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ASTR 1050|Roadmaps to Success

astronomy imageby Katie Baxter

Although any class you choose at UW will be beneficial for you and your future, there are a few things that are unique and valuable about taking Astronomy. For starters, it will give you a new perspective. Whether you already have an interest in Astronomy, you have thought about it a little bit, or you really don’t know much about it, this class will open your eyes.

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  • PRIORITIZE! Make sure you fit time in your schedule to make it to EVERY class, EVERY lab, EVERY study session, office hours when needed, study time, tutoring, etc.
  • USE A CALENDAR OR PLANNER! Write everything down and look in your planner every night to see what your schedule is for the next day. You will be bummed if you miss a lab, study session, or meeting just because you forgot!
  • astronomy image2ATTEND ALL LECTURES AND LABS! There is no way to truly make up a missed lecture or lab unless it is a special circumstance. Don’t think that you will be caught up by just doing the worksheet or copying down the notes. If you go to class, you will notice that often times your instructor will emphasize, repeat or give detail on some of the information – which will likely be on the quiz or test! You would miss out on the answer to that test question if you skip class.
  • REVIEW YOUR NOTES! It has been proven that if you review your notes after class, you will retain more information. Even if you don’t have a test in the near future, just spending 20 minutes reviewing every day really can help you get better grades. It will be a small amount of time well spent!
  • REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A 4.000 CREDIT HOUR CLASS! That means that your grade in this class will have a greater impact on your GPA….which means you want to do well! It is pretty rough if you have to work on getting your GPA up after just the first semester of college, so don’t do that!
  • SET UP STUDY TIMES! You should always set up study times for yourself during the week. If you have an hour between classes here and there, stay on campus and use that time wisely by studying, reviewing your notes, doing homework, or reading your textbook. This will be time worth spent and when you want to have a Saturday off, you will be glad you wisely used that extra hour during the week!
  • SET UP A STUDY GROUP! Many college students would agree that study groups are a good way to go. It is much easier to get yourself to study if there is a whole group of you doing it at the same time, plus you can help each other understand concepts and study test questions, plus you get the social aspect as well, which can also be nice. It will make you feel better to see that you are not the only one who has to put in extra work for the course!
  • GO TO YOUR PROFESSOR AND T.A.’S OFFICE HOURS! Even if you do not have a specific question that you need help on, it is always beneficial to go to office hours. You should at least go once, even if it is just to introduce yourself to your instructor and ask for insight about what is expected of you as a student in your professors’ class. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to go whenever office hours are scheduled, that is why instructors have them!
  • ASK FOR HELP! If you are struggling in class at all, or for any reason, take action! There are soooo many resources out there that can help you! All you have to do is ask for help. Talk to your professor, your T.A., go to study sessions, go to Physics Night, go to office hours, go to tutoring sessions.  Don’t wait until it’s too late!


  • TAKE TOO MANY OF THE SAME TYPES OF CLASSES DURING ONE SEMESTER! You might think you want to get all your hard classes out of the way at the same time, but DON’T do it. You will most likely end up overwhelmed and stressed, especially if all your classes need intense, lengthy study times. Don’t burn yourself out too quick!
  • CRAM FOR A TEST! In some classes, cramming for a test might work, but guaranteed, it will not work in this class! There is a lot of information covered in the class and on each test. Plus, there is a lot of information that needs to be memorized for this class, which is virtually impossible to do in an hour, or in three hours! On that same note, DON’T pull an all-nighter either. It is not a good idea and it will wreck your sleep cycle. Plan ahead, and you will be really glad you did!
  • ASSUME THIS CLASS WILL BE AN EASY A! Just because this is an “Introductory” class does not mean it will be easy! Once again, remember that this is a 4.000 credit hour class and will greater affect your GPA. Even if you are skilled in Astronomy and Math areas, make sure you are up-to-date on your information and that you know what your instructor wants you to know.  If you don’t have a lot of experience with Astronomy facts or if you struggle at all with math skills, you need to make sure that you stay caught up, and seek outside help if necessary.
  • PLAGIARIZE OR CHEAT IN ANY WAY! There is no better way to get kicked out of school and do permanent damage to your future than to cheat or plagiarize.  On that note, make sure you are using reliable sources for your information. Check with your professor if you don’t know how to tell the reliability of sources.


The First Four Weeks

  • Go to class. Seriously, go to class whenever possible. The first few days are especially important because you will learn what your professor expects of you and what you can expect from the class. You do not want to miss all that information.
  • Check out your professor’s website. Some professors have their own independent websites that they expect you to use, while some professors use WyoWeb or eCompanion. Make sure you know which one you will need to use and become familiar with it as soon as you can.  Bonus: some professors post the notes or PowerPoints for that upcoming lecture available online; you can download them or print them off and read them over before class if you have time.
  • You should be prepared to use basic math skills, such as Scientific Notation, the Metric Scale, and various conversions in your first lab. Your professors and/or T.A. will probably not teach or re-teach you any of that information, so you might want to review beforehand or go into your T.A.’s office hours. You might be able to print off the lab ahead of time so you can freshen up your math skills.astronomy image3
  • Introduce yourself to your teacher and your T.A. as soon as possible. It is perfectly acceptable to go into office hours the first week so that you can officially meet your instructor, ask them what they expect of you, and how you can be prepared going into the beginning of a challenging semester. The class will probably be fairly large and you don’t want to be another anonymous face. Take it from an insider, if your professor knows your name, it is a good thing!
  • Look over the syllabus with careful detail. It would be a bummer to miss important information and find out about it when it is too late. This will also help to give you an idea of what kinds of concepts and information you will be learning in the class.
  • Check out the Planetarium.  Sometimes there are shows in there on Friday nights and they still do laser shows with music, which are pretty sweet. Check with the Astronomy department if you would like to find out more about this.
  • Lastly, if you still have any doubts, talk to a student that has already taken the class, or at least an older student who can give you one-on-one advice. Also, don’t forget to explore and use the many, many, many resources that are available to all students!


