Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Joanne's Sharing on College & Grad School

Below is a sharing by Joanne Lee, an alumna of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Cornell University, when she was sharing with incoming freshman, who has strong desire to study in an Ivy for graduate school.
Congrats on starting a new chapter in your life. It's good that you are thinking the right things.

However, it seems that you are adamant in getting to an Ivy. I'm here to impart my experiences and advise you as best as I can. And by no means I'm an expert!

Before you start thinking about higher education after college, I want you to realize that you have 3 to 4 years of undergraduate studies. That's a really long time. Assuming you got into a reputable program, I hope you are able to fully appreciate and utilize every single opportunity as you can while learning as much as you can. College is a great learning ground so take the time to plan your curriculum and seek after great lecturers, courses, programs and even social groups to expand yourself as a person.

Sometimes, you may realize that what you want when you first started may change when you are in your 2nd,3rd or 4th year. So make sure you identify your ambitions and realize them before its too late. I've friends who were very bold because they switched from engineering program to business,mathematics,economics and finance and from music to medicine because they discovered later on that were what really draw and excite them.

Remember that college is a stepping stone to your future careers too.

Another option you want to think about is whether you want to intern or coop in the summer with other companies when you are in summer breaks. Interning is a great way to understand how working, business and/or corporate life is.

Once again, 3-4 years is a really long time to be in school. Unless you really want to start a Masters as soon as you finish college, consider working a few years. If you can't afford the costs of Masters/Phd, you may want to work with a company who can finance you at college part-time as you work full time. Or find financial support elsewhere if you so choose.

By the time you are in your 3rd or 4th year in college, you probably know whether you want to pursue a masters/phd AND know that you are not "burn-out" by school. I know some friends who felt they learned so much and were prepared for the workforce after undergrad that getting a masters didn't add value to them.
After considering everything (I didn't cover alot but you will discover as you start college) and still want to pursue a masters/phd at ivy leagues, here are some key things you want to start even in your 3rd year:

1) Choose the program that you think has the best facilities, faculty and resources that you can utilize to expand yourself
2) Study for GRE/GMAT or whatever prep exams you have to do and ACE IT. Like score 90% above
3) Graduate with GPA>=3.5/4.0. Even better if you graduated top 3% of your class.
4) Excel in all the courses relevant to the program
5) Do extra curricular stuff: research relevant to the program, join groups (IEEE, etc for example), network with people to learn and discuss and discover. I didn't do alot of the latter and wish I did....
6) Contact the respective university's graduate admissions office
7) Visit the campus(es) and make sure you like it and its surroundings. Speak to professors of the prog you want to enroll. Even though Ivy sounds awesome, some of the better prog are not in ivy schools. I've a friend who graduated from Cornell after his Bachelors and decided to do his Masters in UIUC because it has one of the best engineering programs in the nation. I've another friend who stayed on at UIUC after his undergraduate to do his masters and phd because he thought it was a better prog. And he rejected several ivy and non-ivy league schools ie stanford, cornell, etc.
8) Consider other non-ivy programs but equally great programs such as mit, uc berkeley, stanford, caltech, etc
9) Apply a year before you admit to the prog and hope for the best. If you fail to admit, you can try again next year or work or go to another school. I've a friend who failed to get into UPenn right after undergrad even though he graduated 2nd top in his class, went to work for a year, reapplied and got into UPenn the following year.

Hope these tips help.

BTW, you could transfer to ivy school during your undergrad school...

Last but not least, enjoy college while you can! I'd a great time!


1 comment:

Joanne said...

PLEASE MIND MY ENGLISH!!! It's a sad representation of the language. The email was quickly typed and sent off without any check. Everything else is pretty "legit" :)