Informal Introductions: What to know when taking Introduction Classes

| Senior Scene Editor

The transition from high school to the first year of college is a big and jarring adjustment. Walking into the stadium seating of Wrighton 300 for the first time certainly doesn’t ease the anxiety of that transition. But that auditorium will quickly fill up because introductory courses are something that every student will experience — regardless of school, major, or interests. These large 100-level courses come in different formats and with different resources meaning there are varied ways to succeed in each of them. Just take it from the upperclassmen.

Introduction to Macroeconomics and Introduction to Microeconomics:

Junior Sydney Henderson, an economics and finance major, took Econ 1011 (Intro to Microeconomics) with Professor Rogers and felt that the most helpful way to study was to do the practice problems from the book. 

“There are no big surprises on the exams. So if you do the readings, go to lecture, do the practice problems, you’re set,” Henderson said. 

For Econ 1021 (Intro to Macroeconomics), the structure was slightly different. Henderson took this class with Professor Petersen and recommends taking any class taught by her. Much of this course is structured around collaboration. 

“Take notes, because that will come in handy for the group quizzes,” Henderson said. “Meet people at the beginning of the year… be chatty those first few days because your quiz group is set for the semester, and you do five quizzes, and it’s a huge chunk of your grade.” The same group will do the final project together too. As such, communication and collaboration are crucial in this course.

General Chemistry 111:

Senior Mishka Narasimhan, a biology major, took Chem 111 with Professor Daschbach and acknowledged that the lectures can be intimidating on the first day, but that shouldn’t deter people from going. She encouraged students to use the resources available and not to get caught up with grade pressure. 

“Don’t be discouraged if you get a bad first exam grade. You have plenty of chances to bounce back. Take advantage of the resources like RPMs, office hours, non-graded homework, and then the best one of them all PLTL – you won’t regret it,” Narasimhan said.

Narasimhan cautioned against trying to strategically plan which exam to drop the grade for. 

“Treat every exam like it’s gonna count and then figure it out in the end when you get all your grades back. It’s not worth trying to plan it out,” Narasimhan said. 

Narasimhan emphasized that students should try to enjoy the material, saying, “your passion for the subject matter is probably going to be your best friend throughout the semester.”

Tuesday Hadden

Eager Freshmen Diving into the Sea of Learning (Illustration by Tuesday Hadden)

American Politics:

Junior Amea Bretz, a political science and math/economics double major, took American Politics with Professor Christenson. She outlined two important details for exams. First, “do the non-textbook readings,” Bretz said, and second, “since it’s a memorization class, for the most part … do a Quizlet stack and have the vocab down … know where everything fits in with the additional readings and also the bigger themes in the textbook.” She also noted that the online textbook had pre-made flashcards that were easy to integrate into her studies.

Bretz explained that the introductory classes in the political science department are not necessarily representative of the upper-level courses students can expect. 

“If American Politics isn’t exactly what you thought it was going to be, know that the upper levels are different, and right now, they’re trying to lay the groundwork. Then you can go into the more interesting things,” Bretz said.

History of Western Art, Architecture & Design:

Junior John Tischke, a communication design major, found that attendance was the most important factor to succeed in the introductory Art History course with Professor Wallace. The information shared in lecture was exactly what students were tested on. Tischke kept an ongoing notes document and found that exams weren’t nearly as daunting as they seemed. 

“They tell you exactly the pieces you need to know. So if you take good notes in class, you don’t need to do any outside research or even really look at the textbook all that much. It’s pretty much all gonna be given to you,” Tischke said. 

Tischke also found it helpful to seek out his TA during the larger essay assignment in the course. 

“It’s really good to go to office hours for that, not only because they help, but also I really endeared myself to the TA who’s grading my work,” Tischke said. 

Tischke recommended students look for obvious hints of information — like artist signatures — on the exams. He explained when identifying art in the midterms, “it’s not as scary because the answers are all directly in front of you.”

College Writing:

The college writing classes that most first-years take have a variety of themes and are often inconsistent from one professor to another. Junior James Richard, a political science and economics double major and linguistics minor, found that his course description had little to do with the actual class. Officially, he took “Technology and Selfhood,” with Professor Berson, but found that the professor was “mostly just teaching us how to write.” 

Richard advised “Take it seriously. I get that it’s like a writing class and everybody wrote in high school, but it’s very useful to just learn how to write and … really internalize everything that you’re learning and you will be a better writer by the end of it.”

Beyond the content of the course itself, College Writing classes are often much smaller than other introductory courses. 

“I would warn against skipping the class … It’s a smaller class … which led me to foster a pretty good relationship with Dr. Berson,” Richard said.

Introductory Courses:

While not class-specific, all of the upperclassmen emphasized the importance of attendance and office hours and noted that despite the large-lecture format, the professors are actually quite approachable. Many urged underclassmen to not be discouraged by the surface-level material being taught in their introductory classes. 

“If you think you have a strong interest in a subject but the intro class is not what you thought it would be, try to stick it out … the core classes are just giving you the machinery to understand more specific topics,” Henderson said.


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