How To Approach Your Political Science Undergraduate Degree

Wednesday, 25 September 2019
how to stud political science as an undergrad student

If you feel that this is quite an uncommon thing to say, or write on, you might be right. But I feel it's needed.

You see when I was, what you might call a fresher, I had no clue. And I'd like to think you are maybe just as lost as I was. Now that I have started to re-read and re-live the three years I spent in my college learning Political Science, I wish I had approached my studies in a different way.

And by that, I don't mean I was a bad student. I was by no means the smartest, but I would like to say I cleaned up pretty good. I actually studied and liked the discipline.

But as years have passed, I find myself not being able to remember certain topics and papers we studied very well, and I wasn't feeling too good about it either.

I want to, at least keep the knowledge alive and hence have decided to revisit the study material, and I'm noticing that if I were to go to college again, I'd approach my studies in a different way. And forgive me for feeling a little wiser, but this is how I would have done it instead and would like for you to try it too.

01. Read the syllabus, like, really.

I studied at the University of Delhi, and of course, we were given a syllabus that we were supposed to read and understand the structure of our course. Except, I only referred to it when I needed to know what readings and from which books I was supposed to read.

It was one of the things that now I think I should have carefully read. The course syllabus had the name of the papers, the course objective for that particular paper (why we are reading what we are reading) and the readings which were divided into two sections: essential readings and additional readings.

I never read the additional ones because I was too smart for them, heh. But now that I have decided to re-read the entire course, I'm going to.

I believe the course objective that I completely overlooked was very important because it sets the tone on why we are studying what we are studying for each paper. And from a long-term and "bigger picture" point of view, one should really know the point of studying what they are studying and just study for the sake of it.

02. Understand the importance of your studies and take them a little seriously.

This actually goes for anything you are studying, but I will still tell you it nonetheless. I wish someone told me (I think they did, time and again but I never really took it seriously) that I am my country's future. When I study and make progress it's not just for my benefit, it also impacts my country, the world, no matter how small that impact is.

Students of political science I believe, are perfect candidates for leadership positions in the country in my opinion. And when I say this, I don't mean that if you're from some other discipline you're not apt. It's just the way the discipline is, it teaches you about your country, educates you about law-making, governance, politics, international relations, and so much more that don't you think that a leader of a country ought to know these things?

And this is true for most of the studies we do at a higher level, for example, doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and many more professions, they all affect the country. A well-educated mind and a good-natured heart is the base of a strong nation. 

Of course, I knew I liked the discipline and however, I wish I could say I was serious with it. I was still not sure of what I wanted to do when I "grew up".

I was still formulating opinions on whether I wanted to pursue an academic route or pursue a passion for creativity.  I ended up going the creative route because although I was very passionate about the discipline, I wanted to opt for studying international relations from a particular institution abroad and my parents weren't too keen on sending a young girl abroad all on her own.

And so I thought that if I can't have it this way, I will follow another route but will come back to it when I could. You could say, studying is a hobby and I like to read anyway, so yeah.

03. Try to stay ahead of what's going on in class

I say this, not because I want you to be a topper or the perfect student but because it's more practical and most people don't realise it. You're probably already an adult legally when you start your undergraduate studies.

And with that, people, teachers, just have some expectations of you. They think you are a responsible person who dedicates time to self-study and will many times skip on things they don't think are that important to discuss in class.

Plus, sometimes your understanding of a concept will fail you. And if you have questions, you can always ask the teacher, and if it's the second time you're going through a topic (once by yourself and the second time when you're attending the lecture) you'll learn it better and remember it better.

Once again, this is not because you need to be an overachiever, it's just going to make things easier for you.

04. Notes are important, but you do you.

You know when the teacher starts speaking and everyone just starts writing? They're taking those notes. And I am a person that when I start taking notes I completely miss the point, I would get so absorbed in just writing the next word that I never used to actually understand what was being said in class.

If you're like that as well, then don't take notes. It took me a while to understand that you're not obligated to everyone else's study methods. You do, you.

Whatever makes sense for you, helps you understand what is being said is the main goal, not taking notes. I only figured this out in my last year, but here's to hoping that it will help you.

The aim of the lectures is to help your understanding of the concept, not make you a better note-taker.

05. Don't just study, but learn.

I say this because often as students, we get so so involved in studying, memorising, preparing for exams, getting a good score, that we forget to learn what we are being taught.

I am now of the opinion that learning is far more important than studying. You could cram up all notes you have and top your class and still not have actually learnt anything.

So what's the difference, you ask?

I think when you learn something, you will remember it for a longer time because you apply it in your life in some way or the other. You think about it, instead of just cramming things till you get a chance to dump them on the paper and get good grades.

When you learn something, it stays with you forever and that is the kind of knowledge that never goes waste.


This is actually something I've come to dislike with schooling systems, and I know I'm not alone. There is so much pressure into studying a set way, in a set time, and getting results that we forget that learning something from it is what's important and that no two students are the same, so why should the teaching method be the same for everyone?

It will then fall onto you as a student to explore what helps you learn the most out of what you are studying. And keep exploring, and don't stop because you are the future. And you owe it to yourself first, and others to some extent (parent(s) for example, that have probably invested in your future) living in the Indian society to become your best self and maximise your potential.

P.S. What are your thoughts? Let's start discussing, I'd love to hear your opinions. 

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