How to Navigate Honors Freshman Science

Abby Smith '20, Contributor

When I walked into the first day of Mr. Dunn’s class freshman year, he had us pick up two large textbooks and a three-inch note packet. We sat down to start learning right away. I was rather terrified. My classmates, also flabbergasted, didn’t help much. But I survived the first day.

There is a lot of angst surrounding the honors science track, specifically going into freshman year when you have no idea what to expect. Until you get there, high school seems distant and abstract. You may just know your middle school teachers told you high school teachers are super strict and mean (wrong). I remember such a stigma and fear surrounding honors freshmen science. But after two years of making mistakes, failing to ask for help when I needed it, learning from those mistakes, and crying about the impending AP, I can offer my top advice for those currently panicking:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask a question when you don’t understand. I can be shy in class, but I found that when I spoke up, it really helped. Your teacher is there to help you learn.
  2. Do your lab reports in pencil. I’ve had to rewrite countless lab reports because I wrote it in pen and then realized I calculated my results incorrectly.
  3. There will be an essay on nearly every biology test (except during the chemistry semester), so make sure to write out an outline or practice essay while you’re studying. And make sure all your information is right. Outlines are by far what worked best for me when preparing for tests.
  4. Do the homework. Some students won’t do it because it’s mostly reading and some multiple-choice questions. But if you don’t do it—especially when starting a new unit—you’ll come to class completely lost.
  5. Take good notes. Notes are crucial. If you don’t take notes, you won’t do well—period. Without them, studying for tests will be impossible.
  6. Stay on top of labs and participate in class. This can only help your grade and can make a huge difference if your test average is struggling.
  7. One bad test grade is not going to ruin your high school career. I’ve gotten the occasional C’s and D’s but after revising my essays, talking to Mr. Dunn, and figuring out where exactly I went wrong, I learned so much in that class. I wasn’t a perfect student, but I was prepared for that AP.

Don’t be too intimidated—I actually really enjoyed the class, though at times it was very frustrating. Hopefully you can learn through my mistakes and get through freshman year strong. So take notes, speak up, study, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and take the class seriously but don’t get too caught up in perfect grades either. I wish you all the best of luck.