Category Archives: High School 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

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I’m a COOL teacher, right Regina?

In the notorious movie Mean Girls, one of the main characters’ mom tries desperately to be chic and trendy like her teenage daughter. The mom dresses in pink sweatsuits and serves the girls martinis. She then says,

I just want you to know: if you ever need anything, don’t be shy, okay? There are no rules in the house. I’m not like a regular mom, I’m a cool mom. Right, Regina?

(To which her daughter  Regina responds, “Please stop talking.”)

In high school, I had a teacher who was eerily similar to this mom–except nowhere as cheery and happy-go-lucky. But they both shared that longing wish of being “in” with the cool kids.

Let’s call her Ms. Q.

Ms. Q taught physics. From day 1, I could tell something was off. Ms. Q never smiled. She greeted everyone with her mouth in a flat line. She also liked to deadpan…except I’m pretty sure deadpans are supposed to be funny, and hers were not the definition of funny.

You’re thinking, Okay, so what? There are serious teachers everywhere. Doesn’t mean she’s incompetent. And how is she like Regina’s mom from Mean Girls?? Hold your horses.

As the semester crawled by, we noticed Ms. Q’s strange quirks. One, she had a strange sense of humor. Apparently raising your eyebrow at students while they’re talking makes you intimidating . . . and thereby gains you respect from other students. Ms. Q knew she was the authority of the classroom, and she kept that power astonishingly well by being blunt and forthright.  She wasn’t afraid to insult a student in front of everyone. She’d regularly pick on this one football player who wasn’t that good at physics, telling him to “shut up” and calling him “wow, what an idiot!” The scary part is, everyone else either thought it was funny or were too afraid to speak out. I guess it helped that the football player was humble and played along, but seriously?

Two, Ms. Q played favorites to her advantage. If you’re an outspoken, well-liked student, she’ll find ways to compliment you in front of the class multiple times a week. If you take the time to chat with her regularly, she’ll automatically see you as a friend, assigning you as her unofficial BFF. When the class is working on some problems, she’ll come by your desk and make a show of striking up conversation about the latest movies or hit songs, ignoring the students right next to you. She’ll also add you on Facebook, which I thought was one of those ‘grey areas’ in school policies . . .

Add everything together, and soon you have a class of students who are

1) intimidated by Ms. Q because they don’t ever want to be ostracized by her and treated like the football player was, and

2) eager to please Ms. Q and feeling flattered when she singles them out as someone she favors.

It’s common psychology. Say you have a ratings game and assign each of your acquaintances a number from 1 to 10 based on how cool you think they are. The ones with the highest numbers become flattered and endorse the system, whereas the ones with the lower numbers become less self-confident and are afraid to speak out.

Okay, okay, so how is she a bad TEACHER then? Aside from all the favoritism and intimidation, she still teaches the material well, right?

Um, no. By the time she’s established the boundaries of the class (i.e. which students are her favorites and which students are to be ostracized), she’ll keep those boundaries for the rest of the year. One morning, a friend of mine went into her classroom before school for some help with a physics problem. Ms. Q was there with several of her favorites. She glared at my friend with that same flat expression she’s had since the beginning of the year, and told him she was too busy at the moment and to come back later.

Was she busy? Ms. Q went right back to having a conversation about cats with her favorites, while sipping a cup of Starbucks mocha.

Another time, I tried to show her a design of a T-shirt I made for the class, and she rebuffed me in front of the entire class. The story goes like this:

It was tradition for AP classes to make class T-shirts, and so I came up with a design. My friends had all loved it and encouraged me to show Ms. Q in class. I walked up, asked her if she’d like to see my design, and held my paper out for her to see . . . to which she held her hands up, looked away, and said, “I’m not responsible for these.”

Note I was standing literally 7.5 inches from her, and the paper was right under her crooked nose. She could’ve glanced at the design and told me she didn’t like it. She could’ve just taken the paper, took one cursory look, and handed it back. Instead, she refused to look and told me to show it to *insert name of Favorite Student #2,* whom she told me was “the T-Shirt Design Coordinator.”

