Category Archives: College Life

Rejected? How to Deal

It’s that time of year again. Ambiguity is in the air, marked by anticipation or simply by pure dread. For high school seniors, college acceptances and rejections are in the mail, and spirits are either high or low. (Some say it’s a cruel joke to send out acceptance letters on April Fool’s)

For college seniors and recent graduates, job offers are sealed and finalized. After countless interviews, some of you are finally getting that golden letter of acceptance. Time to party away the rest of senior year. (Oh wait, you mean you didn’t already do that for spring break?)

For those whose plans didn’t quite work out, it’s easy to get swept away by a tide of self-doubt in these times. But whether you were rejected from your first choice university, or from your dream job, keep in mind the following: rejections don’t define your self-worth.

Of course, general bread-and-butter advice often doesn’t heal the wound fast enough. So, weary reader, browse through the list and find the one that pertains most closely to your current situation. Then sit back, and hopefully you’ll feel somewhat better by the end.

  1. All of your friends got into the Ivy League/top-tier schools/schools with huge scholarships and you didn’t? Not only do you have to deal with your friends’ exuberant “I got into Harvard!” bursts, but they’ll inevitably ask you afterward, “So where did you get in?” Ignoring them only leads to more probing, and you know they’ll just post the same thing on Facebook/Twitter. You’ll either feel completely embarrassed that you didn’t get into as good a school, or you’ll feel angry and frustrated. Jack got a full ride? But he wasn’t even as good as me in AP Lit!

    The key is to not compare your abilities to those of your friends. Admissions look through the applicant pool to fill quotas, and by quotas I mean “to achieve a diverse incoming class.” If 50% of the incoming class are already mathematicians, they’re going to give more lenience to an aspiring art historian in the next round, all else equal. College acceptances truly have a degree of luck involved.

    Getting rejected doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less smart or less capable than your friends are. Everyone has different strengths, and comparing Jack’s math prowess to your literary prowess is an unfair comparison. Think about it: nobody ever says, Psh, Shakespeare was nowhere as mathematically gifted as Newton was. Shakespeare is clearly not a valuable person. Nor do people look down at those who attend non-elite universities. (And those who do are douchebags who are completely not worth your time in the first place)

  2. You just got your 5th (or more) job or internship rejection.

    The economy is grim out there. Well, it’s slowly started to pick back up again, but it’s still pretty difficult for job seekers.If you’ve truly given each interview all your best (that means you rigorously prepared, researched the company, and practiced), then don’t mourn. Most of the time, it just wasn’t a good fit. I had been rejected from a company that I could tell, right from the beginning of the interview, was not right for me. The employees were grim and the place resembled a prison chamber. A prison chamber with glass doors and bowls of fruit, but still.

    Other times, it’s just luck. Randomness. The interviewer might’ve not liked a tiny bit of what you’d said, and that was enough to tip the scales in someone else’s favor. Do not take things personally.

    Always keep an open mind and keep in touch with the HR at the companies you’ve interviewed for. I’ve had surprise emails drop in my inbox months after the rejection that told me of new opportunities I was qualified for. Burning bridges rarely helps anyone.

  3. I don’t know where I’m headed in the next month/6 months/year. You’ve suddenly realized you don’t know what you’re doing with your life. That’s pretty common, especially amongst mid-20-year-olds.

    Volunteer for a year. PeaceCorps if you want to travel overseas. AmeriCorps if you’d rather stay in the US. CityYear is a good option if you’re interested in teaching and working with kids. Or you can just take a year off and travel. See the world. There’s so much in the world worth living for, but first we must see those wonders. You’re only young once. (No, don’t say YOLO, please)

You will meet a lot of rejection and it is not always a straight path, there will be detours, so enjoy the view. –Michael York

Confessions from cutthroat academia

I was reading an article earlier about cutthroat students in law school. Apparently there are crazy people out there who would do anything to get the top grade in the class, including but not limited to:

  1. “Accidentally” ripping out pages of a required textbook in the library.
  2. Refusing to lend notes.
  3. Giving out misinformation.
  4. Purposely hogging up the professor’s office hours.

