Photo courtesy of Emily Cook

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Emily Cook, ’23, joins Women’s Ultimate Frisbee, pursues biochemistry major

Emily Cook is attending California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She is majoring in biochemistry to prepare for a career in medicine. 

Q: Why did you choose to attend Cal Poly SLO?

A: I chose to go to Cal Poly because I fell in love with the campus. I remember visiting, and it just was the perfect environment. 

Cal Poly is a great school. It is also really competitive to get into it, but the environment itself is not competitive. It’s collaborative and an overall great community. Cal Poly is pretty special.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: I’m taking Music Appreciation and Calculus III, where we study math, probability, statistics and finance. I am also taking Chemistry 124, a general chemistry course that combines chemistry with engineering.

I’m preparing to get into medical school. Two paths I am looking at are dermatology and psychiatry. 

You just do a lot of things like being involved in campus research, campus clubs, research and internships —  that sort of stuff. 

Q: Do you do any labs in Chemistry 124?

A: We’ve only done two labs so far. We did a photoelectron spectroscopy lab, where we measured light as it went through a solution. That would tell us what color is absorbed versus what color appears to our eyes and stuff like that. 

Q: Do you do any extracurriculars or clubs? 

A: I am on the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. I am also in the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) club. It is for pre-med students. We have weekly meetings every Tuesday. There are leaders who come and talk to the club and give advice on resumes. 

I am also a part of the American Red Cross. I joined that club recently so I have not gotten a chance to do any activities yet.

Q: Why did you choose your major?

A: I chose biochemistry because it’s a good setup for medical school. Even if I decide not to go to medical school, I can still get a job with a biochemistry degree instead of having to go to graduate school or something. It has more job options and it sets you up better for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) having a biochemistry baseline. I took Ms. Conner for both General Chemistry and AP Chemistry, and she’s amazing. She helped me feel confident in chemistry — confident enough to try to get a biochemistry degree.

I want to thank Dr. Whited too because I took her for biology class and AP Biology class, and she’s amazing. They’re both fantastic teachers.

Q: Did you know what career you wanted to do in life during high school? 

A: No, I’ve known I wanted to become a doctor since freshman year, or maybe a little bit before that. I didn’t decide to get a biochemistry degree until I was applying for college. I’ve always known I wanted to be a doctor. I’ve always wanted to help people as a doctor specifically.

Q: What’s the environment like in college?

A: Everyone I’ve met here is great. It’s super collaborative no one’s out to get each other. At some schools, people try sabotaging each other because of grade curves and stuff. It is honestly a great environment.

Q: What is your housing situation like?

A: I am lucky enough to have gotten a double in the newer 2017 dorm. Most are triples and some are ‘quints’, which are five people in the room. Those are rare though.

I get along great with my roommate Amy; we are really good friends. We hang out a lot. It’s funny though, because our schedules are opposite. We rarely see each other during the day. She is asleep when I wake up and awake when I am going to sleep. It’s funny but we get along well. 

This is what you call dormitory style. There are hallways of rooms and then it’s a coed bathroom. Both boys and girls use it. Honestly, it is not as crazy as you think it is. It is pretty normal. I got used to it fast, although sometimes, boys miss the mark if you know what I mean.

Q: How is the food scene?

A: I miss home-cooked meals so much. It had been two months of the same food and I think I was starting to go crazy. Generally, I think people hate Cal Poly’s food, but it’s not that bad. I mean, just near the end when it starts getting repetitive that’s not great. 

It’s also really hard to get fruits and vegetables. It’s unhealthy food and you have to order separately and pay separately for fruits and vegetables. It’s kind of annoying sometimes. 

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

A: I thought it would be a lot crazier honestly. Country Day is small, and Cal Poly has 20,000 people. I thought it would be kind of intimidating. 

I started in the summer. I came a month early for a ‘quarter plus’ program, which is an accelerated four-week program where I got rid of two GEs, a communication class, and a class in sustainability and communities. 

I am also in the Honors Program here at Cal Poly. You submit your application and they email later saying that you can apply to the honors and you submit two essays, and then they say you’ve been accepted into the program. What’s great about it is in such a large school, it’s really hard to get classes. We get priority registration for two years, our freshman and sophomore year.

Q: Is there anything you felt unprepared for? 

A: For me college wasn’t that much different than what I was already doing. The only difference is that your decisions are all your own. There’s no one telling you where to go, what to do, what to participate in and when to do your homework. But for me, I was already kind of self-regulating my senior year and junior year. The only difference is that you are just kind of living on your own. Some people are partying hard, and they have their freedom for the first time in their lives. 

For me, I didn’t feel unprepared going in. Country Day prepared me for academics and my parents prepared me for being independent and just everything that involves daily living.

Q: What do you feel most successful at in college?

A: Maintaining my sleep schedule. I’m very proud of myself. I have that 7 a.m. chem class three days a week. For those days, I go to bed at 9:30 pm. Chem is on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Then I stay up until 11 p.m. and I can just sleep until 9 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays which is nice. I’m impressed that I’ve managed to keep my, you know, nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Yes, that’s my greatest success.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes? 

A: Okay, one mistake I made during quarter plus, I developed a crush on this girl on my floor. The one rule of college is to never like someone who you’re living with. In the end, nothing happened. I told her that I liked her, and then she was like, “Well, I don’t like you back and I was like, okay,” and we’re still friends. So that’s a silly mistake. 

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2024?

A: Apply somewhere you think you’re gonna be happy. Start building up good habits now because the only one you’re going to answer to is yourself once you’re in college. If the little devil on your shoulder is telling you to do something dumb right now, you should figure out a way to make it shut up before you go to college.

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