Organic Chemistry: A Science Major’s Hell on Earth

I’d like to be able to offer comfort to all science majors out there who have to take organic chemistry and say its not as bad as you hear but unfortunately it was. Unless organic chemistry just comes naturally for you and it clicks in your brain, you will have to study and do extra work to get the grade you want. I just finished my first, and luckily only, semester of Organic and I just barely managed to get the grade I needed to pass. In fact, after the final I was on the verge of tears because I thought there was a chance I didn’t get the grade I needed to pass the class. So I’m hoping to save some of y’all the trouble and share some things that helped or would’ve helped me with the class.

  1. Choose your class wisely. This is definitely one of those times where I would research my professors before taking a class. Organic has hard enough material as it is, you don’t need to add a hard professor to the mix. So read reviews on RateMyProfessors.com, but be thorough, don’t just look at the average rating. Read through the comments and decide for yourself if that professor fits your learning style. Also use your connections, typically you don’t take organic your freshman year, so ask people you know who they’ve taken or what they have heard about different professors. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the best professor but it definitely makes your semester a lot smoother. My roommate and I both took organic this past semester but we had different professors, we compared our tests from over the semester and mine were much more difficult than her’s. Her professor gave them some multiple choice questions as well as let them know what information they would be tested on. While my professor’s tests were all free response which he graded strictly. 
  2. Be prepared going in. I cannot tell you how much I wished I had prepared better going into the class. I especially recommend knowing functional groups backwards and forwards before the semester even begins. Know what they look like, their names and be able to take a large compound, like amoxicillin, and identify all of the functional groups in it. Also be familiar with acids and bases, know the definitions of each for Bronstead-Lowry and Lewis and be able to identify strong or weak acids and bases in reactions. This will provide a better foundation so you don’t get behind and struggle to keep up when you begin learning the hard material.     
  3. Have a game plan and stick to it. If reading the textbook helps you, do it or go ahead and buy extra material to help you out and give you extra practice. I wish I had kept up with doing this, it would’ve made studying for tests much less stressful. Read the class syllabus and see if your professor recommends a certain book or email him or your TAs and ask them what they would recommend. I also recommend using videos on the internet if you still aren’t sure about a topic or if you want to be exposed to the information before you start the class. KhanAcademy.org was pretty helpful for me with reviewing the basics of organic so if you have time before or at the start of the semester watch some of their videos to expose yourself to the material and it’ll  help with remembering it later on.
  4. Take good notes IN A NOTEBOOK. Organic is all about the structures of molecules so you need to be able to draw things out and do it quickly during lecture. If you have a program on an electronic device that will allow you to do it than thats great but in my experience a notebook worked best. I also kept at least one colored pen out to highlight things I felt were important like the arrows showing where atoms or electrons move in a reaction.
  5. Take advantage of all opportunities. Do the homework. Go to class. Get help from TAs. Any opportunity to boost your grade is worth the extra effort, even if you did great on your first test. Usually thats on the easiest material and it goes downhill fast in organic, so keep making any extra effort to help keep your grade as high as possible. Having some extra wiggle room will be nice at the end of the semester and you won’t be like me stressing over the fact that I might’ve failed the class (Happiest day of my life when I realized I passed and wouldn’t have to retake it). 

Good luck with organic and if you have any tips to add let me know.

A New Chapter

With the start of my sophomore year of college, I made a goal of becoming more involved on campus than I had been my freshman year. Even though I am only a little over a month into the year, I can pat myself on the back for being successful.

First, a friend convinced me to join a committee for student government. At the University of South Carolina, these committee positions are pretty low stress opportunities to get involved on campus and voice your opinions on whatever topic your committee is discussing. I am officially a member of two, one dealing with scholastic standards and the other with health services, which is also a benefit to my resume since I am going into healthcare. During high school, I was never involved with student government, it just didn’t seem like my thing so I participated in other things. Now,even though I never saw myself doing it, I am involved and I am enjoying it. I like the idea of making decisions that will benefit not only me and my fellow Gamecocks but future ones as well.

The second, and probably most life changing, decision I have made is that I have joined a sorority. This was a pretty impulsive decision but over the summer when I was with some of my friends who had gone through recruitment, it made me really regret not going through it. But I decided not to do it as a sophomore for various reasons one of which is that it can be very expensive at my school.Then during the first few weeks of campus I kept passing this light blue tent. When one of the women there mentioned that it was for a social sorority, I later googled it to learn more and I decided to go to an interest meeting to find out more, because “why not? it can’t hurt.” and that resulted in a weekend filled with recruitment activities.