I was pretty surprised about #3. I mean, who does that? Sooner or later, the person whom you purposely gave false information to will figure it out, and there goes your reputation/trust/friendship. Unless that was your goal anyway, in which case, keep it up, Iago!

But on a more serious note, I’ve had experience with these cutthroat-type environments. Right now, in fact.

Welcome to my college.

In the second week of classes my freshman year, I asked three upperclassmen if I could borrow their notes for a previous lecture I missed. The answers ranged from, “Sorry, I don’t take notes,” to “I don’t have my notebook with me.” Um, okay, give me a break.

I’ve also encountered several cases when the library’s copy of a course textbook goes “missing.” Hmm.

Let’s not forget the times I needed my friend to proofread my essay’s introduction (one single paragraph, literally 1/3 of a page), but she was conveniently too busy. But not too busy for updating her Facebook status and uploading photos, by the way.

But like every basket of apples, there are the few rotten ones and the perfectly good ones. (Unless you just have a basket of bad apples, in which case, you should probably go choose another basket.) Although I’ve met my share of cutthroat, lazy, competitive students, I’ve also met plenty of friendly students who are willing to help out their fellow classmates.  I’m thankful for the classmate who shared her textbook with me for a semester, for the friend who photocopied her notes for me that time I was sick, and the seniors who took the time to help edit my philosophy and history essays.

Yeah, being in a cutthroat environment has helped me learn to fend for myself. I’ve learned not to rely too much on others. But it’s also made me more sympathetic towards people, because I can now easily imagine myself in their situation. Missed a lecture due to illness and need notes? Been there. Need someone to proofread a haphazard paper? Done that.

Now, I gladly share notes or explain concepts from class with people. Who says you need to make everyone else fail to become great? I mean, if you have to claw your way to the top and step on everyone else along the way, no offense, but you’re pretty pathetic. Seriously. Have fun getting to the top by yourself.

Throughout life, we’ll always face situations where ultra-competitive people try to put us down. Don’t retaliate by becoming one of them.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internship Tales from Hell

 

Virtual internships are a growing trend nowadays, because unless you’re living under a rock or out in the Andes, it’s likely that you have access to the Internet. And let’s face it, the majority of work we do in the office requires Internet. Research, stock trends, Google searches…  

Recently, I found this (unpaid) virtual internship with a startup consulting firm.  It’s very small as it just launched. I thought it had potential, so I was pretty excited when I got the position–woohoo, a virtual internship, this will be a piece of cake! I can work while wearing my pajamas from home! Right?

Whoever said to beware of seemingly good things was right. First, let’s just say the CEO (are you still technically a CEO when the firm only has two employees?) is crazy. Crazy as in completely unrealistic, unorganized, and impractical.

First of all, the guy has no clue that you’re not supposed to go ahead with phone meetings without waiting for a confirmation from the other party. I was out all day on Saturday, doing research for my paper and meeting friends for lunch. I got back to find missed phone calls on Skype because he had decided, literally 1 minute before the call, that we were going to have the phone meeting right then and there. Without confirming it with me. Okay, Mr. CEO, clearly the world revolves around you and nobody else’s schedule matters.

I could go on about all the last minute phone calls he’s placed / dropped.  I’ve had to rearrange entire schedules in order to accommodate his phone meetings, only to have him cancel them at the last minute. Then he’d make some excuse and ask if we can reschedule for *insert specific time frame for later that same day*. Yes dude, why not just have me set aside my entire day waiting for your call, then? 

My first few tasks for the firm involved conducting research that was going to be presented at a press conference in less than 4 days. The firm expected me to exploit utilize my college library and find a plethora of sources relevant to the project. The material also had to be extremely detailed.

Mr. CEO had the illusion that I could get the research material easily through my helpful college librarians and campus experts in the field of study. I don’t know how long he’s been out of college for, but professors and college librarians actually have schedules too, you know. Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine that the rest of the world doesn’t follow your schedule. How dare they?

