CMU Freshman Year Recap

I’ve been meaning to write about the courses I took at the end of the past two semesters, but never got around to doing so. I’ve seen several other CMU students keep a list of classes they enjoyed and predictions for the future, so I might as well start now!

I will star especially enjoyable classes that I recommend anyone with interest in said field to try during CMU. Also, “hours spent” will include class time.

Freshman Fall Semester

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the Fall semester, especially since it was online and much worse than the Spring semester. However, I did get to take an interesting class while getting some requirements out of the way.

For classes, I took:

  • 73-102 Principles of Microeconomics (Professor Gasper): Overall, a fairly interesting introduction to Microeconomics, but nothing too special from the basic AP material that you may have learned in high school. The Professor was pretty good and I did learn some interesting extensions of the material that I learned in high school, but this class is definitely what you make of it. Mandatory for business and economics majors. Hours spent: 3-5!

  • 70-106 Business Science (Professor Routledge): A somewhat crash course-esque introduction to a quantitative style of business. The professor made pretty interesting classs slides, but overall it was moreso an introduction than anything in depth. This was also definitely a class that you’d want to take in person as being remote did not help content delivery at all. Mandatory for business majors. Hours spent: 2-4!

  • 21-127 Concepts of Mathematics (Professor Newstead)*: A very interesting introduction to proof-based mathematics by the teacher who wrote the textbook. This class definitely made me much more interested in proof-based mathematics, something I thought I would want to avoid due to my poor experiences with it in high school. I would recommend taking with Newstead as he teaches the material really well. The course is hefty though, especially for anyone that doesn’t have proof experience. Mandatory for CS majors (or 15-151). Hours spent: 8-10!

  • 15-122 Principles of Imperative Computation (Professor Kaynar): The first course and introduction to data structures. This will likely be the first or second CS course anyone would take at CMU and tends to show good techniques for debugging and commenting out code. It starts off in a special language called C_0 before moving on to C. Many people do not like this course, and I personally had to spend a lot of time on some homeworks, but I’d say some other assignments were interesting. Mandatory for CS Majors. Hours spent: 14-18!

  • 76-106 Interp (Professor Novosat): This is definitely very dependent on the professor that you have, but it was a basic class on college-level writing. Personally, it was somewhat easier than my high school AP Lit class, but my high school was fairly intense, so it wasn’t all too unexpected. Overall, there was the basic writing prompt every week and then a final project. Mandatory for CMU Students. Hours spent: 2-4!

  • 70-104 Business Leadership Endeavor (Professor Jafry ‘O Connor): A business specific course that worked on building connections, but really ended up being a somewhat interesting and fun course to talk about with friends. There was a minecraft incident, youtube incident, and networking incident. I feel like this class would be even better in person. Mandatory for Business Majors. Hours spent: 1-2!

Overall, this wasn’t a particularly difficult semester, but since I was remote, it wasn’t a great one either. I do think that it was a bit easier to adjust to college-level courses since I was remote, but the difficulty overall wasn’t too bad (comparable/less than ABRHS level). Part of that was due to meeting my advisor and getting a good balance of courses, so I would always recommend reaching out to them early and getting on top of that process. If in person (and I hope that remote classes never become a regular thing), I would recommend going on the lower side of total FCE hours to get to know people and join clubs. Overall, my calculated hours were 30-43.

Freshman Spring Semester

Although this post is getting a bit too long, I might as well keep everything in one post or I’ll become demotivated and never get to the rest of what I planned. Being in person for this semester was much better and much more like the advertised college experience. I definitely did not leave room for myself to have fun and get to know people in my initial schedule, but still had fun (at the cost of sleep).

