As classes begin and routines shift this fall, the new semester brings with it a season of change. As our students adjust to new schedules that include a mixture of online and hybrid courses, feelings that range from excitement, to nervousness, to anxiety, to uncertainty are normal as we kick off a school year that stands as a sharp departure from the typical college experience.
To help navigate this new chapter, the College of Sciences reached out to a second-year neuroscience student, along with the Center for Academic Success, to ask: What are your top tips for a successful semester?
Fredrick Holloman is a learning specialist and academic coach in the Georgia Tech Advising & Transition Office.
What steps can students take to improve or aid their learning experience for online or hybrid courses?
There are many actions students can take to create the best academic experience. Identifying a dedicated space to complete work is essential because it encourages consistency. Creating a schedule that includes study time, review time, and leisure time reduces mismanagement of time. Finally, get enough rest. Working from a computer for extended periods can be mentally draining. Proper sleep and exercise can boost energy and keep the mind alert.
What are the biggest mistakes students make in classes, and how can those mistakes be avoided?
Students often assume that the class is going to be easy because it started that way. Classes should be approached similarly, meaning every class should be on a student’s study schedule regardless of the difficulty level. Leave no class off the schedule.
What skills or qualities do you see repeatedly in students successful in their coursework?
Students who preview and review the course material experience the most success. Staying ahead of the class is one of the best strategies for success, both academically and mentally. Similarly, students who pretest before an exam tend to perform better than those who complete a couple of practice problems.
If a student is struggling with their coursework, what resources should they should turn to?
The first resource should always be the professor or TA in the class. Students want to engage those responsible for teaching the material first. Afterward, students should consider tutoring, academic coaching, and advising since advisors can be a great resource of information.
Do you have any other tips or advice for incoming students?
Learning is active and unlimited, meaning we can learn from all of our experiences. If the test results are not the expected outcome, use the opportunity to evaluate what went wrong so that the next attempt can be successful. We learn as much, if not more, from setbacks as we do from successes.
Annabelle Thomas is a second-year neuroscience major from Flowery Branch, Georgia.
What activities and organizations are you involved in on campus?
I am the Women’s Captain of Club Tennis, the Vice President of Project Smile, I'm in a social sorority, and I work for the football team as a video assistant.
What is your favorite part about your major?
Neuroscience is a fairly new program, so the faculty are very dynamic with their teaching approach and consider what students have had to say about the classes. Midway through the semester, the professors for Neuroscience 2001 had an outside moderator come in to invite students to give feedback on how the class was going so far. The professors then took our responses and implemented some changes right away, while saying they would change some other things the next time they taught the class. For example, they would sometimes give us a worksheet in class to go over with our peers about what we just learned, and we all really liked that and asked that they do that more since it helped remember the content we just talked about. It’s nice to be able to contribute to my learning experience and know that the faculty respect and care for the students.
Do you have any stories of success from your first year at Tech?
I was failing chemistry halfway through the spring semester. I had studied so hard for a test and still bombed it. I talked to the professor and some other mentors, and after a long decision I decided to not withdraw from the class and stick it out. I changed my study strategies, went to office hours, utilized tutoring services, and ended up with an A! I just had a hard time grasping the concepts. I didn't know how to approach a lot of the problems and such. To fix this, I first completed the optional reading guides to help cement what was talked about in lecture. Second, I used the 1-on-1 tutoring services through [Georgia Tech Tutoring & Academic Support]! I would schedule a tutoring session once a week to go over practice tests with the tutors, and they would help direct me if I wasn't doing something quite right on a problem. I highly recommend using the 1-on-1 tutoring services — having access to free tutoring through the school has been a lifesaver in my chemistry classes.
What advice do you have for other students?
Utilize the Center for Academic Success! I used their 1-on-1 tutoring services frequently, and the tutors truly were the best. Even if you don’t have explicit questions to ask, it’s nice to have someone who can help you review things. As I mentioned, the tutoring made the difference in improving my learning experience, and helped make passing chemistry possible!
Have any professors inspired or mentored you?
Dr. Carrie Shepler! She is a wonderful teacher who not only is passionate about her subject but makes it easy to understand. I’ve intentionally taken classes taught by her during several semesters because of how helpful she is. I’ve even gone to her for help in a class that she wasn’t teaching, because I knew her teaching style would help me understand the material.
Are there any unique experiences you were able to participate in your first year?
At the beginning of the summer, I participated in a virtual hack-a-thon. The task was to come up with a solution related to Covid-19 problems. I stumbled across this opportunity in the Georgia Tech Class of 2023 Facebook page, where someone posted about needing another team member — shoutout Andy Jiang! I was intrigued with the healthcare aspect of the project (since I am on the premed track) while utilizing the skills Georgia Tech gives us, like a background in coding. While my team of first years didn't place, we all enjoyed the opportunity to work together to try to solve a problem. I think it is very important to look for opportunities like this because you can expand your thinking when approaching problems, and you can connect with different people on campus.