Hello, everyone. As I write this, I’m slaving over 4 and a half months’ worth of science notes in the hopes of acquiring an at least acceptable grade on my General Chemistry final (which, for all of you who weren’t aware, has been the bane of my existence since I started my first term at Barnard College.) In between bouts of frenzied studying and intermittent “treat yo’self” study breaks, I found my frustration with my personal lack of chemistry mojo growing.
Okay, so here’s a quick backstory: Junior year of high school, I took AP Chemistry and passed easily. I was one of the strongest students in the class, and at the end of the year, I ended up with a healthy 4 on the AP exam. Chemistry seemed to come easily to me, and I loved how there was always a systematic method of solving each homework problem. I adored the finality of chemistry. It kept me safe from thinking too deeply about the hows and the whys; I was too hung up on hitting all of the sweet spots of a problem in order to pump out the right answer, significant figures and all.
Fast forward to freshman fall at Barnard College. I have had approximately five meltdowns about General Chemistry. I have switched my major from Chemistry to Economics. I am so frustrated with myself for not being as good at chemistry as I was as a junior in high school.
General Chemistry basically covers the information covered in an AP Chemistry class, so I was mystified as to why my peers (who had also taken AP Chem with much success) and I were struggling so much in the class.
My realization that no amount of AP classes and pre-college preparation can replace an actual class in a real college setting was a shocking one. “You mean to say,” I muttered to myself as I downed my third cup of coffee of the day, “that AP and college aren’t synonymous? What did I even spend my high school career doing?”
The deal is that AP classes shouldn’t be approached with the mentality that they are capable of replacing college classes entirely. AP classes are meant for preparation; taking an AP class is like pre-gaming for a college lecture rager (I’m not encouraging illici activity, kids.) I’m easily disheartened, and there are moments where I feel like my AP credits are meaningless. Sure, I satisfied some prerequisites and I came into college with a semester’s worth of credits under my belt, but what’s the point of all that if I can’t even do well in a class that I had already taken before in high school?
Kids, as Nicki Minaj says, “This ain’t high school.” I’ve had to learn that it’s impossible to step into a college lecture with the same mindset as a high school student. No matter how well AP Chemistry went for you in high school, a college chemistry class is still going to be like a pie in the face during the first months of your freshman year.
Don’t feel bad if the classes that you succeeded in when you were a high student end up totally smacking you in the face in college. Pay attention to how your professors expect you to perform, and build relationships with classmates in your courses. A sense of solidarity helps. Your experiences with high school AP classes might not be as helpful as some good ol’ elbow grease in a college setting, but that doesn’t mean that those experiences were completely worthless.
Think about it. Your efforts are worth much more than that.