#43 What Classes Should I Take In College?

With it being three-fourths of the way through the spring semester, people are beginning at looking for summer classes and signing up for their fall classes. This can be an extremely stressful time of the semester due to last-minute tests rolling in, presentations, group projects, and lab finals. On top of all of that, you will have to sit down and look through hundreds of offered classes to find your perfect schedule. Then, once you find your perfect schedule you have to beat the thousands of other kids in the school trying to fill those classes. Fortunately, I have gotten every schedule I have ever wanted and built my schedule well enough that I had the chance to graduate early with a Biology degree, concentration in biomedical studies, and a minor. This is how:

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1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is the key to having a relaxing final few semesters in college. Often, people will forget to look at the required classes they need to graduate and scramble to take them in their final semesters. Doing this can cause more work and result in taking classes that do not benefit you the most.

The first thing to do as a Freshman or if you have not done so already is to get a list of all the classes you need to take for your major, minor, concentration, and graduate school requirements. Then, if you need to find a list of all the classes you need to take outside of your major. My school calls these AUC requirements. These include classes such as English, Art, Science, Math, and History that teach visual literacy, cultural differences, and many other skills you need to graduate with a liberal arts degree.

This is an example of how I plan my semester. I list the course codes, how many credits they are, and what liberal arts credits they fill.

When you have these two lists it is vital that you look at what liberal art requirements your major, minor, and concentration classes fulfill. This prevents you from taking unnecessary classes that do not go to your major and would have been fulfilled by a class you had to take anyways. This will allow your schedule to be more flexible to extra courses that you are more interested in or even allow you to pick up another degree.

2. Do Not Push Classes Off

One of the worst things a person can do in college is push off a class. Saying you are going to take a class another semester never ends as you think. A perfect example of this is when Biology majors say they are going to take Chemistry later in their college career because they feel stressed and overwhelmed. I am not going to lie, sometimes you have semesters that are overwhelming and it feels like you can not handle them. This doesn’t mean that you just give up and drop a class. You aren’t the first person to feel stressed and overwhelmed in college. When you feel this, you looking for solutions to study more productively and be more efficient with your time. When you push off a class to a later semester you pair that difficult course with upper-level courses that were even harder than the classes you were taking at that moment. This creates a semester from hell that you will end up regretting in the future.

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So, how do you prevent feeling overwhelmed and stop yourself from dropping classes and pushing them off to later semesters? The first thing I would do is step back and look at your situation as a whole. Ask yourself what you can be doing at this moment to be more productive. Being more organized with your assignments or not waiting till the last minute to start them are usually pretty easy places to start. If your problems are beyond that I have a great exercise for your to try!

During this exercise, you write all the problems and trouble you are facing at that moment. After writing those problems you cross out the ones that you can not control. For the ones that are not crossed out you write down three things you can do right away to help fix them and two things you can do long term to fix them. Put this paper somewhere you will see it every single day and wait for your life to change!

3. Do Not Take Classes You Hate

One of the most common things people do in college is taking a class they hate because it fulfills multiple liberal art requirements. Part of being in college is having the option to take classes that coincide with your personality and interests. This means that if there is a history class that fulfills two of your liberal art requirements and you can not stand history, DO NOT TAKE IT!! I can guarantee that there is a class that fulfills both of those requirements but, is just not offered during that semester. That is when you look and plan ahead. If there are no classes that fulfill both I would recommend taking two classes you enjoy that fulfill the requirements.

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This does not mean avoiding classes you hate at all costs. Everyone in college has taken classes they hate but, sometimes your schedule requires that you take that dreaded class so that you can graduate on time. Again, this is going back to planning ahead and staying organized.

4. Ask Around

When you read the course description of a class you can only get a paragraph of what an entire semester is going to be like. To understand exactly what a class is going to be like and how hard or work-heavy it might be it is always a good idea to ask people that have taken it in the past. I have gotten syllabi from people as well as asked my advisor. This can help determine what classes you should take together to assure that your semester isn’t too rigorous.

#42 What Makes a Great PA Applicant? (SPECIAL GUEST)

My Biology Experience is pleased to have this blog sponsored by the Pre-PA clinic. The Pre-PA clinic is run by Beth and Katie, Physician Assistants and Doctors of Medical Science with over a decade of cumulative experience teaching at physician assistant programs. Their mission is to provide pre-PA students with all the tools they need to be competitive candidates. Things such as outstanding personal statements and incredible interview skills will help you get accepted to PA school!

Katie and Beth

My Biology Experience has been lucky enough to have them write this week’s blog on what they think makes a great applicant! You can check out more of Beth and Katie using the links provided at the end of this blog post!


People ask us all the time, what makes a good physician assistant?

It’s a natural question, since that’s what we do. We help pre-PA students become PA students by giving advice, reviewing PA school (CASPA) applications, helping them prepare for interviews, and editing their essays and CVs.

