Jackson Margolis, '20, writes an essay for his college English class about the novel "There There" by Tommy Orange. (Photo by Dylan Margolis)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Jackson Margolis, ’20, loves film studies at UC Berkeley; takes classes online due to COVID-19

Jackson Margolis, ’20, attends the University of California, Berkeley. Margolis is leaning toward majoring in molecular and cellular biology.

Q: Why did you choose to attend UC Berkeley?

A: Ultimately, I decided to attend UC Berkeley due to its sports culture and a big campus feel, which is very different from the Country Day environment. Due to COVID-19, we aren’t having it this year, but hopefully next year I will get that experience. I really enjoy how the school ties in prestigious academics to its sports and social culture.

Q: How has the pandemic affected you?

A: All of my classes are online, so we have synchronous and asynchronous learning. This means that in some of my classes, I meet the same way Country Day does. For example in my English class, we meet Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour and a half. I have assignments due right before class, and I am required to turn my screen on.

Q: What is remote learning for college courses like?

A: For my physiology class, it’s completely asynchronous. All of the assignments are posted on a website called Canvas. I have to answer questions related to the textbook and my professor grades them. Then, there are four open-resource exams and a final that I can take whenever I want. The catch is you have 100 questions and not enough time to look up an answer.

Q: How do you feel about your first time in college being on Zoom?

A: I have mixed feelings about it. Obviously, there would be a better social dynamic in-person. For me, there are fewer distractions. I am the type of person who really likes to get involved in clubs and activities in school that distract me from academics. Because there is a lack of that, I can focus on academics and excel there. 

Q: How are you spending your time?

A: My math professor assigns weekly quizzes on Fridays, so I sort of center my whole week around preparing for these mini exams. After I study for a while each morning, I will go running for a while. 

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I am taking math 10A (Calculus), physiology, English and California in the Cinematic Imagination. 

Q: What are you majoring in?

A: I am currently undeclared. Right now, I am on the pre-med track, so I might declare molecular and cellular biology as my major. 

I might double major in film because my film class is currently my favorite class. I also enjoy storytelling and writing about and discussing film, so, at the very least, I plan to take more film classes while I’m still at Cal. Plus, a lot of med schools like when people meaningfully double major. 

Q: What is your largest class?

A: I am enrolled in a program at UC Berkeley which incorporates a Country Day vibe on a UC campus. Instead of hundreds of students in my classes, it is reduced to 90 students in my lectures.

Q: What are your smallest classes?

A: My smallest classes consist of small discussion groups of approximately 17 people.

Q: How are your professors over remote learning?

A: They are all managing it well. Since Berkeley is an expansive school with numerous resources, they started planning for this online semester back in March last year.

Q: How was the transition you made from Country Day to college?

A: Country Day prepares you to do well in a physical setting.  I think there are certain skills that Country Day definitely helped me with, such as making me participate in class and get my assignments turned in on time. 

That said, there is a ginormous jump between high school and college. Almost all of your college grades are determined by big exams and essays. Still though, most of my professors offer at least some extra credit opportunities. 

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: Over the summer, I was not spending a lot of time joining any social groups or getting to know people. I was partially disappointed because school was only online, and I was stressed because college was starting. I forgot to submit some of my vaccines, and that risked delayed enrollment and signing up for classes I wanted. I freaked out because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to attend UC  Berkeley after all the hard work in high school because of a silly medical form. I ended up getting the form in, but the biggest mistake I made was thinking there was a safety net at a University of California. 

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2021?

A: Don’t think that your life is going to be easier if you get into the school of your choice. There is going to be plenty of adversity that you are going to encounter, and you will have ridiculously difficult assignments no matter where you attend. You have to understand that you are working toward  something.  When you are going into graduate school, the name of your school is important, but your grades are the most important. If you don’t get into your dream school, that just means you have to work harder to get into the grad school you want.

Five star or subpar?
Quality of classes
Student-teacher interactions
School spirit

— By Callister Misquitta

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