chemistry major and I am very hard on myself about the grades I received in my major. First of all, I took the hardest possible general chemistry class as a first semester freshman because I wanted to be impressive and had no idea how hard college would be. It was an accelerated single-semester course that I did poorly in due to both exam anxiety and just lack of cultivated study skills (I never had to study in high school). Here is what my class grades look like:

    Freshman Fall:
    Gen Chem (accelerated single-semester): C+
    Gen Chem Lab: B+

    Freshman Spring:
    Organic Chem 1: B
    Organic Lab 1: A

    Sophomore Fall:
    Organic Chem 2: C+
    Organic Lab 2: B-

    Having two C+'s is really hurting my confidence in myself. Right now I'm in inorganic chemistry and my first midterm is in less than two weeks. I'm worried that, yet again, I'll perform poorly on exams no matter what I do. I've been exhibiting most symptoms of depression because I just feel like I'm not good for anything. I get worse grades in chemistry classes than a lot of people who don't even like chemistry! And I worked a lot harder in organic chem 2 than organic 1. It seems like I happened to have a lot of "bad luck" on exams that semester. They also purposefully made organic 2 lab so much harder. Basically, ever since freshman year I've been thinking that I'm way too stupid to be a chemistry major. It just hurts to see other people do so well without much effort and it's so hard to believe that I can do it. The bad grades make me think I should change my major, but there's nothing I'd rather be doing. I've taken classes in everything I find remotely interesting and those classes just bored me. And all my whinyness is distracting me from studying....
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 26, 2017 #2


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    A common misconception is that other people are effortlessly doing well while you're trying very hard and not achieving similar success. Science majors can be a cocky bunch, and initially many will simply lie about how hard they're actually trying. Long story short, you can't base how much work you're putting in compared to others based off their assertions.

    What you should focus on is what more can you be doing. Are you still not studying right the topics? Are you still not using your study sessions to their full extent? Your grades would say no.

    What can you do to fix it?

    First you actually have to cast out the ideas that you're too stupid to do chemistry and the anxiety you feel towards exams. Without doing that, it's just going to continue to consume you and fulfill some sort of self fulling prophecy that you can't do chemistry. Make a commitment right now that what's past is past and focus on now.

    Second, take a long hard look at your study habits. Are you spending too much time reading instead of working problems? Are you not spending enough deriving explanations in the text when they're not completely obvious to you? Are you seeking appropriate avenues of assistance? Like your professor, TA's, in lieu of harmful sources like Chegg/yahoo answers? Do you go to library and look at old examinations or other archived course materials? Do your study sessions last until you feel confident with the material or until show "x" comes on TV?

    Third, are you taking care of yourself? Are you sleeping, exercising, socializing? Are you keeping in touch with old friends and hobbies? Are you eating well? Do you lack confidence in other aspects of your life apart from academics?
  4. Feb 26, 2017 #3
    1) I know I do, and actually for the organic sequence I would always feel confident and well prepared before exams. Exam anxiety was mainly a problem in my first semester, but now it's coming back. It is very hard for me to regain confidence in myself.

    2) I knew someone would ask about my study habits. I do basically everything I "should" do. My methods of studying are redoing problems from homework and doing problems from old exams that the professor posts. When I get a problem wrong and don't understand why, I ask the professor or TA. For as long as I've been here I've gone to office hours as much as I could. In Organic 2 the problem was that all this random stuff would come up on tests that I would overlook because there would be one lecture slide on it. I also follow the "2-3 hours for every lecture hour" rule.

    3) I sleep fine, but I don't exercise at all. I have two "real" friends at school, but there's one club I go to twice a week. I eat enough meals a day too. I don't spend a huge amount of time on hobbies during semesters.
  5. Feb 26, 2017 #4


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    Do you identify difficulties you have the problem sets and then work additional problems from the book on those topics? That would seem more effective than reworking problems you already know how to solve.

    The 2-3 hour "rule" is nice thought, but not applicable to the sciences. You should study until you have the material covered in the textbook down, not the lecture slides.
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