I graduated last spring, taking a year off
I took QM1 under Goldbart, and truthfully, I didn't learn anything, but I learnt a lot in QM2 under PP. Was Thanksgiving fun with your take home midterm?
I'm not sure how taking those courses would help the qual though..
I guess just working through all the past year quals would help, with the study groups and what not through the summer; hence, I'm not so sure if taking the undergrad versions of those courses would help. However, if you never took a Classical Mechanics course before, it might be a better idea to take one then. I'm not sure if the professors teaching those classes are good or not. They seem pretty new in the teaching scene.
I never really used the lounge. Isn't there a grad student lounge too? I was always hanging out on the 3rd floor too, struggling with problem sets late into the night, and sometimes staying overnight to finish up my QFT problem set, with my fair share of cursing and swearing. Although the material is the same, it still seems like a huge leap with the introduction of Green's functions appearing everywhere in physics (and stupid Bessel functions too)
I'm not sure if it's just the UIUC Physics department that seems real tough in terms of problem sets, but when I compare it to other schools' problem sets, other schools seem more manageable...but I can't say much since I never experienced them before..