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Words of college advice from alumnus Jerry Noel

Jerry Noel is a PeerForward alumnus and a class of ’23 Computer Science major at Penn State University’s University Park Campus. Jerry discovered his passion for computer science early on in high school, and he is now building his own apps in his free time while pursuing his degree. Read on to learn more about Jerry’s experiences at Penn State and his advice to incoming college freshmen.

On college classes:

College classes are definitely not like high school classes. As you progress through your educational career, the classes get more difficult. I experienced that first-hand when taking calculus in my first year at Penn State. I honestly thought it was going to be a walk in the park; it ended up being my lowest grade. In fact, many people fail classes here and just repeat them next semester or take them online at a different college and transfer over the credit. Doing the latter can be more expensive but can be much easier in terms of workload and difficulty. Classes at Penn State are both large and small. I had classes that were in rooms packed with over 300 students (pre-COVID, of course) and classes that only had at most 30 students. In fact, some have over 400 students or as few as ten.

I would also say that my workload is a lot. I credit this to the fact that I have an on-campus job and am pursuing a degree that requires me to take a lot of difficult courses. This is not to say the workload from the professors is a lot (though it can be), but if you have a lot of stuff going on outside the classroom, you can begin to feel overwhelmed. Besides my on-campus job and the classes I am taking, I am trying to maintain my app, TrendyMovies, and am also working with my friends to build a new app. But if you do not have that much going on outside of the classroom, the workload can still be a lot. It depends how well you manage your time.

On being proactive:

I credit many of the things I know to my own research and education outside of the classroom. As an example, I have wanted to build apps for many years now. I do not believe I could have built apps or websites with only the knowledge I gained through school. If you want to learn something, and when I say learn I mean fully invest beyond the classroom, you will have to go out of your way to educate yourself. I do not believe you can learn everything about what matters to you by simply going to class and waiting for it to be taught to you. I had to be proactive with what I wanted. Even though I am a computer science major and have taken numerous classes within that major, I would credit most of my knowledge to my studies outside of school. You see, when I started learning to code back in 2015, I learned it all on my own. I was learning because I was teaching myself. There were no assignments or quizzes that I needed to study for. I could sit there for as long as I wanted and properly take in the information that I was receiving.

The takeaway here is to be proactive about the things you are passionate about. I am proactive when it comes to building new tools to solve problems. I go out of my way to educate myself outside the classroom.

Ultimately, Jerry advises incoming freshmen that college is bound to be rewarding if they put in the work:

Although being at Penn State has been chaotic, it has indeed been fun. I have met so many wonderful people, many of whom I talk to every day. I have many supportive professors and directors in my college, the College of Engineering, who want to me succeed. The support system is pretty good and has helped me in various ways. For future students, the takeaway I would want them to get out of this is that college is going to be very chaotic. But stay true to the mission and never stop educating yourself, because knowledge does not start and stop in the classroom.

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