Skip to main content

Why the second year of life science is the worst

by Hafsa Zia

via GIPHY

Second year Life Science has a bad rep. After having been through it, I can say it is definitely challenging but also 100% doable. What do I mean by doable? I mean that you can still achieve your personal, academic and professional goals.

via GIPHY

So why exactly does the second year get a bad rep? I think it can be broken down into 3 things that students fear the most (amongst other things of course)

  1. Courses are heavier in terms of content.
  2. Labs, labs and more labs.
  3. The almighty organic chemistry.

via GIPHY

In the second year (and onwards), your courses have brand new content that you've probably never covered before. On top of that, there is a LOT of content for multiple courses. This means that if you don’t stay on top of your work by actively & consistently revising content then it will pile up.

via GIPHY

This leads to getting overwhelmed the week of a midterm or final, and more often than not results in a grade that you’re not happy with, or knowing that you could’ve done better.

So my advice on how to conquer this? Create a schedule for weekly content review for all your courses and try to stick to it. You’ll thank yourself later.

via GIPHY

Next on the menu we have labs!

via GIPHY

Second-year labs are a little different from 1st-year labs in that we start to write actual lab reports instead of filling out an assignment. Labs also start to comprise a significant portion of the final grade, so doing well on labs is crucial to doing well on the course.

To do well on your lab reports, visiting your TA’s office hours or booking an appointment is key. Their insight and advice are necessary for doing well on lab reports, especially in the beginning. Depending on your TA’s preference, they may even be open to looking over your work through email. So talk to your TAs! They're there to help you succeed (plus they're just cool people to talk with)

via GIPHY

Secondly, labs take up a lot of space in your schedule. They're 3 hours long and can be bi-weekly or weekly (Organic Chemistry). In addition to those 3 hours, labs usually require 3 to 4 hours outside of the lab for lab reports, looking over the protocol/manual and prepping for the pre-lab quiz. So, again, time management is key! Planning specific time slots in your schedule for lab work is important in order to not fall behind and to do well.

via GIPHY

Notice how before, I talked about planning out your course content review and now lab work. That’s right. The key to success in 2nd year is time management. In my opinion, the 2nd year really tests your time management skills and how well you're able to prioritize tasks.

via GIPHY

Lastly, we talk about the almighty Organic Chemistry. The second year has two organic chemistry classes. Introduction to Organic Chemistry (CHEM2020) and Organic Chemistry (CHEM2021).

via GIPHY

Introduction to Organic Chemistry by popular opinion isn’t deemed as 'hard' by students but Organic Chemistry is. I believe there are 2 reasons for this.

  1. A lot of new course material building off of intro orgo
  2. Weekly labs

The key to understanding the new course material is to do the homework questions when they are assigned! Letting them pile up and doing them the week of the midterm is not the same thing as doing the homework as it is assigned. If you don’t understand a question, visit your professors or TAs office hours to get help.

Falling behind in organic chemistry is very easy, and can be detrimental to your grade as course material builds on each other.

I may sound like a broken record at this point but having weekly time slots in your schedule to do the homework and understand the material is important.

via GIPHY

Also for all the reaction mechanisms, consider flashcards or anything along those lines to help you understand and memorize all the different reactions. Being able to recall these reactions and reaction mechanisms is very important for the course.

In terms of the weekly labs, I have the same advice as for the other labs. Pick certain times of the week to dedicate to lab work and visit TA office hours for help frequently.

via GIPHY

For example, my organic chem lab was every Monday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. On Wednesday when I had time between classes, I would work on my lab report for the lab I just completed. On Saturdays, I would work on prepping for the next lab. That included filling out my lab notebook with all the necessary details required and by writing my required introduction for the next lab. On Monday morning at 10 a.m., I would visit my TA’s office hours to go through my work and print it off just before my lab. Printing just before the lab can be a little dangerous (especially since printers can smell your fear) but there was no other time for me to visit office hours. And so I did what was necessary for me to do well on my lab report. I actually didn’t encounter any printer problem since there are so many printers available on campus (thank goodness).

via GIPHY

So all in all, the main takeaway is time management and communicating with your TAs for help.

via GIPHY

2nd year has actually been one of my favourite years. Despite it being challenging, I genuinely enjoyed it. Made some great friends, met some awesome professors and learned a lot of cool stuff.

via GIPHY