Ask MSURJ: What have we learned in undergrad?

From some outgoing editors:

Shannon (B.Sc (Physics), ’13) :

  1. Find a club or extracurricular that you are interested in, ASAP. Friends and interests outside your major are important, and any kind of office-space access you can score will be invaluable for studying, especially if you can store an electric kettle an instant coffee there.
  2. You’re never going to see these people after this. Don’t be shy to talk to strangers. Don’t be shy to dance on tables.
  3. Don’t feel left out. Not everyone has a top-notch GPA, though lots of people will try to make you think otherwise.
  4. Speak up. This goes for both questions and complaints. Other people won’t think you’re silly; they’ll be grateful.
  5. Talk to your profs. In the future, universities are just going to be laptops and a wireless connection. In-person interaction can be scary, but it is also one of the great things about being in university.
  6. See a therapist, if you need to. Despite what the  manic-pixie-dream-girl paradigm has tried to teach us, anxiety does not make you cute. It just sucks.
  7. This too shall pass.
    (7a. This place will make you feel like crap sometimes; you are never ever actually crap.)
  8. If you text or call a romantic interest once and they don’t seem into it, they’re just not into it. It’s not your fault.

Natalie (B.Sc (Psychology), ’13):

  1. You’re allowed to change your mind about what you want (major, career, etc.).
  2. Once you do find what you’re passionate about, stick with it and work for it – there is always a way to accomplish whatever you want, whether that’s grad school, med school, or something else.
  3. It’s a good idea to get involved in groups and clubs and other things besides pure academics – yes, it will look good on your CV, but more importantly it will help keep you sane.
  4. No, it’s not a good idea to start that paper in an hour, start it now. Game of Thrones can wait.
  5. Sleep is your friend, but coffee is your best friend.

Irene (B.Sc. (Biochemistry) ’13): 

  1. Choose your first lab wisely.
  2. Move your McGill email to your Gmail to defeat the 200MB inbox limit. First, use Gmail to send mail as first.last@mail.mcgill.ca, then follow McGill’s steps here to permanently move your McGill inbox.
  3. Google Scholar > PubMed, every time. The former sorts by relevance (a.k.a citations), while the latter just sorts by date. GS points you towards the higher-impact papers that will usually be more useful at the undergraduate level.
  4. Do things even if you’re terrible at them. You’ll be a better person.
  5. On the same note, you’d be surprised at how much French you can learn just by forcing yourself to speak it to strangers.
  6. The roof of Stewart Biology is a great place for lunch.

From some of this year’s new editors:

Deborah (B.A. & Sc. (Cognitive Science)):

  1. Sometimes attending lectures is unnecessary and a waste of time. This isn’t a moral issue – don’t feel obliged to attend classes where the professor just reads the textbook to you for two hours.
  2. Prepping pre-lecture notes: it really helps.
  3. Anki flashcards will save your life if you let them.
  4. Don’t put up with anything that makes you miserable; you’re in university now, you’ve got the independence to change it.
  5. Always bring tissues to an exam – even if you aren’t sick, the person behind you might be. And concentrating through three hours of their sniffling isn’t fun.

Kevin (B.Sc. (Neuroscience)):

  1. Plan out your study schedule.  This way you can know exactly what needs to done and by when.
  2. Organize your notes after class. I found this very helpful, especially when finals hit.  I didn’t have to lose any time organizing them before I dove in.
  3. If possible, take your notes by hand.  By copying things you don’t know, longhand, you can help reminder what you need to focus on again the next day.
  4. SLEEP! Here is how I see it: I think I will do better on a test when I get enough sleep and studying a little less, rather than staying up late and sacrificing sleep.
  5. Take classes outside of your comfort zone. There is nothing better than taking classes from various disciplines. (For example, taking 5 physiology classes is very overwhelming.  It won’t kill you to mix things up a little!)

Ariana (B.Sc. (Computer Science, Biology): 

  1. Do a bit of work on an assignment the day the professor assigns it. At least you get something productive done.
  2. If you know that you’re going to have weekly assignments for the same class, plan them out on your calendar and complete them when you don’t have to do anything else.
  3. Always inquire about how your assignment/exam was graded. Don’t be rude, but if you find something that you are genuinely concerned with, just go up and ask them. Most TA’s/Profs are very willing to look at this.
  4. Don’t learn new material the day before the exam.
  5. Work backwards when you’re studying. It seems that a lot of professors like to test material that they taught recently, so it makes sense to study with that in mind.
  6. I learned this the hard way… but calm down before exams. Oh, and eat, that’s important too.
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