By Zimeng Zhang
First of all, I would like to give you a warm welcome to the world of Science. It is a field full of wonder, discoveries, and may well be a gateway for you to contribute your significant part to this world.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree a few years ago with rather good GPA. I have never once regretted my decision to pursue the path of Science. In fact, I giggled during graduation and thought, as a little kid, I wanted to one day become a scientist. Now, I am a real-life, qualified scientist!
Personally, I wish I had more assistance from family or friends when I was deciding on my future study/ career path. In all reality, it is a daunting task for a teenager who is still rather hazy on the idea of being an adult one day. I would like to share some information, recommendations and advice on pursuing the field of Science, based on everything I have experienced, learnt and wished I knew.
Perhaps you are a high school student, perhaps you are sunbathing on an exotic beach for your gap-year – it is never too early, or too late, to start thinking about what you want to study in college/uni. I would advise starting as early as possible – brainstorm, research, academic preparation, application - these take up a lot more time than you may think.
When I was in grade 11, I faced a similar question from my education counsellor. I decided to approach it by writing down all the subjects I was doing in high school, and listed every possible profession I could do next to the respective subjects. Mathematics – Mathematician, teacher; History/Geography – Archaeologist, researcher, etc; Biology – Biologist; Vet; Health professional, etc.
This list effectively narrowed down on the possible future fields I am eligible of applying. By creating a list, you can do focused research (googling, asking friends, family or people working in the specific field) on the type of professions you are interested in.
I would suggest researching the following:
- What degree/qualification do you need for this profession?
- Which university/college offer the degree/qualification?
- How does the university sit on an international/national ranking, specifically on the degree you are interested in?
- What are the pre-requisites/ requirements for application?
- What is the average income of this profession?
- If you have the opportunity, consider job-shadowing someone who is in the profession you are interested in. For example, if you wish to be a pathologist, job-shadow a pathologist to see what their day-to-day work is like, to get valuable advice from him/her and to see if you would like to one day do what he or she does daily.
Choosing your future career is a huge decision and it might take some more time to make the decision. Many universities now offer the option to do a general Bachelor of Science, where you can decide on your major or bridge into a specific course later. This may be good for you to get exposure and a feeling of different aspects of Science. It will alos help you get a solid idea of what areas you are really interested in.
Congratulations my future colleague! Uni life is short and it is what you make of it, so have a good balance of work and play, but always remember what your goal is.
Here are a few tips and advice I have extracted from my BSc years. I wish I could travel back in time and share the importance of these to my younger self:
- Ask, ask and ask!
I can confidently say, most students spend half of their lectures, studying time or assignment time in a state of confusion. The solution to a confusion or a problem is to ask the best person who can give you the right answer. Yes, it might feel scary or embarrassing to ask a question in front of other students, but no question is ever ‘too stupid’ and it will benefit you if you ask. And if you are shy, pop the prof an email, they are always happy to help.
- Study effectively and be organised
The important thing about Bachelor of Science, is to understand the contents and study effectively. Parrot learning might get you through one test or even an exam, but to achieve the best grade you can, or to smoothly proceed to another semester, it is imperative to find a study style that can help you understand better. It might be drawing pictures, flowcharts, bullet points, stick-its…
Also, I know that Uni life is full of excitement and social opportunities. Organise your time wisely, because cramming plus parrot learning minus actual understanding do not equal a great outcome for a Bachelor of Science. So, use a study calendar, draw up a study plan, be organised.
- Cherish experiences, opportunities and make connections
Are practicals and tutorials boring you? Another long compulsory workshop or conference to sit through? You are thinking about all the other fun places you rather be…
For most of us, undergrad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. That means that every learning opportunity you get at Uni, is the only chance you get to gain the specific experience, knowledge and skills. Studying from textbooks is one way to learn, but when you are working in the field one day, you will have to apply and use your knowledge. Practicals and tutorials are great ways to prepare you for more ‘hands-on’ work; they are also designed to help you understand the concepts in the textbooks better.
When you are in Uni, you might feel that the ‘working world’ is galaxies away. The truth is, time flies by fast, and I wished I started researching and making connections earlier. So, attend meetings, workshops, conferences and career fair in your field, make connections with people who are working in the field, make connections with potential colleagues, future employers; trust me, you will thank yourself for doing this.