Advice from a SSSY (Second Semester Second Year)

Marcy Schaeffer, 2nd-year Biostatistics and Informatics Student

If you were just accepted to Rollins – congratulations! The next four semesters of your academic career are going to be a whirlwind at best and a whirlwind at worst. 2 years will seem like 2 months, a blink of an eye, and I can pretty much guarantee you will love almost every second of it.

Having completed 3.5 of those 4 semesters (and now oh-so-wise), here are some tips for how to make the most of your whirlwind:

1) Don’t focus too much on number of credits when enrolling for classes
Yes, credit limits/recommendations are completely valid. Pay attention to those so you don’t go completely crazy. However, if a class seems really, really interesting with a super legit professor (as is the case often at Rollins), take it. While you may be worried about being stretched a little too thin, I found that one extra class doesn’t make too big of a difference. It’s worth it. The stars will align – you may make a great connection or honestly learn something life-changing, and if you didn’t have time management before, you will now.

2) If you have REAL, choose a position that can open doors
Your REAL position can be a gateway to many opportunities, so choose accordingly. A REAL position can not only give you job stability for two years, but it can lead to a paid practicum during the summer AND can provide data and an advisor for your thesis. Even beyond graduation, your REAL position can lead to a full-time position or fellowship for when you finally enter the Real World.

3) Make connections when you can
The public health world is a pretty small one. Be proactive, introduce yourself, smile, shake hands, and maybe write down a name whenever you can, especially when you’re on campus (I’m not talking about strangers on the street here necessarily). Someone who gives a guest lecture in class just may have a practicum position for you or may be able to consult on your thesis. Chances are, they do something really cool and are really important in the public health world, so it’ll be nice to have that contact in your back pocket.

4) Do work during school breaks (eww but actually so helpful)
Like I said, the two years are a bit of a whirlwind, so it’s always in your best interest to be thinking about the next big thing, especially big things you’ll need to apply for. I’m talking about your REAL position, your practicum, and whatever you plan to do after your MPH. Luckily, we get a thing called break and those times can be super helpful in getting your next big thing situated – once you’re in class and enjoying Atlanta, you won’t want anything extra to worry about. So, use some of your breaks (i.e. lazy time at home visiting the fam) to make your semesters more fun and less stressful. Start looking for and applying to REAL positions before Fall semester first year (i.e. starting August 1 or so when the portal opens). Start looking into practicums and applying to positions for your practicum during winter break your first year. And as someone who awfully procrastinated on PhD applications, start making moves for after graduation during the summer between first and second year – your second year will be busy enough with a full course load, thesis work, TA positions, etc. The last thing you’ll want to do when you get down time is write a personal statement, fill out an application, and/or update your CV.

5) And, almost most importantly, enjoy Atlanta
Coming from the west coast, I didn’t think I would fall in love with Atlanta as much as I have. It truly is an amazing city. Make sure you take time when you can to do all things Atlanta: enjoy Piedmont Park, celebrate MLK day with MLK’s family, eat lots of biscuits and grits, see a concert in Centennial Park where they once celebrated the Olympics, go to 2 Chainz’s birthday party…you get the jist. No one is too busy to not have ATL adventures.



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