Having an easy schedule at school was definitely important, because during that term I was applying for graduate school. Although I’m a decent student with 20 months of co-op experience, I never thought about finding a job. The job market was in bad shape back then, and in the field I’m trying to get into many people have graduate degrees. To make sure I had somewhere to go after I graduate, I applied to over half dozen schools. It was a time consuming process to fill out all the forms (since each school had their own process), but the hardest parts of the application was getting references and writing the statement of purpose/admission essay. The first task was tough for me because I’m a quiet guy, so in my previous school years I didn’t get to know any of my professors particularly well. This meant I really had to get to know my professors in this term. Thankfully, my professors were all pretty nice people, and I managed to get the three references I needed for my application. As for the admissions essay, I basically wrote one essay and then changed one paragraph to make it specific to each school. It helped that the writing expectations for my field weren’t very high. I think recommendations and grades had more impact on the application than the admission essay. After two months of laboring, I sent off all of my application, and at that time I could do was cross my fingers and hope for the best.
In the same term, I also went back to the math competition club after a two year absence. I went to club during my first and second year, but couldn’t go in the last two years due to co-op and course schedule. Previously, I went to the club meeting mainly to get free pizza, but this year I actually went and participated in the absurdly hard contest. Having not taken a real math course since second year, I of course didn’t do very well. Later I found out that I got a big fat zero in the contest, which I was a little surprised by because I wrote out solutions to at least two of the problems.
The fall school term passed quickly, and soon enough it was the new year and the winter term. with six courses on my schedule, I had a slightly heavier course load in the winter term than the fall term, but I shuffled my timetable around so I still an extra day off. School was still more or less the same, except of course it was colder and rainier in the winter. I had more project work in this term compared to all my previous terms, but the projects didn’t need a lot of work. Or at least I didn’t put in that much work. That was probably the reason why my grades dropped a little when compared to previous years.
While I was going to school, I was also waiting for responses from the schools I’ve applied to for graduate positions. When decision time (March) came, I was quickly rejected by two of the schools, but things became better after that. I was in close contact with two schools and both made attractive offers. I eventually chose one of them and secured my path to graduate school. There were a few more institutions that made late offers, and this time I was the one who got to say “no”.
April rolled around quickly and it was time for final exams. All I had to do was make sure I didn’t fail any of my courses so that I can graduate. It wasn’t a tall order given I was not in danger of failing anything. After my exams, I went on vacation with my family for a few weeks back to China. This four months of summer vacation is the last extended break I will have for a while, so it was the right time to go traveling. A few days after returning from the trip, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, drawing my five year experience as an university undergraduate to a close.
Looking back at my undergraduate career, I think I did alright at least on the academic front. I studied and got decent grades, but I usually had free time to do other non-school related things. I’m not a super-organized guy, but I got my work done and managed to keep a reasonable schedule. Throughout these five years I maintained an average that was higher than my secondary school average, although my average did slip a little year by year while in university. While I did fine on the academic front, I didn’t do too well on the social front though. While I managed to get three references for my grad school applications, I didn’t get to know my fellow students very well. I made some acquaintances, but it’s hard to say if I made any lasting friends through college. I also rarely attended school events, mostly because I preferred home to staying late at school. I really have to improve upon my social skills in graduate school, since I might have to depend on those classmates some day for career related things. I’ll probably spend a lot more time on campus as a grad student since I won’t be living at home any more. All I have to do then is to take the initiative, but that’s easier said than done.
Due to pressures from university, I didn’t play much sports during the last five years, but I tried to keep fit at school by working out. I worked out around three days per week during my school terms, and while I’m still overweight and unfit, I did become stronger year to year. Despite being a bit heavier nowadays, I can now do 10 consecutive chin ups (on a good day). Still can’t do 10 pull-ups though. I also did not achieve my goal of bench pressing my body weight. I think my one repetition max is about 180lbs, which is 50 lbs short of my body weight. And of course my cardiovascular fitness is still terrible. I’ll continue to work on fitness in the coming years. Now that I’m on vacation, I’ll definitely play more badminton with my father.
On to a funny story, I actually lost wallet twice during my time at university. Both times I lost it while riding the bus, but fortunately both times the bus company recovered my wallet. Unfortunately, the second time I had already replaced all my IDs before the bus company found my wallet, so I was out a bit of money since replacing IDs wasn’t free. Hopefully I have learned my lesson .
Overall, my five years at university was an… experience. It’s hard to find one word that would describe these five years. There were certainly ups and downs, but I think my experience was pretty mundane given that I’m not much of a social and party person. There are a lot of things I wished I did as an undergrad, but it’s too late now. Looking at everything though, I think I didn’t do too badly as an university undergrad. At least I graduated and became wiser and more educated. Hopefully this is the last undergraduate experience I’ll ever need.
Right now, I’m at home enjoying my time off, but there are a lot of things I need to do to prepare for graduate school. The next yearly reflections post I write will hopefully be about my first year as a grad student. I’m cautiously optimistic about my next stage of education. I know I have what it takes to get things done, but at the same time graduate school is uncharted territory. Wish me luck, and thanks for reading.