Tips for Success

Preparing for Exams

  • Honestly, one of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to go to all the classes and pay attention. HINT: If you listen carefully, you will notice that your professor will emphasize certain pieces of information, repeat information, spend extra time on certain concepts, and sometimes state, “You will need to know this!”  Make sure you take notice of these instances and take detailed notes and/or highlight these areas. Study these sections carefully and in great detail because it will likely be on the homework, quiz, test, or final!
  • Make sure you gather all your information pertaining to your class including lecture notes, homework and reading assignments, quizzes, and labs completed prior to the test. Technically, anything that has been covered in these areas of your class might be on your test.
  • Don’t cram or wait until the last minute.  Here is a good place to start. 
  • Regularly review your notes after class each day. It is proven that if you spend even a few quality minutes reviewing your notes every evening after class, you will retain more of the information. That extra twenty minutes well spent will save you a lot of time in the long run. Also try re-writing your notes if you are having a hard time memorizing them. That repetition will help your brain to retain the information better.
  • Take your study guide seriously. There is a reason your professor creates it, if you are lucky enough to get one. Make sure you even quickly review the things you think you already know. That extra 2 minutes reviewing a definition might make a big difference!
  • Go to Supplemental Instruction.  If SI isn’t provided but you think it would help, request study sessions from your T.A.
  • Unless you know for sure that your professor will provide all the necessary information on the actual test, you should always study your definitions, equations, and conversions.  If you aren’t sure whether the equations and formulas will be provided, check with your instructor far in advance.
  • Use notecards or flashcards. Keep them in your pocket and pull them out when you have an extra five minutes - before you know it, you will have all of the information memorized and it will feel great!
  • Make sure you memorize pertinent information. There are many different ways to do this and you should research and experiment with different types of known techniques. Some techniques include associations, songs, acronyms, mnemonics, reviewing, and creating links between information.  Here’s a great page for a useful mnemonic
  • Don’t just be on time, be early! You never know what kinds of craziness can happen in a span of 15 minutes between your residence and your classroom. Whether it be bus schedule problems, car complications, parking woes, or any sort of last minute emergency, adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes in your timeline will come in handy.  Therefore, if something unexpected happens, you will be glad you have a cushion. Even if things go perfectly, you will have those last few minutes to review, which is never a bad thing!
  • POST TEST ADVICE: When you get your test back, look over any questions you got wrong and figure out WHY, then correct it on your study guide and make a note of it for later. (HINT: INSIDER’S SECRET: Keep and review your old tests and quizzes with your perfect corrections. You will want to study them for your final!)

Assignment Tips

  • Use a planner and write down your assignments and readings and when they are all due.
  • Keep all of your assignments, tests, labs, and notes in a specific, organized notebook. You never know when you need to refer back to a question or an answer and you want to be able to find it when you need it! After you receive a grade for a quiz, test, or lab and you find out that you got something wrong, find out why, correct it, and make a note of it for later so you don’t get it wrong again. Save all of this because it might be on your next test, or final!
  • If you disagree with your professor’s grading, it is usually ok to directly ask you professor why you got something wrong and argue for why you think you should get credit for it if you think it is right and can prove it. If there was a misunderstanding, ensure that it won’t happen again.
  • You might have a professor that gives pop quizzes at the beginning of class….make sure you studied!
  • Don’t just know the answers but try to understand the concept. This will come in handy throughout your school career and life in general.
  • If you are repeatedly doing poorly on assignments, tests, or labs despite your best effort, talk to your professor and/or T.A. They might have suggestions for you so you can get that grade up before it drops too low. 


Some good advice

  • Sit at the front of the class. It doesn't’t have to be front row, but you will be able to see better, hear better, and pay attention better than if you are in the back, especially if it is in those huge lecture rooms.
  • Participate in discussion if you can. It can be hard to have the opportunity to speak in those big lecture rooms, but if you have a chance and the confidence, go for it! Your professor and your peers will respect you for it and if your grade includes participation points (check your syllabus….) then you should be getting extra points on that portion of the grading!
  • Always make a buddy in class. If you miss class, or misunderstand something, you can get a hold of this person and hopefully they can help get you back on track. If nothing else, they can save you a seat if you are running late!
  • Don’t give up if you fall behind, and don’t wait to ask for help. If worse comes to worse, don’t give up and settle for an F. You DO NOT want an F in a 4.000 credit hour class during your first year of school (or ever!).




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