Since being the number one job in America, ranked by US World & News Report, more students than ever want to go to PA school…but there’s a catch of course. There always is. The competition is fierce!

PA schools require a bachelor’s degree, complete with prerequisite rigorous science courses, medical skills and experience, personal essays, shadowing hours, volunteer experience, and more.

And the requirements only get longer every year. Many schools get thousands of applications for only a few seats and hopeful PA students far outnumber the available seats in these programs.

Hence the question we hear all the time- what makes a good physician assistant?

Students want to know what PA schools are looking for, and rightly so. It’s an exhausting, stressful, and expensive application process. They want to know what characteristics and stats would give them an advantage over the other tens of thousands of candidates.

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Some students think it’s grades. They believe they need a certain GPA “number” to get accepted. Others focus on hours of medical experience or GRE test scores.

Still, others go off on medical missions in other countries, thinking this is what schools want to see, or join every single organization in undergrad to gain leadership and volunteer hours.

The truth is…these are all great things. Schools want to see your academic potential, your shadowing experience, your volunteer spirit, and your medical acumen. They are all important to the application process and your success as a pre-PA student depends on a strong application and interview.

But they aren’t the most important thing. Students rack their brains trying to think of exactly what programs want…they visit forums, talk to other pre-PA students, ask their advisors, and read copious books on professionalism.

But the truth is so much easier than that.

The truth is so obvious that people don’t even notice it. It’s the ever-present song playing in the back of your head but you never actually hear. It’s the easy answer on the test that you’re sure is a trick question so you get it wrong. The truth is simple.

It’s not something you study for…or take a class in…or join. It’s more intrinsic than that. So simple, and yet astonishingly complex at the same time.

It’s your compassion. Your commitment to service. Your ability to actually care about your patients makes you a standout PA candidate.

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I told you it was simple

Hear me out. We can teach you medicine. We’ve done it before. Every year a new cohort of students come to PA school eager to learn, and we help mold them into excellent and competent providers. We teach evidence-based medicine, critical thinking, pharmacodynamics, and surgical skills. And students learn them. Every year they master aspects of medicine through hard work and sacrifice. We know we can teach you medicine.

But how do you teach compassion? How do you instill ethics? Or get students to actually CARE about their patients?

Teaching empathy and compassion is so much harder. We want you to come in with these personality traits that will make you an amazing physician assistant; we’ll teach you the medicine part.

So, if you’re asking yourself what makes a good PA, think back to your patient interactions, take a deep inventory of why you want to serve, and your commitment to making the lives of your future patients just a little bit better.

Because we can teach you medicine. But we can’t teach you compassion. That’s something you need to learn on your own.

The Pre-PA clinic social media links provided below:

#38 What It’s Like Being a Student-Athlete

Many kids grow up dreaming of playing sports at the collegiate level as they watch their local team win homecoming, or sit in the stands at that big rival game that the entire town comes out to. But in college, the hard work isn’t just on the field. Athletes also strive to excel in the classroom. 

Being a student-athlete takes a lot of time and effort to achieve success. Unlike many schools, Arcadia aims to support athletes in all aspects from the field to the classroom.

In my first season of lacrosse, I was not worried about how I would perform on the field or how much weight I could lift in the gym. Instead, I was worried about how I was going to manage my time. Luckily, the coaches shared their tips to help us do this. The first thing is trying to manage your class and practice schedule. Before the season starts, the coaches make it clear what the practice times will be. They also stress that it is more important to go to class instead of pushing it off if it interferes with the practice time. I have personally scheduled classes during practice time and have never been punished or penalized in any way. Coaches will even let you leave practice early if your class begins halfway through.

One of the biggest questions people ask is about missing classes for games. At the beginning of the semester, it is vital to work with your professor to inform them of the game schedule. For some classes such as labs, you can usually only miss one lab for the entire semester before you receive a failing grade, so it is important to be proactive instead of reactive. You can ask if there is another lab time. If there isn’t one, you should inform your coach of the situation and get excused from the game. They are more than understanding that school comes first.

The entire athletic department—from your trainer to Arcadia’s strength and conditioning coaches—is dedicated to supporting you in your athletic and academic achievements.

Patrick Ensmenger

Managing time throughout the entire semester takes practice. Each person has their own way of dealing with these challenges, but I find it best to have an organized daily planner. Doing assignments on the bus or in the 20 minutes between classes can save you hours of time at night so that you can maintain a healthy sleep and dietary schedule. 

As I said before, the entire athletic department—from your trainer to Arcadia’s strength and conditioning coaches—is dedicated to supporting you in your athletic and academic achievements. If you are struggling at any point during the semester, ask the Athletics staff what to do. If they don’t know, they will refer you to one of Arcadia’s many departments that specialize in those things.

In general, being a student-athlete at Arcadia is beyond my expectations. The dynamic of the small school provides a sense of community between teams that is hard to find anywhere else. Along with the top-of-the-class staff and resources, Arcadia has provided an opportunity for all athletes to succeed in the classroom and on the field.