I am a sophomore who is teaching assistant, otherwise called Freshman Academy Coach, for the engineering course that all freshmen are required to take during their first semester at USC. The purpose of the class is to guide freshmen through their transition to Viterbi and college as a whole. From this experience, I am reminded of all the little details about college life that I was unfamiliar with as a freshman. I have realized that my “sophomore me” can answer a lot of the questions my “freshman me” was asking last year.
Freshman me: I am anxious about midterms. How do they compare to high school tests? How much should I study? Would I be able to recover my grade if I did poorly on my first midterm?
Sophomore me: Midterms are a lot more comprehensive than high school tests, and they also count for a larger percentage of your grade. I would say that studying over two or three nights is a better approach than cramming all the material in the night before the exam. It is not unusual for freshmen to do poorly on their first midterm because they don’t know what to expect. Don’t freak out if this happens. The final is actually what can make or break your grade, so just focus on that!
Freshman me: What is the best way to get a research opportunity?
Sophomore me: First, do a search on the Viterbi or USC website for all the faculty in your area of interest (biomedical engineering, material science, etc). Read through descriptions of their research. If you find a professor that is doing something that you find cool and want to be a part of, email him or her. Typically, they will ask to meet with you to discuss what you can contribute to the lab. However, don’t be discouraged if professors don’t respond. One eventually will!
Freshman me: How important is networking in obtaining internships? How do I network?
Sophomore me: Networking is definitely helpful in getting opportunities. If company recruiters know you, it is more likely you will receive an interview and eventually a job offer. You can meet representatives at career fairs, but you generally don’t have a lot of time with them because there is a line of people behind you waiting to speak with them. I have found that the best way to network is through events held by organizations. For example, I have spoken with representatives at corporate dinners hosted by the Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering and the Society of Women Engineers. Dinners are a less stressful environment than career fairs!
Freshman me: What are the best things to do on the weekend in LA?
Sophomore me: LA has so many things to do! There are beautiful hikes in the Pacific Palisades area near Malibu, my favorite being the Los Liones Canyon Trail. The beach is always a lovely option. I prefer Manhattan Beach over Santa Monica Beach because it is less crowded. A lot of singers will choose LA as a destination for their tours. I recently saw Maroon 5! Finally, in my opinion, the best thing to do is explore all the different eateries across LA. In Downtown LA, Grand Central Market has a variety of take-out options, and my favorite Italian restaurant is Maccheroni Republic. Smorgasburg is a food fair on Sundays in the Fashion District that has every ethnic food you can think of. Korean BBQ in Koreatown, ramen in Little Tokyo…the list of food places goes on and on!