The Chemist: My Dark Semester
Okay so if you know me, then you know that I take my grades VERY seriously. I'm basically an overachiever, always have been. Undergrad was no different, until my dark semester. As a chemistry major, you have certain classes you have to take before you graduate and they get HARD the longer you're in the program - as with all majors. One semester, trying to overachieve and get a lot of classes out of the way, I decided to take Physics 2 for Engineers, Organic Chemistry, Calc 3, and Physics Lab all in one semester....BAD IDEA! BAD IDEA! BAD IDEA!
I honestly cannot stress how bad of an idea this was my spring semester of my sophomore year. I had just chosen my major and didn't know my advisor all that well yet, so I had no real guidance. I thought I was smart enough to tackle all of that and the inevitable happened.......my grades sucked! For people that know me they are probably thinking I'm exaggerating, but I'm completely serious. That semester was the only one on my transcript that was really under a 3.0. I was completely devastated. I was on a scholarship at Pitt where I had to keep my cumulative gpa at a 3.0 and I was scared my parents were going to have to find an extra $10k to pay my tuition.
Needless to say, I survived, didn't lose my scholarship, and graduated with a pretty good gpa overall. But here's HOW that was all possible:
1. I didn't play games my freshman year!
Going into college we all think we can just get by using the same cramming techniques we used in high school, but you can't! College is a time where you're finding yourself, adjusting moving away from home, learning to live with roommates, trying to have a social life, etc. but DO NOT LET THAT AFFECT YOUR GRADES. Make sure you knock out those easy electives so you leave yourself wiggle room for a dark semester of your own.
2. I asked for help.
A lot of people are afraid to go ask for help when they don't understand something because, like I was as a sophomore, I thought I was "too smart" for it. I'm here to tell you, it is okay if you don't understand something. THAT'S NORMAL. I know now I do not understand organic chemistry, and that's fine. I'm an analytical chemist that doesn't touch any kind of synthesis - so it works out. Asking for help can be as simple as forming a study group with some of your classmates and going over homework together, going to your TA's office hours, or meeting with your professor one-on-one, but still go talk to someone - STEM is hard, so use your resources.
3. My advisor and I were close.
After that semester, I got to know my advisor and she and I were able to talk about where I wanted to go in the field and she helped me do what I needed to do to get to where I am today. So I highly suggest building real relationships with your advisor, they'll be the ones helping you network.
4. I didn't let that one semester get the best of me.
This one is the most important. Yes, I was devastated my grades sucked that semester, but I made sure I was balancing my schedule and devoting enough time to each class the rest of my time at Pitt. You are not always going to get a 4.0, trust me, but you always have to make sure you're doing your best and you aren't taking on too many responsibilities. College is a balance so make sure you are getting your work done, taking care of yourself, and enjoying being in college responsibly.
I say all of that to say this, we all have obstacles we have to overcome and I want you to know you are not alone. Make sure you have someone to talk to that has your best interest at heart and don't be afraid to go to them. Life is hard, but a #MacScientist isn't a #MacScientist without her support system to get her through those dark semesters.