What to Expect in College Biology

by Staff Writers

It's not only the science majors that need to take biology courses in college. Biology is a common basic course chosen by students of all majors as their natural science component when they are pursuing traditional two- and four-year degrees.

The course is offered at different levels of focus and difficulty for science majors and non-science majors. Those who are not science majors usually have the option to choose one of a variety of sciences, such as chemistry, physics, geology or biology, while science majors end up taking all of the basic sciences in preparation for their major courses. Most colleges require students of all majors to take two courses in a natural science. If you choose biology, that means a biology course and a biology lab course.

The most common biology course taken by non-science majors is called Introductory Biology. A course such as this exposes students to a broad body of knowledge about biology and emphasizes molecular biology. You may remember some of what you will learn in college from high school biology courses if you are a recent high school graduate. The material may seem unfamiliar, however, if you are returning to college later in life as an older adult. Introductory Biology introduces students to the nature of life, including chemical foundations of life; plant, animal and human cell structure and function; DNA and genetics; as well as evolution and ecology.

One of the first things you will likely encounter in an Introductory Biology course is the definition of life. This is not philosophical, but rather scientific, helping students categorize the differences between living things with self-sustaining processes and inanimate objects. Another key component to any college biology course is cell theory, or the idea that the cell is the most basic building block of life. Students also examine how various living things are made up, how they grow, and how they are categorized scientifically by the Latin genus-species. Much of biology is dedicated to studying the theories as to how various living things have evolved and how they are believed to be related to one another through ancestors. Students also study the biosphere, or the world's ecosystems.

The lab portion of college biology requires students to examine organisms under microscopes and dye cells to get a better look at their structure. Students must describe what they observe in written reports. Students may also study and dissect plants, insects and small animals. Most students enjoy the lab portion of their college biology class more than the classroom experience because it is hands-on.