Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Minority Status

This post is a result of a conversation regarding minority status and "privilege" in society.  It goes well with my previous rant about the "Male to Female Ratio in Engineering"

Story Time! My freshman year of college, I was studying with a few guys from my first college calculus class.  It was probably the 7th week or so (about 2/3 through the quarter), and the subject of gender came up (as it does occasionally with my engineering peers).  One of the guys at the table said, "Well she (pointing to me) will be the first one to get a job because she's female."  

Ooooo, I was mad. I said the following words, "Look around the table! (there were 4 other guys) Who got the highest grade on the last math midterm we had?! Me! I'm not going to get hired because I'm female. I'm gunna get hired because I'm more qualified than you." Granted, it was a little mean, and he probably didn't mean it like that.  But I've made that standpoint clear throughout my undergraduate career. 

Funny Story: A few weeks back, I was Skyping with a friend while studying for a midterm.  He was in the computer lab, while I was at home.  I asked my Skype friend, "Hey, can you ask Jack about number 3?" Not realizing that I was on Skype, Jack replied to my Skype friend "I don't know! Ask Serena!" It made my day when I realized my placement among the engineers, especially when looking back at the freshman calculus experience.

So I conclude:
Never use your minority status (whether it be race, religion, first-generation, gender, LGBT, disability, anything) as your backbone to do anything in life. Your minority status does not determine your work ethic and vice versa.  If you rely on those minority statues that I mentioned above, you are playing, what I call, the "poor-me" card, and you'll pity yourself into a bad situation.  

However, don't undermine what you have as a minority student. You have experiences, and you have a lot to learn.  You should be proud of who you are as an individual, and use your individuality and self to become who you are (like the saying "Be Yourself")....if you get my drift. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CSUs versus UCs

What is the difference between the California State University system versus the University of California system?

So CSU: CSUs are, on average, easier to get into than UCs.  The CSU system concentrates on teaching whereas the UC system concentrates on research.  In terms of undergraduate attendance (getting a bachelor's degree), they are very similar.  Some like the prestige of the UC system (although some CSU's are 'better' than some UCs).  However one point that I will address: It's very difficult to transfer from UC to CSU and vice versa.  The community colleges are meant to feed into the UC's and CSU's...but that's it. (I'm not saying it's's just difficult, especially when trying to get class credit to transfer between the systems).  So if your life long desire is to attend a UC (and you don't get in), you are better off starting at a community college or other less 'prestigious' UC.

In terms of qualifications, CSUs mainly look at grades and SAT scores (actually, I don't remember putting extra curriculars on my applications for the CSUs).  There is a chart
.  Make sure to take a look at the site.  The UC system also has a site here. Also look at that one. It'll give an idea of what the application process looks like.

Also, don't forget that private schools exist! I regret not applying to private schools when I was a Senior in high school.  Many of them offer more financial aid than the state schools- UCs and CSUs, and with the way the budget crisis is in may be a better option.

See if you can go talk to a college counselor at school.  They should have a specific college counselor, or at least your guidance counselor should have some knowledge about everything. (Let me know if they discourage you....nobody should discourage you at this stage.) They may even give you some ideas about this summer and how to "beef up" your college application. :-D


Monday, May 28, 2012

College: SATs, Extracurriculars, and Majors

Here are few questions from some high schoolers:

1. What is the SAT? And how do I study for it?
2. Volunteer work?
3.  What is a major and how you choose it?

1.  The SAT is the standardized test for admissions into the university.  There is also the ACT which is a different test, and would apply if you want to apply to certain schools on the East Coast. For all UC's, you can take either the SAT or ACT, but most people take the SAT. 

I had a few friends take both since they applied to colleges on the East Coast. One regret of mine: not applying to schools on the East Coast. It wasn't because I didn't have the grades or scores....I just didn't.  So you may want to consider to start studying for both. 

How do you study? Find out if your school offers free classes (I know they started to for my sister's high school...they offered nothing of the sort when I went there). You can go to the bookstore (Borders, Barnes and Nobel, etc) to purchase an SAT prep book ($15-30).  If money is tight (which I know for me it was), see if you can ask the college counselor/school library to loan or check out an SAT prep book. There are also a lot of resources online. (I can't seem to put up the website right now, but just Google "SAT College Board" and there should be a resources tab).

2.  Extracurriculars: These activities make or break you on a college application. In terms of volunteering, you definitely need more than 8 hours/year.  If it's your only activity, 8 hours/week is reasonable and quite a few hours.  Think about what you are doing this summer: Volunteering at the local hospital/nursing home/senior center/homeless shelter/animal shelter/library would be great experience, especially if you worked 20-40 hours a week. If you get a job this summer, 10 hours of volunteer work/ week would be sufficient too. Think about how you can maximize this and next summer.  Plus, it gets you off the couch :-)

Also, think about joining a club on campus.  I don't know which specifics clubs you have at your high school, but maybe try to get a leadership position in the club for next year.  I know I got my sister to become the Treasurer for the International Club at my high school.  Honestly, it can be anything.

Do you play any sports/other activities like dance, band, drama? Those are also things that you can get more involved with.

3.  A major is the basically the line of study you pursue in college.  My major, for instance, is Mechanical Engineering.  When I graduate in December, I will have a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  Different schools offer different majors, depending on their specialties.  UC Davis specializes in the Biological Sciences and Agricultural Sciences.  However, the Social Sciences and Engineering Programs are still great.  UC Davis just offers some Agricultural majors that other schools don't have. It is good to note that some majors are more difficult that others....they require more work. However, different majors also put individuals in line for different jobs, hence the difference in difficulty. For instance, an English major cannot become an engineer upon graduation.  They would have to apply for a 2nd Bachelor's degree program to have all of the math/science/engineering requirements. A major does not bind you for life, though. You can change careers and there are lots of opportunities with most majors.