What Are College Labs Like?

College labs can be an important part of your academic life. Find out which classes have labs, what those labs are like, and how to prepare for lab reports.

In addition to lectures, some college classes also have labs. College labs are usually attached to specific majors like Biology and Pre-med, but may play a role in fulfilling general education credit requirements as well.

What Are College Labs?

College laboratory classes may or may not differ from high school Advanced Placement class labs, depending on the school you attend. Community college labs are likely more similar to high school class labs than lab classes at large universities. Not all science classes have labs; some are just lecture courses. Usually lab classes are scheduled at a separate time from the lecture period. During lab courses, students get a hands-on experience of the subject being taught during the lecture.

College labs are most often attached to science and pre-med classes. Lab classes vary according to whether they are for a major or to fulfill general-ed requirements. Common science classes with labs include biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy.

The biggest difference between high school labs and college labs tends to be writing lab reports.

Writing College Lab Reports

While high school lab reports are often simply brief summaries of the science experiments being performed, college lab reports are much more involved.

A college laboratory report includes title, abstract, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, references and literature cited.

A lab report is designed to persuade others to accept or reject a hypotheses based on research, data and interpretations with plenty of detailed information.

College Lab Protocol

Depending on your institution, lab protocol will vary. In high school, science labs often have strict safety requirements about clothing and footwear as well as requirements about wearing gloves and goggles.

In college labs, protocol varies according to the institution and even the science. Some chemistry classes may require wearing gloves, while others may not. The type of gloves may vary, according to the strength and type of chemicals being used for science experiments. Other safety rules may also include wearing closed-toe shoes, long pants, acid-proof aprons, goggles and other precautions.

While lab partners and group projects tend to be popular in high school, college lab classes vary. Some classes may require a lab partner, while upper-division classes may have solo science experiments.

Why Take a Lab Class?

Students take classes with labs for many different reasons. Freshmen taking lab classes are usually fulfilling general-education requirements, while many science majors require various lab classes. Still others simply enjoy the sciences, or are testing the waters to see if they would like to pursue a science or pre-med major.

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