Basically, it’s melted to the point where I’ve realized this firm is not worth an unpaid internship. Even if it was paid, I would have a pretty hard time justifying working for such a cluttered boss. On the bright side, I’m glad it’s a virtual internship, because I can actually quit without losing dignity. I mean, technically I’ve never talked to my employer face-to-face, believe it or not. Even the Skype calls are just phone calls, never video calls. We’ll just move on from the experience, two specks in the World Wide Web.

Unpaid internships stink. They’re just another way for employers to exploit free labor under the guise of “we’ll offer you experience! That’s what matters most!” Um, right. Chances are, unless the internship is for a well-respected, famous company, you could build character better by working at a grocery store or as a lifeguard at your summer pool. Don’t take the pencil-pusher job.

 

 

 

 

How My First Week Back into Facebook Went

I don’t use Facebook. I know what you’re thinking. Liar! What about this post?

Okay, let me clarify. I stopped using Facebook after my second year of college. (And if anything, that post should offer some good explanations for why.)

Admittedly I lost touch with most of the people whom I went to high school with, but I was never left out. I still had Skype, email, and (wouldn’t you believe it?) text messaging. Gasp,  so I could still communicate with people. Shocker.

Recently, against my better judgment, I decided to reenter the world of Facebook again. Why? Several (*ahem*) important reasons…

  1. My friend who lives 3,242 miles away urged me to rejoin. She and I have been keeping up primarily through text messages.
  2. There was a recent event I attended, and my friends all posted pictures. Normally they’d send me a email link to the pictures, knowing I don’t have Facebook, but there are usually photos that they missed.
  3. There are Facebook groups for the campus organizations I’m a part of.
  4. BECAUSE. JUST BECAUSE.

After a week of non-stop friend requests and bored clicking, here are my responses to the above points in order:

  1. Added friend. We don’t exchange a single word/comment/like on Facebook. She sends me a text message 4 days later and we continue our previous conversations… via text.
  2. Photos? The only thing that changed is now I have to deal with endless notifications about photos I’m tagged in .
  3. The Facebook groups for the campus clubs I’m in don’t seem to post anything of importance. When they do, they also send out an email to all their members anyway.
  4. No. Just no.

There is absolutely nothing worthwhile about rejoining, as I expected.

But it’s a good networking opportunity! On Facebook? Where people post pictures of cat memes and party pics?

You can keep in touch with friends on the other side of the globe! Facebook’s blocked in China, I thought you knew…

You miss important campus news and events! If they were truly important, they’d be forwarded to my email inbox. All the smart event organizers do that, anyway.

It gives you an ego boost when someone likes your photo. ADMIT IT. Eh. But I get more of an ego boost when I realize I have achieved more work in an hour at the library than someone else who surfs Facebook every 15 minutes.

So, BRB, deactivating Facebook again. Unless something dire comes up and requires me to use a social media site. In which case, hello? WordPress, anyone?

Extra reading on the merits and non-merits of Facebook by one of the most influential writers for college students of all time (disclaimer: no, it’s not me).

Fall Semester Has Fallen Down

Happy 2014 everyone!

(I’m too late to the chase, but what else is new? I’m a professional procrastinator, after all.)

So I’ve been rethinking the whole college experience. Fall semester was quite memorable. I have learned absolutely nothing useful from my abstract algebra class, except how to make your GPA plummet and how to pretend to understand useless proofs that you will never use in the real world. 

I also learned nothing from my history class aside from facts I could have looked up on Wikipedia myself. I remember back in high school, a teacher told us that college does not improve your writing skills. Instead, you develop it on your own, through trials and B essays and all-nighters.  This is 100% true. My history professor, despite being a great lecturer, did not teach us how to effectively improve our writing at all. He even commented that my writing was at times “too decorative” for history writing.

(Let me just say that in my previous history classes, none of the professors ever said that. In fact, one previous professor had encouraged me to use more descriptive, colorful words. Contradictory advice? Dogmatic views? Welcome to academia.)

Basically, the only useful things I learned were how to sound confident during class discussions, how to do ace research, and how to manage your time well. 

Well, okay, I suppose my economics classes were pretty useful.

