How to Deal with Subjects Outside of Your Comfort Zone

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Are you an engineer being forced to take Intro to Theater this semester? A communications major struggling through Bio 101? This blog post will help you figure out what to do when you find yourself taking a college subject that is way outside of your comfort zone.

Out of the Box

One of the best things about college is the freedom. We don't only mean the living away from your parents thing (though that's nice, too). We're talking about academic freedom. After 12 long years of being told what classes to take with minimal choices, going to college means that you can finally decide what you want to study.

The only catch is that you'll have to fulfill your college's general education requirements. You'll still have some wiggle room, but you won't be able to avoid taking the basics, like college composition, math, and natural science. That means your chances of having to take at least one course in a subject you're not so comfortable with are pretty high. Here's how you can handle it.

A college student takes a subject that is outside her comfort zone

Sit Next to the Smart Kid

We all get by with a little help from our friends, right? And in our hard classes, we get by with a little help from the people who know what they're doing. On your first day of class, sit in the front row next to somebody who seems like they've got it figured out. Ideally, you'll pick the kid who raises their hand a lot and knows the answer to every question.

If you can befriend this person, your academic life will be so much easier. You can ask them for help understanding concepts, study together, and maybe even borrow their class notes. And don't just approach the situation as a totally one-way relationship. Offer help in the courses you're better in. Or, if not that, at least chocolate chip cookies. Everybody appreciates a treat.

Getting help from a peer can make a difficult subject easier

Give Yourself a Crash Introduction

Often times, the reason a subject is outside of your comfort zone is because you have minimal experience in it. If you find yourself struggling in a mandatory chemistry course because you didn't do that well in your high school science classes, give yourself a quick, one- or two-day crash introduction to the subject before your first day of class. Read a few credible encyclopedia pages and scan through a ''For Dummies'' book. The material doesn't have to be sophisticated or super in-depth. Even a quick overview of the subject will introduce you to a few key concepts and terms that will make the material a lot clearer.

A crash course can help you deal with a subject that is outside of your comfort zone

Minimize the Consequences

If, despite all of your best efforts, you start to realize during week three or four of your course that you're still not getting it, it might be a good idea to look into whether or not you can take the class on a pass/no-pass basis instead of the typical grade scheme. That way, all you'll need to do is squeak by with a barely passing grade. You'll still get credit for the course, but your grade won't affect your GPA. After all, there are some subjects that will never make it into your comfort zone, even if you try. If you and the subject at hand are like oil and water, pass/no-pass might be the way to go.

Good luck out there, students. May the pass be with you.

An online study resource you can trust to give you the most important information about a given college subject is Study.com's freshmen and sophomore courses in the humanities, math, and science, among other core subjects.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
December 2019
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