• Instagram
  • LinkedIn

First step to success: know your priorities | A UPenn Student on High School Courses

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

We had the opportunity of interviewing Nicholas Anderson, a student at University of Pennsylvania, about: High School Courses


Nick is a first-generation college student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. In high school, Nick was involved and held leadership positions in NHS, student government, American Red Cross, varsity soccer, jazz band, and founded the Youth-In-Action chapter. His collegiate involvements/leadership positions can be found on his LinkedIn or Website: nickjanderson.com | https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/



Key points Nicholas shares:

  • Fortunately by the time I picked up that job, took over leadership roles, and upped my course load, I had established my priorities and had a fantastic support system in the people around me. I literally had a list of priorities, and I would go about accomplishing things in that order.

  • I’ve continued to follow my passions in college, and coming from a public high school in Florida, the courses available to me at Penn have simply blown my mind.


Q: How did you choose what courses to take in high school? Did you take courses based on your interest, GPA, college credit, etc?

A: Unfortunately, my high school didn’t offer an excess of interesting courses. We were disgustingly curriculum focused, without much opportunity to learn about things that really mattered (I could go on a rant about the American public education system, but I digress). So I just chose to take the hardest level of what was available to me, really just to see what would happen if I challenged myself. Those courses happened to provide college credit, but it wasn’t really until my junior year that I started to think about the effects of that.




Q: Did you take any AP or IB classes? Did you set a limit for the amount you would take?

A: Only AP! My high school didn’t offer IB. I always pushed myself to the point of failure, so I didn’t set limits on the amount of AP classes I took. I worked hard enough to continuously get A’s, and I wouldn’t have limited the amount of AP’s I took unless I started showing C’s on my transcript.




Q: With your course load and extracurriculars, how did you manage time to complete all your work and study?

A: It was tough, especially in my junior year when I started working at Smoothie King. Fortunately by the time I picked up that job, took over leadership roles, and upped my course load, I had established my priorities and had a fantastic support system in the people around me. I literally had a list of priorities, and I would go about accomplishing things in that order. Unfortunately, sleep didn’t make the list and became a bit of an afterthought, but life was exciting and I loved everything about what I was doing.




Q: How did you study for tests? Specifically, what strategies did you use to prepare for final and AP exams?

A: Cheat sheets, and lots of them - basically trying to fit as much relevant information as possible on one side of one piece of copy paper. Organized notes were also key for me. For AP exams, I invested in the specialized study books (Barron’s) and would read and annotate them cover to cover. Simple knowledge intake, and excessive exposure to the course’s content. Also lots and lots of practice tests. I find that some of these methods still help me now at Penn, even in an application-based curriculum.




Q: While you have shown an immense passion for engineering, you have also taken many courses that are in no way related to engineering. Could you describe some of them and why you chose to take them?

A: I’ve continued to follow my passions in college, and coming from a public high school in Florida, the courses available to me at Penn have simply blown my mind. I chose to take a psychology class about love and sex because why not! I’m also taking some business classes at Wharton (Macro, Micro, Venture Capital Management, Entrepreneurship) to give me an edge in the professional world. I have 5.5 credits available to me every semester (which is the equivalent of 5 classes and a lab), and I value actually learning things that are important over having a better GPA, so I always fulfill all 5.5 of those credits. I’m paying for it after all.




Thanks for reading!

Have more questions based on what you’ve read or any you would like us to ask alumni? Submit them here!


Related Posts

See All