College is a challenging time for every student. The cool thing about UMass is that you can find every kind of student here on campus. We have such a diverse student body and opportunities for everyone. So whether you’re a poetry whiz, a soil enthusiast, or even a horse lover, there’s something here for you. (I’m not joking when I say I’ve found people studying in all three of these unconventional subjects). But there is one thing that every UMass student has in common: They need to work hard. It’s no secret that UMass is becoming increasingly competitive. To excel here, you must be be driven to succeed.
When I first started my freshman year, I felt kind of lost. I’m currently a psychology major on the neuroscience track, meaning I’m part of the College of Natural Sciences (CNS). My advisors told me from the very first day I set foot on campus that I would need to work diligently in order to succeed in this major. Studying science requires commitment and passion. So, here’s some advice I have on what life as a CNS major at UMass Amherst is like and some tips to succeed...
We’ve all taken high school science: biology, chemistry, physics. But these terms are so broad. When studying science at a higher level, you can concentrate your studies on a specific type of science. There’s molecular biology, biochemistry, geology, and much more. So, in your first few semesters, really pay attention to what units interest you most so that you can focus on them later. College is all about finding your passion. It’s okay to not like something. It’s okay to change your mind. Just make a conscious effort to figure out what you love.
Don’t think that going to lectures is all you need to do as a CNS major. Lecture is the basis of your studies, but to really understand a concept you need to study, practice, and ask questions all outside of lecture. There are a number of resources to help you in this. In Du Bois Library, there’s a place called the Learning Resource Center. There you can find tutors for virtually every subject. There are also supplemental instructors for many difficult courses. These instructors are older undergraduate students who have a passion and in-depth knowledge who hold study sessions a few times a week. They make themselves very available and can help you with anything. Because they're also students, I’ve oftentimes found my supplemental instructors extremely valuable because they can relay the information you need to know in a more relatable way.
Learn to love going to labs. For many classes, there’s a required laboratory section you need to attend. You’ll perform a multitude of experiments that will deepen your understanding of the material you learn in lecture. You need to realize that labs are simulating a lot of what you will be doing as a potential scientist in the real world, so it is important to get used to being part of them. You should also look to participate in labs independent of the required ones for your classes. To do this, just look up different professors and reach out to them. Ask if they’re running a lab and if you can join. It may seem awkward, but it’s the best way. It’ll help build your confidence and get you a really cool opportunity as well.
Lastly, keep an eye on the future. Have an idea of what you want to do with what you learn here at UMass. Go to CNS Career Advising. Over there they can help you with everything, from writing your resume to finding the right internship. Get to know professors who run the CNS department. Join clubs related to your major. It’s a really good way to network and get advice from students who are slightly older and have similar interests as you. The science community at UMass is very strong. Take advantage of it.
If you want a stress-free and smooth college experience, science may not be exactly for you. You will be tired. You will be stressed. You will have to work harder than you ever have. But if you really love science and can be proactive, then you can thrive here at UMass as a student in the College of Natural Sciences.