Love Your Courses, Even If They’re Stale

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You know those conversation hearts you get for Valentine’s Day? People either love them or hate them. One type of person will buy them all 50 percent off after February 14 and eat them through final exams. The other type of person will nicely eat one in front of the person that gave them the candy and then they’ll sit on their desk until finals. Unfortunately, core courses for graduation requirements can be very much the same as the little candy hearts. You’re either into them or you’re not. If you’re having trouble keeping interest in a stale course, try and keep up or risk taking it again next fall.
Jennifer Lowe, junior at the University of Delaware, was in a tough situation her with a pair of lame classes her sophomore year. She was required to take accounting and statistics and made the mistake of taking both during the same semester. Although she went to tutoring and talked to professors and classmates she still earned a failing D in both.

In order to pass the second time, she had to figure out how to stay engaged in topics she wasn’t interested in. She started by retaking them in different semesters, then she went to her professors. “My new professors were able to work with me to find the best way for me to understand the material,” said Lowe. “I learned how to manipulate the material in a way that my visual-learning mind could really grasp the concepts. By the end of my second go around, I was tutoring my classmates and ended up with an A-plus in both.

Conversation heart: A-pluses 4 U     

Katie Schumacher, a junior at Christopher Newport University, earned a D in physical chemistry. With only one section taught by one professor, she had to make the most of it if she wanted to stay on track for graduation.

“I went to office hours [and] tried to make it to a weekly homework session,” said Schumacher. “It didn’t keep me interested really, but it helped me keep my head above water.” With a class that was so infamous that it warranted a bumper sticker that read, “Honk if you passed P Chem,” Schumacher’s strategy seemed to be a good one.

Conversation heart: Pass & Party

Esther Fleischmann, a senior lecturer in the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, knows from teaching countless introduction courses that it is hard to keep students’ interest. “The classes are large, and for some students the material is already familiar. The course is often a survey, not going into much depth, and that too may make it seem less interesting than the topic really is,” she explains.

From a professor’s prospective, what should you do? Fleischmann says: 

  • "Always go into the class with a positive attitude."
  • "Forum study groups to talk about the material."
  • Read “in depth about some of the material covered [to] make the subject come to life.”
  • “Engage the teacher,” because “teachers often enjoy talking about the course with students.”

If all of these strategies fail, Fleischmann suggests, “sometimes it is necessary to just do the work and put in the best possible effort, knowing that at least some of the information will be pertinent at a later time.”

Conversation heart: 4-Prong Approach

Sophomore > Marketing and Finance > University of Maryland

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