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Student Story Five

White Male Student, Class of 2022

If you could tell a first-year student one piece of advice about studying STEM, what would it be?

If you feel like you're so lost you can't even form a question, don't be afraid to simply ask for a restatement or clarification in class. Engaging actively helps you not just learn, but also retain information better, and it invariably helps other students.

How prepared did you feel coming into Swarthmore?

My experience with STEM courses at Swarthmore has been exclusively in math and computer science. On my first day of class at Swarthmore, I took Math 25 and was so overwhelmed by the pacing that I dropped down to Math 15. That was a very easy course for me because I had already taken calculus in high school, and I have regretted how that one semester set me back in my progress in the Math department. So I think I was well prepared, but at the time I didn't feel like it. I felt utterly unprepared for computer science, but it worked out well because CS 21 is perfect for beginners.

What are some differences and commonalities between your STEM experience in high school and at Swarthmore?

In high school, I mostly taught myself math with occasional help from tutors. Also, in my senior year of high school, I took a calculus class at a local college. It was much less challenging than at Swat, but I was well acquainted with college class dynamics by the time I actually attended college. At Swarthmore, I learned a lot more through help sessions and by collaborating with classmates on problem sets.

What are some ways in which you struggled with STEM classes at Swarthmore, and how did you find support?

The pacing was by far the hardest adjustment, because other Swarthmore classes are also demanding. So devoting enough time to keep up with STEM courses has been a struggle. I try to get help on problem sets in clinics or by looking up solutions to conceptually similar problems.

What resources were most helpful to you in navigating STEM at Swarthmore?

I was grateful for classmates that I felt comfortable studying with, especially in clinics where knowledgeable upperclassmen could guide us whenever we got stuck.