Author: Tran Luu
As a college freshman, I’ve learned a lot these past three weeks of physically being at my school: you attract the people who are like you, luck is a REALLY big deal, and pre-med is not a major at most schools.
For a background check, I am currently a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, and my current path is to pursue a psychology major on the premed track. I am also on track for obtaining a German minor and a certificate in Global Health Studies, which basically teaches its students about the social determinants of health and the inequalities in how different types of people can access healthcare in their given neighborhoods.
Though I’ve been at college for only a short amount of times, I have attended the online portion of my classes for the better part of two weeks now. I’m currently taking Developmental Psychology, Intro to Statistics, General Chemistry 1, and Indo-European Folktales for my German minor. I also take a mandatory freshman program (FP), which deals with environmental writing and its effects, but it isn’t the biggest deal on the block compared to everything else on my schedule.
Before college officially started, I sat down one night when I was bored and created a 4-years plan for myself. I had 2 separate Google Sheets, one with all the degrees I’m pursuing and the classes I need to take just listed out, and the other basically has all the classes in their given year and the credits I would get from taking them. I find that by having a plan like this, it is very easy to sign up for classes once the time comes, and I won’t have to haphazardly search up the different requirements I need before I graduate more than once.
Above are the requirements for my psychology major and the premed track, and they are specifically for my school, with the premed track being a comprehensive list from all the medical schools I am planning on applying to. I made different keys for all the colors, such as classes that I’ve already fulfilled the requirements for through my AP credits or the like, and it made my 4-years plan much easier to make. I’ll attach a picture of a small portion of my 4-years plan below, but if you would like more info for how to make one, leave a comment down below!
This semester, I was able to get the schedule I wanted, with my earliest class overall being at 11 AM. I took some much-needed advice from my older cousins and left Thursday as my one free day (though I did have FP that day, but I really do like that class so I don’t mind it much) so that I could catch up on homework and do laundry. Yes, I have to schedule out a time to do laundry or I won’t ever get to it.
On my side of the room, I have a dry erase board and I wrote my entire schedule on there. It’s very nice to just look over and see what class I have that day and when it will be. I gave each class a color, and I kept up the same color scheme for my board, Canvas, as well as all of my homework colors. For notes and the like, I primarily use GoodNotes 5 as my go-to app, and I tried to take neat and slightly aesthetic notes so that later on when I have to study, I would actually wanna go back and look at what I wrote.
For GoodNotes, I created different notebooks and folders for all of my classes. As such, I’m able to simply go in during each other and write and/or type down whatever I need, and I could always go back whenever I want.
I’ll attach an example of my notes below, with the class being Indo-European Folktales. I don’t go all out to make my notes pretty, but it is really nice to be able to look back and see what I learned. I do the same thing whenever I read any textbook chapters, with each class being assigned a specific color so that I can get to them much more easily.
Chemistry and psychology are the two classes with a LOT of readings, so I spare some time each week (usually Thursday) where I go over everything I read. I find myself doing the reading needed for each of my lectures (and taking small notes on them) the day before so that I can follow along the lecture later and fill in whatever else the teacher taught that wasn't mentioned in the reading. This helps re-establish my understanding of the material, and it’ll definitely help later on when I move on to harder classes for pre-med.
I do have more tips that I personally find useful, but this is all for this week’s article. Though being in school in the middle of the pandemic is hard, I find that a perspective change is all I need to be able to do well in my classes. I hope you guys found that helpful, and I wish you the best of luck for this academic year!
Love this! I'm currently a second year college student and I found a lot of similarities here to my first semester of college even though I'm a biochem major. I was surprised about how big of a deal luck was which left me feeling a bit lost my first semester lol. I feel like it's also super important to utilize advisors, especially pre-med advisors! Classes fill up a lot faster than I expected and my advisors were super helpful in helping me create my schedule and four year plan.