What, like it’s hard?

Contrary to popular belief, we at Bwog don’t just spend all of our time taste-testing dick fountain water but actually need to go to class. And of course, as per our course requirements, those include STEM classes. Whether you already won the Nobel Prize in physics or you have no idea what a differential equation is, we at Bwog are here to hold your hand through it.

First, if you started reading this post thinking you just “aren’t a STEM person,” I need you politely shut the f up.

  • Just because you are not doing as well as you think, or it takes you longer to do the pset, does not mean “you are just not a STEM person. ” In the intro classes, some of the other students already took the SAME class with the SAME material in high school so of course you are taking longer to understand it if it’s your first time seeing code or three dimensional graph. This is especially true if you don’t see a lot of people who share the same identities/background as you in your class (gender/ethnicity).  You can do well (!!!) and it’s okay to spend more time and to struggle. That does not make you stupid. Seriously.

And trust me, some of us at Bwog have been through it. Here are some testimonials:

  • I once got a D on a genetics test and my therapist told me “congratulations” – and it wasn’t a dig. She meant congratulations that I had finally gotten the dreaded “bad grade” on a test and I survived. I physically lived through it. We’re so scared of the possibility of a bad grade, but once I finally got there for the first time, it became way less scary to me. I’m not saying fail on purpose, what I am saying is if you fail, then congratulations. You made it through. Now there’s nowhere to go but up. 
  • I bombed my 1004 midterm and it felt a bit devastating because I spent a lot of time studying for it, but I pulled through for the final because I kept going and figured out what I didn’t understand and kept on practicing. Believe in the process. If you put in the work consistently, have some faith that it will be okay.
  • Accept that the grades you get back may not be so pretty. It may be shocking at first but know that most people around you are also not doing too hot AND there are usually fat curves. Cut yourself some slack!

And while you’re at it, make some friends along the way! If you don’t get invited to parties, just think of your STEM classes as gigantic, hopefully COVID-safe, 400+ people ragers! It’s just like gov ball.

  • Make a study group ASAP. It makes problem sets and studying for exams much more bearable and you can learn a lot from your peers and teach them a lot too!
  • Join student organizations that are relevant to your major if you are planning to major in STEM. they provide super helpful resources and also are a great way to meet people to study for classes or just hang out generally!

Here’s a good playlist to really get you in the mood.

Also, ask, ask, ask away!

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions even if you think they’re stupid. Ok, so maybe that one annoying person in your class who acts like they already won the Nobel Prize might roll their eyes. But the majority of the class will probably appreciate getting extra clarity on the material from your question and most importantly you’ll be able to get a better understanding (particularly if your lecture is on the medium to small side).

Ok, but seriously though, use your resources.

  • If you are honest to god struggling and think your grade might be in danger, talk to the professor as early as possible to see what you can do. Most professors will try to help you and explain your chances of getting a higher grade. If you go later in the semester, you might risk being stuck with the grade you have.
  • Columbia’a advising center can set you up with a peer tutor for most STEM subjects– reach out to your assigned academic advisor and they’ll ask you a few questions and then set you up.
  • Go to a math help room. As you might have guessed, they can help you with math.
  • Barnard students: If you have trouble speaking up in class, the Speaking Center can help you out!
  • Also for Barnard Students: Writing Fellows aren’t just for written essays! Science Fellows are trained to help with lab reports and science papers. Columbia students taking a Barnard science class (like Gen Chem or Intro Bio) can use the Science Fellows too!
  • Go to office hours. TA’s may or may not just help you do your homework problems. Also it’s a good way to connect with professors if you go to a professor’s office hours.

And finally, keep your shit together!

  • Mortifying ordeal of being known, yes, but sit close to the front if you can. It helps you pay attention and discourages you from getting distracted by your phone or computer. 
  • If your class is mainly slideshow-based, like an introductory biology class, printing out or downloading the slides and then marking those up can really help you keep up in class when it’d take too long to draw out the diagrams as the prof talks.
  • Keep notes from your previous STEM classes! You may find yourself referring back to them.
  • Science editor Sarah Braner suggests that you go through the textbook and condense each page into a sticky note. It will help you pair down the material and prepare you with points for a review section. And when you are done with the class you can throw them all away and feel ~cleansed~.
  • I’m not saying don’t procrastinate, I’m just saying if you are going to procrastinate, do it with your other classes; staying up late and crying over not understanding something for a big STEM project due the next day is legitimately one of The Worst Feelings.

A little known fact about Bwog is that we are the student organizatoin at Columbia with the most number of Nobel prize winners in science. Therefore, this is some golden advice. Source: just trust me. Now you’ve gotten everything you need it, go yonder and spread your wings!

coding via Bwog Archives