Pi Beta Phi was rechartering it’s SC Alpha chapter on the USC campus. The women who would accept bids after recruitment would be members of the charter class and set the foundation for the future generations of women who would become Pi Phi’s. This sorority appealed to me in numerous ways. The first and most obvious being that it was a social sorority and it offered me an experience that I thought I had missed out on. Then I learned about the sorority’s goals and philanthropy, as well as met the representatives and I felt like it was a group of women that I wanted to be a part of. And finally, I met the other women going through recruitment. Many of them were like me, interested in starting something and making an impact but not interested in the Greek stereotype from the media or fitting into a mold carved by a sorority’s reputation on campus. We all loved the idea of being the first class and creating a positive reputation. On Saturday night, when I got the email telling me “Congratulations!” on getting a bid to Pi Beta Phi, I felt like I was walking on air.

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Although there have only been a couple of meetings so far since bid day, I am starting to meet my new sisters and I cannot believe how much I already love it. The women I have met so far are fantastic and I know in my heart that this is not an experience I will regret. And this is my lesson for all my fellow college students or for those high school seniors about to venture into this new world. Don’t be afraid to get involved but make sure it feels right and it is something you are truly interested in, even if you have never done it before or shown an interest. College is about change and expanding your horizons, so meet people, grow, and find whatever organization allows you to do these things while being yourself.

College Tips: The Waiting Game

So you’ve finished ALL of your applications, what happens next? You wait. Wait for that oversized envelope stating “Congratulations!” or the “I’m sorry to inform you” letter that no one wants to see. There’s not much you can do during this time except enjoy your senior year. If you want to be productive on the college front

  1. Make sure your on track to graduate. Worrying about college acceptance shouldn’t be your main concern if your grades, especially in required classes, are suffering due to a case of senioritis.
  2. More applications. Start looking into additional scholarships and begin applying to receive the financial aid. Some applications can be quite extensive so get started (hopefully you saved the information form your college apps to cut down on the work) so you can finished before the due dates. They also probably require teacher recommendations so give those to your teachers ASAP so they have plenty of time to work on them.
  3. Retake exams. Now I know taking the ACT and SAT are no one’s idea of a good time but you still have time to take these tests one or two more times to improve your scores. Better scores can increase the amount of scholarship money you are qualified to receive.

But there’s not much you have to do besides make sure you can graduate and wait for the day you get those letters in the mail. Hopefully you don’t have to wait too long to find out, I know it stresses everyone out.

College Tips: The Application Process

As a college student, who just finished their freshmen year, with a sister that is rising senior in high school, college is a highly discussed topic in my house. Anyone who has gone through the college process recently can tell you it is extensive, stressful and nerve-wracking . The key to avoiding the majority of this stress is to not procrastinate. My mother is a firm believer in being prepared, so about a dozen weekends my junior year were spent touring various colleges that either I or my parents were interested in. I definitely recommend touring during junior year, that way you can at least narrow down the list of colleges you want to apply to.

When it comes time to start applications, start as soon as possible. The summer before senior year, check when the colleges you want to apply to so that you know when they put up their applications (typically sometime in August). It’s important to start these before school starts, because you will be even busier with homework and activities and won’t want to spend hours filling out personal information and writing essays. Applications are already painful enough without adding the stress of school to it. 

Here’s some tips to be prepared for applications:

  1. Have your information ready. Applications ask for information about your family’s finances, test scores (including the individual scores on the different sections),and your high school GPA. Anytime an application asks for information you do not know off the top of your head, save it in a document because you never know if you next applications will ask the same question and you don’t want to waste time figuring out the answer for a second time.
  2. Compile a list of high school activities. Every college’s application has a section that asks for your extracurricular activities so have a list prewritten including the years you participated. Where you a member of the Spanish Club freshman and sophomore years? Played tennis all four? Sing in choir junior year? Dance on the dance team at games and competitions?
  3. Think about applying early. Some colleges allow students to apply early which also enable you to find out sooner if you were accepted. BUT be careful, there is a difference between, Early Action and Early Decision. If an application is Early Decision that means that your acceptance is binding and that if you are accepted you agree to attend that college. If you are 100% certain you want to go to a college that offers that, than by all means apply Early Decision but if not just do Early Action. Also do not apply Early Decision to more than one school because if you get into both then you have to pay tuition for both regardless of which one you decide.
  4. Don’t procrastinate. Just get them done so that you have one less thing to worry about senior year. 
  5. Save everything. The compilation of school activities and the information mentioned earlier (#1 & #2), save those for later. As well as copies of all your essays, you can possibly use them for other applications including the ones you will have to fill out at the end of senior year for scholarships (it just never seems to end)

Hope that helps some of you. Good luck with everything and goodnight.