Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

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ahazaq2
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Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby ahazaq2 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:05 am UTC

Hey guys. I'm currently half-way through my undergraduate years as a biomedical engineering major at georgia tech. From the people I've met over the course of the past year, I've realized that the education I'm receiving here is very, very inferior to that of many other universities throughout the world. Two examples from outside the US that stick out in my mind are the IITs in India and the grand ecoles in France. What tips do you guys have for making sure you get the most out of your undergrad? I still feel like a lot of my classes are just "memorize this bullshit and equations and regurgitate it on the test," without any real thinking.

I've always been a big believer that the only way to truly understand a topic is if you can solve difficult problems on the topic. Feeling in your head that the concepts make sense to you is meaningless, and I've hardly done any problem-solving in my classes over the past two years.

Advice?

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Dopefish
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Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby Dopefish » Mon Jun 11, 2012 12:44 am UTC

Although my experiances aren't in that field, as I went further through my degree (and even in the months following it), I've come to appreciate my textbooks more and more. Even if the professor is perhaps not so great, reading your textbook can be a great resource, and can sometimes explain conceptually what is going on and what motivates the material, instead of getting bogged down in definitions or math. Additionally, most textbooks have a variety of problems at the end of chapters/sections as well, so you could try your hand at those problems as well, as theres usually at least a few conceptually challenging questions.

Something I also found I actually enjoyed doing is attending help sessions with the prof and/or TA, even if I understood the material at the time. Occasionally other students would have questions that didn't occur to me to think about, which can lead to further understanding. Additionally, once most of the directly relevant questions were answered, things would usually drift towards stuff that wasn't covered in the course which can add further context to the stuff that is being covered.

Lastly, the internet is a great place, and things like MIT's OCW exist, which provide lectures, lecture notes, homework, tests, etc. for a variety of courses, so it can be well worthwhile to go through courses there on the same material as covered in your classes (where possible), and see how the content compares. This way between your actual course and the stuff in the OCW course, you're apt to get a broader and more thorough understanding, so by the end of your degree you should feel somewhat more confident that you actually understand the things your diploma says you do.

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KestrelLowing
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Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby KestrelLowing » Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:22 am UTC

I'd say the biggest thing is that even if you can just memorize stuff for the test and then forget about it, really try not to. Really try to understand all the material you're going though. I understand that a lot of beginning biology is memorization, so that may be where your thoughts are coming from. But you can try to go beyond that. A lot of profs will be thrilled if you want to actually understand the material (note that they won't be thrilled if you take up too much time in class though) and will more thoroughly explain things if you're interested, and they have time.

Also, are there extra things you can be doing that you're interested in? For example, undergrad research, or things that at my school we call enterprises which are things like concrete canoe, EcoCar, etc.

Zcorp
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Joined: Sat Apr 18, 2009 3:14 am UTC

Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby Zcorp » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:25 pm UTC

Are you interested in medical bio-engineering?

Your best option is to take your learning into your own hands, and that sucks as I'm sure you feel that you are paying for people to teach you things. If you really want to learn about the subject you are studying hopefully you have enough motivation to find ways to teach yourself aspects of it.

Talk to those professors who are happy you want to understand the material, cultivate relationships with them, ask them what you could be doing to progress your understanding and application of the field. See if you can take part in anything they are doing. Don't just do this because you will learn more, although that would be great. The most important aspect for success out of college, besides a very basic understanding of the material you studied, is connections you build in college. Those are what will get you a job, at which point you will be put into an environment where you are going to take what you hopefully understand at least decently well and get to actually apply that knowledge. Really giving you a place to delve into the subject.

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freakish777
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Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby freakish777 » Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:38 pm UTC

Option A:

  • Find Grad Courses that look interesting
  • Approach professors of said courses
  • Ask if they'll allow you to take their course (if you're a junior/senior with a high GPA and come across as both smart and mature, chances are they'll agree to it)
  • If the school doesn't have a process for awarding you undergrad credit for this class you're about to take now in place, talk with the schools Registrar/etc to see what they can do for you to have it counted towards your undergrad (assuming you have no intention of staying their for a Masters/PhD

Option B:

Cram classes into your schedule to graduate a year/semester early. Do not do this at the expense of your GPA.


Option C:

Undergrad Research.

gorcee
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Location: Charlottesville, VA

Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby gorcee » Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:00 pm UTC

Also keep in mind that students in other countries start university around two years later than here in the US.

So, their "university" is basically two years advanced. It doesn't change a whole lot.

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Jplus
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Re: Getting the most out of your undergraduate education

Postby Jplus » Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:04 pm UTC

Zcorp wrote:Talk to those professors who are happy you want to understand the material, cultivate relationships with them, ask them what you could be doing to progress your understanding and application of the field. See if you can take part in anything they are doing. Don't just do this because you will learn more, although that would be great. The most important aspect for success out of college, besides a very basic understanding of the material you studied, is connections you build in college. Those are what will get you a job, at which point you will be put into an environment where you are going to take what you hopefully understand at least decently well and get to actually apply that knowledge. Really giving you a place to delve into the subject.

This. Get in touch with the right people. Inspiring professors (preferably ones that want to recognise your potential), friendly people in other fields who work on something related to what you do, researchers who can use your service as an assistant where you'll be doing really interesting work, and so on.
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