Later, I spoke to that student, who gave me a surprised look and said, “Wait, I’m the T-Shirt Design Coordinator? What’s that?” Turns out Ms. Q made up the title on the spot to avoid looking at my design.

Yeah, thanks a lot, Ms. Q. You’re truly a role model, that you are.

4 years later, I see that Ms. Q has added all my high school classmates on Facebook and is still bribing students for Starbucks gift cards. I think now’s the time to say, if I were to choose between Regina’s mom and Ms. Q, well, that’s a no-brainer.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing the Chromebook

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Because I’m totally into tech stuff and have VIP access to stuff on campus (just kidding about the VIP part… well, kind of), I am now a temporary owner of the newly trending Chromebook. (For the sake of clarifications, I’m using a Chromebook designed for Toshiba. Yes, the above picture is a Chromebook for Samsung. Don’t ask me, I just grabbed the first decent-looking image I could find.)

 

What’s a Chromebook? It’s an extremely simple laptop designed by Google that lets you do one thing: surf the Internet. You can’t install Microsoft Office (or anything, really), but not to fret: the Google Chromebook comes with Google Docs, which are basically your Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Microsoft Excel wrapped in a handy online-access cloud. All you need is a Gmail account. Cloud computing was the future and is the now.

What’s the point of a laptop if you can’t download anything?

If you think about it, most people who use laptops nowadays only use them for emailing, writing documents, and watching YouTube videos. As long as you have access to the Internet, your laptop has done its job. Right? Right. Plus, my Chromebook is lighter than a Macbook Pro. Seriously, I never thought that would be possible. Forget about my bulky PC; PCs just never seem to win in the “lightest weight” category.

 

Who does the Chromebook target?

The Chromebook is mainly targeted at (surprise!) students and young professionals. I mean, unless you’re a computer science student and need to download Mathlab or DrJava or some coding program, you don’t really need a fancy laptop with all the background capabilities, right? You just want access to the Internet and the ability to take notes on a portable, lightweight device. (But then I ask, why not use a pen and notebook like in the olden days? The people of generations past all turned out fine without taking notes on laptops.)

Then again, not being able to download anything on the Chromebook is kind of a downside. A major downside. Because this means you can’t install the Adobe Creative Suite, or printer settings for your local office (you have to print through “cloud printing”), and a bunch more tools I can’t think off the top of my head right now. But no, really, not being able to install programs on your computer is pretty bad.

 

Should I get a Chromebook?

If you primarily just need a device to access the Internet, then yes. Chromebooks are relatively cheap ($200 range…same as an iPad). As for myself, I prefer to stick with my regular PC, despite its bulkiness and loud noises that it makes. (On a side note, did you know that apparently the average lifespan for a PC is 5 years? And now I’m pretty sad, because my PC is on year 4 and it has been my best friend… But then I think about why they last so short in the first place: probably because the companies want us to purchase newer laptops. Figures.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairly Platonic, Mate

Some people claim that it’s impossible for a female and male to have a strictly platonic friendship, unless one (or both) only digs people of the same gender.

In addition, the term ‘friend zone’ has been steadily trending on the Internet. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune,

When a guy agrees to be friends, he’s forced to stifle his attraction while regularly seeing and talking to the woman he’s attracted to. She discusses her love life and has the audacity to ask his advice on it. He performs occasional “manly” household and automotive favors for the women. Essentially, he does everything a boyfriend would do – without the benefits.’

 

So, what’s my take on the whole situation? I’m not too sure, but I often wonder how life would be like if humans were incapable of emotions whatsoever. That invisible realm of flimsy things attached to your heartstrings, pulling the trigger on tears and euphoria? Complicated much?

Just kidding.

No, seriously though: At first glance I thought, That’s ridiculous. A girl can have guy friends and vice versa. 

The idea is to not get emotionally attached to a friend. “But my best friend is so hot/awesome/cute though, what do I do?” 

The trick is to think back to your childhood days. Remember those days we all played freeze tag on the playground? And boys and girls both had cooties? (Okay, maybe not that last part.) But we all remember those innocent days where boys and girls could play together under the tree without emotions getting in the way.

