Written by: Mary Prior
So you’ve decided to enroll in psyc-101 and are unsure about what to expect. Maybe you’re majoring in psychology, or maybe you just want to get a bit of a taste of what psychology is all about. All first year courses can seem a little bit intimidating at first—especially before they even start. It’s the anticipation before classes begin that can be the most worrisome. Not knowing how much work you need to put in order to do well, and the general fear of the unknown, can be anxiety-provoking for many. I have compiled a few tips that I figured out along the way, which helped me immensely in my introductory psychology classes.
- Prepare to read:
The first thing you need to know is that there is a lot of reading. Each chapter usually ranges from around 40-60 pages, which are all packed with pretty important information. My advice to you is to keep up with your readings. This is a class that you can’t get away with procrastinating in, because if you skip a week’s worth of reading…let’s just say you have a lot of catching up to do!
- Use cue cards:
If you’re like me and are unable to retain lots of information by simply reading it once, I would suggest making cue cards. For every chapter, there were around fifty definitions that were based on the main themes in the chapter. Knowing these definitions is a great starting point for really understanding and getting a grasp of the major themes in the chapter. Writing the definition on one side, and the key term on the backside of the cue card is a great way to test yourself to see If you know the material. There is even scientific evidence that has proven that testing yourself on the material you’re trying to learn is a very powerful aid in improving memory—so when it comes test and exam time, you will have retained the information significantly more effectively.
- Don’t let the math scare you:
I am definitely not a math person. I took grade 11 college math—that was all the background I had going into my intro to psych class. The key is to not let big formulas freak you out. Once you break everything down into smaller steps, it’s really not as bad as it looks at first glance. My professor told me: “if you can add, subtract, multiply and divide…you’ll be fine.” So challenge yourself, persevere, and ask for help if you’re stuck. This brings me to my next point…
- Go to office hours:
Many students don’t take advantage of office hours. However, I found going to office hours a huge help. Professors dedicate this hour or two per week to students in order to help out if you’re struggling, or even If you just need reassurance that you’re on the right track on an assignment. I should add though—go well before the due date of the assignment if you need clarification about something. If you wait too close to the due date, you not only look like a huge procrastinator, but you also might not even get a chance to speak with your prof; the week before an assignment is due is the time that most students seek out help.
So there you go! A little cheat sheet on how to do well in your first psychology class. If you study hard, and dedicate a chunk of time each day to studying, it’s certainly possible to ace this class. Happy studying!