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"You must have a vision before you can manifest anything." | A UPenn/Caltech Student on College Life

We had the opportunity of interviewing Andrew Nyholm, an alum of the University of Pennsylvania and student at California Institute of Technology about: College Life


He is

  • a former student at the Materials Camp at Drexel University

  • a former student at the Governor's School for Engineering and Technology at Lehigh University

  • a former student at Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) at the University of Pennsylvania

  • a lover of science and sustainability

Here are some important words he shares:

  • "Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors or university leaders about different extracurricular opportunities."

  • "I wanted to see how things developed naturally and did not want to be disappointed if my vision did not match with how unpredictable things can develop."

  • "College is nearly completely free form and it is easy to just go through the motions without realizing the plethora of opportunities that you likely won’t have again."




Q: What activities were and are you involved in?

A: Sustainability groups. I was part of political groups, leadership groups, volunteer groups, social groups, education groups, and employment groups pertaining to sustainability in various capacities from member to treasurer to chair.




Q: How did you find internship opportunities in college?

A: I had a few jobs as an undergraduate. My research jobs were paid through my involvement in VIPER and I found labs by emailing and meeting with interesting professors. My other job was as an Eco-Rep employed by the Sustainability Office. I found this job by talking with friends and knowing the different people in the office.




Q: What would be one piece of advice you would give to a high school student pursuing their extracurricular intensively as part of their future career?

A: Don’t be afraid to reach out to professors or university leaders about different extracurricular opportunities. The worst thing that can happen is that the person is busy, and this won’t harm you. But most of the time, the person is excited to meet someone passionate in the work they do. If they don’t enjoy fostering the passion of students, they shouldn’t be in academia.




Q: How did you spend your summers productively? Weekends?

A: I spent my summers working in research labs for 12 out of 14 weeks of each of my three summers. Weekends were spent as a mix of homework, hanging out with friends, volunteer groups like working in an urban farm, or camping/hiking.





Q: Did you set yourself a goal for what you would accomplish, learn, or impact in each role you played in college?

A: I did not set particular roles or expectations in the different groups I was involved with in college. I wanted to see how things developed naturally and did not want to be disappointed if my vision did not match with how unpredictable things can develop.




Q: What’s a major difference besides the obvious ones, between high school and college?

A: One difference between high school and college is how you set yourself apart from your classmates in each scenario. High school has some pretty set paths towards doing well and setting yourself apart in certain ways from your peers that you can select between. College is nearly completely free form and it is easy to just go through the motions without realizing the plethora of opportunities that you likely won’t have again.




Q: What differences are there in the experience of obtaining a Bachelor’s versus a Master’s degree?

A: I do not have a Master’s degree. I skipped over the Master’s degree and went straight from obtaining my Bachelor’s degrees to starting my PhD program.




Learn more about Andrew and his experience on his LinkedIn account.


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