I guess it’s like what my dad always says: After you graduate, you will likely never use what you learned in school again. Not the Pythagorean Theorem. Not formulas for diminishing marginal demand. However, what you do take away is your critical thinking skills.

 

 

 

Case Studies: A Look at Two Interesting College Students

 

I should probably start off with one of my favorite quotes from a favorite book. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby)

Admit it, we tend to poke fun at the hillbillies in the southern woods of Tennessee, And society as a whole generally looks down at someone with a menial job.

I guess I used to join in the laughter. It was so silly when my uncle thought you could open the windows during an airplane ride. How did he not know temperatures at altitudes of 10,000 feet were below freezing point?

But his ignorance doesn’t give me the right to ridicule him. Plenty of people have never studied physics. It’s true that knowledge is power, but doesn’t that just emphasize how we should be responsible with the power? Imagine a little boy who asks the teacher a naive question, and the teacher snorts, “How can you not know that? Psh, idiot!” in return.

It’s not necessary to gloat about prestige and intellect. Unfortunately, when you mesh with a bunch of 20-year-olds in college, you tend to get full heaps of gloat.

So now comes the fun part: unofficial case studies of fellow peers.

There are several college students I know who relish in the fact that they’re knowledgeable. They know they’re smart. . . oh, do they know it. And you’ll know it too–not because they’ve won the Nobel Peace Prize or the Fulbright or anything, but because they make it known.

Whenever they can.

Of course, they do it discreetly. You know that saying about never noticing anything small until it happens directly to you? (No, I haven’t heard that saying either; I just made it up actually.) Basically, when they’re not talking to you, you don’t realize anything’s off. They seem pretty modest, in fact. They’re eager to learn and happy to share knowledge. Then you have a direct one-to-one conversation with them, and. . .oh.

Let’s do a case study of Alex* and Bob*

(*names changed)

Continue reading Case Studies: A Look at Two Interesting College Students

The Student Leadership Process (A Reflection on a Questionable Mindset)

 

When I say the word ‘leader,’ what are the first thoughts that pop into your mind?

Outgoing. Charismatic. Open-minded. Friendly. Able. Approachable.

Chances are, our natural reaction is to think of that one CEO who smiles at us from the cover of Fortune 500, or perhaps that bubbly residential advisor back in college. The bottom line is that we tend to associate “leader” with “extrovert.”

Now time to go on a (related) tangent. I had applied to a Residential Life student leader position. We had to go through a group interview with 7-8 other applicants in a room, and we took turns answering questions while 5 silent observers…observed us.

To say that everyone tried to hog the spotlight is an understatement. The people I knew from previous courses suddenly went from being a regular “Oh, hello there” type to “Hi! How was your day? Remember how much fun we had in Spanish class? How was your week? Oh my gosh, I love that new haircut. This is exciting. How are you doing?” type.

Outgoing? Check.

The questions the interviewers asked us were thought-provoking and dealt with issues that members of the Residential Life staff would face, such as roommate issues, dirty dorm kitchens, etc. But of course, thanks to that one zealous applicant who couldn’t seem to contain her opinions for 2.4 minutes, our contemplative thoughts would all be interrupted with,

Well, I think that as a student leader, we need to emphasize community and
(insert synonym for community here). I mean, we can’t just expect people to like not follow the rules. [insert dramatic wave of hands] What we need to do is promote (insert another synonym for community here) and that is clearly how this problem is solved. [sits back with an enormous smile usually reserved for dentists]”

The thing is, not all gregarious and extremely outgoing people make good leaders. Or maybe the better wording is, not all quiet and reserved people make bad leaders.

In fact, introverts do make great leaders–just through a different style. They probably aren’t going to jump in and invite you to a BBQ, but they possess the calm demeanor that is sometimes essential to leading a group or overseeing a task. Depending on the specific position, sometimes a good leader is just a person who’s a good listener and who can offer wise advice.

The true quality is a willingness and determination to get things done. But until then, schools and organizations will continue to pick from the bushels of eager, social, and outgoing extroverts.