However, I ended up having to drop a course. This wasn’t due to the courseload being to heavy to handle (though it was pretty heavy), but instead due to a series of unfortunate sicknesses, including 3 bouts with food poisoning/stomach flu as well as persistent chronic migranes and resulting liver issues. I definitely would recommend taking care of yourself and hoping you don’t get sick, but sometimes life just has other plans. Anyways, I ended up dropping 15-251 after the midterm as I decided to focus on my own health and getting good grades in my remaining classes instead of mediocre ones in most of them. This ended up being a great decision and let me have a much more enjoyable experience with my friends and time in Pittsburgh. I also ended up gaining professional experience in an area that I was interested in, since I felt that I could handle it afterwards.

The moral of the story is: take interesting classes, but don’t feel obligated to stick through them. There’s always more time in college, and no penalty for dropping and retaking the course at a better time like there was in high school. Moving on, for the classes I stuck through:

  • 15-150 Principles of Functional Programming (Professor Crary): Starts off fine, but becomes a bit brutal near the end. Especially coupled with getting sick and having to focus on catching up in 15-251 first, I was extremely behind in this class by the midterm. For our year, it seemed like I wasn’t the only one struggling with the pacing of the class, with our midterm being one of the worst averages that our professor had seen in his decade at CMU. I believe that this class was definitely interesting, especially from the scope of learning a new way to problem solve programming problems, but a lot of its gleam was lost due to COVID and the new model of content delivery. These issues led to a lot of burn out for me personally, and I left the class a bit jaded rather than with the initial interest I had. That being said, I do think this is an important and interesting course for anyone learning how to “computer science” well. Mandatory for CS Majors. Hours Spent: (taking into account burnout by the end of the semester) 20-25 hours!

  • 73-103 Principles of Macroeconomics (Professor Zetlin-Jones): Definitely a fun class to learn economics and has a great professor with a ton of flexibility. In our semester, the course was slightly revamped to include case studies, which were definitely a bit more difficult than the work we received in Microeconomics, but I definitely learned a lot by doing them. Overall, this was a solid class. Mandatory for Business and Economics Majors. Hours spent: 6-8 hours!

  • 70-391 Finance (Professor Albertus): This was another solid introduction to Finance for anyone who may be interested, business or otherwise. This class honestly taught me that, perhaps, specific finance careers were not exactly what I wished to do for the rest of my life, but I definitely learned enough skills to help me think more analytically in whatever role I end up in. Mandatory for Business Majors. Hours spent: 5-7 hours!

  • 36-202 Methods of Statistics and Data Science (Professor Weinberg): This was a course that really only brushed the surface of R and statistics. For anyone looking at a class to take that would let them learn a bit without spending too much time outside of classes, this is a solid course. However, for someone who wants to have a deep-dive into R, I would recommend taking a higher level course. Mandatory for Business Majors (or take the business equivalent). Hours spent: 3-4 hours!

Overall, I definitely felt like my initial courseload was on the heavier, but doable side. For other freshman, I would still recommend taking lighter courseloads earlier on, just to get acclimated to clubs and campus culture, before really diving into the areas you’re interested in. Total hours spent on coursework: 34-44 hours.

Predictions for Sophomore Fall Semester

I believe that I may be taking a bit more than I can handle, especially since I barely understood the latter half of 15-150 material, but I think I’m taking a mix of interesting courses this semester:

  • 15-213: Introduction to Computer Systems
  • 70-204: Business Leadership Endeavor II
  • 15-210: Parallel and Sequential Data Structures and Algorithms
  • 70-381: Marketing I
  • 70-311: Organizational Behavior
  • 98-374: Tea Culture

I’m thinking that the two computer science classes will definitely take a lot of my time this semester. 213 and 210 are both timesinks, but I hope to learn a lot about software development from the both of them. Otherwise, I’m pretty interested in Org Behavior and Marketing, so I’m looking forward to taking those courses. As an avid tea enthusiast, I’m most excited for the stuco. In all, this is probably going to be my most intense semester yet, reaching 35-45 hours.

I’ll likely be giving a end of fall semester recap in a few months, and we’ll see if these predictions are accurate. If you have any advice or opinions on the classes I’m taking, feel free to reach out!