Friends, to put it simply, are people we like to hang out with. Not every friendship needs to be as close as that of Scooby and Shaggy. And not every friendship needs to develop into something ‘deeper.’

But alas, how do we control our emotions when we do fall for a friend? Such was the case back in 8th grade, unfortunately. A guy in my extended friend circle admitted he had a crush on me. Since I felt completely indifferent towards the guy at the time, I tried in vain to think where I had gone wrong. Did I lead him on? No, I acted the same way around other guy friends with whom I had perfectly platonic friendships. Was it because I was always too nice? No, I distinctively remember arguing with him about useless stuff.

In the end, I realized it was out of my control. Internet mongers nowadays would sympathize with him, saying he was “unfairly put in the friend zone.” But we should recognize that we will meet many people in life and make a fair amount of friends. Each new friend can’t be our future husband or wife.

Oftentimes we are so focused in our own little bubbles that we forget the vast amount of people out there, and the things we have yet to discover. We limit ourselves by planting ourselves in so-called “friend zones.” Our futures are not limited to our current circle of friends. 

It’s healthy to have a good balance of friends from both genders. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Not only do males and females generally have different senses of humor, but they also have different perspectives on many subjects.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Accepting: Losing the Election

If you live in the US, the upcoming presidential election is a pretty big deal. Whether you’re a die-hard Republican or a Obama fan (or economist who doesn’t care who wins as long as the recession fixes itself), elections are exciting events.

But while everyone congratulates the winner after results are posted, does anyone take notice of the … well, loser? To realize that at least half of the country doesn’t support you has to be somewhat shattering to your self-esteem.

In high school, I made the mistake of running for Vice President of Beta Club. So, this is how the election process in our happy little club is run:

1. Student submits official statement saying he/she is running for:

  • President (whose name appears at the top of fliers)
  • Vice President (who’s actually responsible for everything)
  • Secretary (who “takes notes” at meetings. Notice the quotation marks.)
  • Treasurer (who collects dues at the beginning of the year and then is deemed useless)
  • Parliamentarian (who announces when each meeting is over…yeah, no comment.)

2. Student makes a 30-second speech at the next meeting in front of 94 members waiting impatiently for the meeting to be over.

3. Everyone votes on a piece of paper.

4. Results are posted the next day.

5. Winners get hearty congratulations. Losers disappear into… oblivion.

As a natural introvert, I did not like the prospect of delivering a speech in front of 15 and 16-year-old, easily bored adolescents. I’m sweating in my seat, waiting for my turn to speak. Suddenly the words jumbled inside my mind. Am I running for VP or Treasurer again?

My perfect speech would have went something like, “I am responsible, dedicated, and dependable. You can trust me to handle every detail.” You know, something cheesy and cliched. Instead, I stuttered out my name, mentioned some jumbo about “being trustworthy with money,” and ended with “If you want the best, vote for the last!” (Because I was the last person to deliver my speech. Yeah… I don’t think my fellow students caught that reference.)

To be honest, high school elections are basically popularity contests. If you have a giant circle of friends and are generally likable, then nobody cares if your speech comprised only three words: “Vote for me.”

Needless to say, I lost. It was embarrassing since only two of us ran for VP, so I knew more than half the room didn’t vote for me. I know I shouldn’t have taken it personally, but boy, was my self-esteem shattered. The fact that my opponent’s friends all flocked around her like mockingbirds and saying things like, “Ha! I knew you’d win” and “Was there any doubt?” didn’t help much.

But in the end, we can trust fate to put us on the right path. Not winning an election isn’t the end of the world. Hey, at least you had the guts and commitment to run in the first place. Not a lot of people are willing to put themselves in the middle of the auditorium to try to convince the public that he or she is a good candidate.

Besides, think about past elections where you had to place a vote. The school board, student council, sports committee, art club… Afterwards, did you make a big deal about whoever lost? Did you think to yourself, “Oh man, Xavier is clearly a better person overall than Jane because he won and she lost!”