Thinking of studying neuroscience at Carleton? Wondering what your first year as an undergraduate might be like? Let Taryn Lloyd, a recent graduate of our program, give you some ideas…

You can expect to take all the first year science courses: a year of first year physics (only elementary is required if this scares you – you will do fine, trust me), biology, chemistry, calculus or algebra, psychology and (of course) neuroscience.  Most of these have a lab component to the lectures.  You will find that the labs are where you have to spend the most time and effort.  I’ve always thought that if us science students didn’t have labs we’d have all the time in the world.  Doing the lab write-ups each week will be the bulk of your evenings and weekends.  You get used to it, and all your science friends will be in the residence study rooms and library desks doing the same thing.  It’s kind of like an exclusive club – think positively!  Within the first few weeks of class you will start to develop a routine and your days will start to fall into place.  Find this routine and stick to it (don’t plan to do lab write-ups the night before – do them in advance, especially if you need time to ask a TA for some extra help).    *Just a note while I am on the topic of labs – don’t underestimate lab exams!  Pay attention during every lab and do yourself favors.  Study details and remember to breathe! Enjoy the experience.

Scientist in lab

The first year will seem very science-intensive.  In fact, you’ll find that most of your classmates are in programs such as Biochemistry or Integrated Health Science.  Most of your time will be spent, as I’ve mentioned, doing labs.  For those of you who may be more science oriented this may seem great – good!  You’ll enjoy the neurosciences.  For those of you who are worried about so much science, that’s great too!  After you get through it (as I am most positive you will), you’ll realize the benefits you’ve gained from all your hard work.  In second year, courses with more relation to the neurosciences will start to take form and you’ll find the harder “science” concepts in these much easier to grasp.  Because you’ve put the time in, you’ll be able to enjoy classes such as “Biological Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience” for what they’re worth.  So just trust in me – your first year will be great, regardless!

Please do not let the size of my sample time table from my first year scare you (or any of my writings for that matter).  I look back on my first year, as many of my peers do, and we can laugh about all the late lab nights and the stress before finals and exams – at the end of it all, it’s a great time. Here in this Neuroscience club we love what we do and I think you will, too.  Being able to schedule your own classes and times (somewhat) will also be an added perk vs. high school!  Don’t like morning classes?  Great!  You will have some options for taking more night classes.  You will also still be able to have a very active social life and you will be able to do everything that you want.  I, as well as many of peers, found it reasonable to join intramural sports (flag football is amazing – try it, even if you have no idea how to play), be a part of a society of interest to you, hang out in residence with friends, catch a home Ravens basketball game (we’re pretty much amazing…) and go out on the occasional night to the on campus pub, Oliver’s (after your 19th birthday, of course).  Neuroscience is fun and flexible – you get the great perks of competitive academic honours program but with a side of great people and great opportunities (both academic and social).

Researcher in lab

My advice:

Work hard, play hard.  With adequate attention and care, you will all find it more than possible to do great in your studies.  Take advantage of your TA’s and professors – ask questions, and seek answers.  If you’re having trouble, seek help.  Carleton has many learning support centers right on campus.  Everyone is friendly – you will be surprised at how approachable professors, TA’s, and learning support staff really are.  These services are there for you – make use of these things (and get your moneys worth!)

There will also be many easy and simple opportunities to get involved – get involved in your new Carleton community!  Trying a new intramural sport or getting involved in a society are two easy ways to start making connections in your new community.  Try something new and keep trying.  While at university, in first year especially, you will find that there is something for everyone!  Find something you like and explore any chance you get!  Don’t let schooling interfere with your education too much ;)  Hope to CU soon!