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Getting To Columbia April 23, 2012

Posted by peterxu422 in education, Science.
Tags: ,

I avoid talking about myself on this blog unless it pertains to a personal experience with the scientific topic of discussion. But in lieu of recent events, I wanted to make an exception. A few days ago, I heard back from Columbia University informing me that I was accepted to their 3-2 Engineering Program. It is a joint program with certain liberal arts colleges where potential students spend three years in their home institution earning a B.A. and two years at Columbia earning a B.S. in a particular field of engineering. Students have to meet the requirements for graduation, meet the engineering course requirements, complete a major, and maintain a 3.0 GPA during their time at their home institution.

I began to seriously consider a career in engineering during my final year of high school. It started with seeing the movie Iron Man in theaters. Seeing the power of the technology and the work Tony Stark put into building it captivated my imagination and piqued my curiosity. I tried to start thinking more like an engineer and put more effort into solving problems in my classes.

But when I came to Queens College, a liberal arts school, engineering was not available. I was ready to go into Computer Science instead. Not long after, a fellow classmate told me about an engineering program that was offered by the Physics Department. I rushed to find out more and learned that this was a joint 5-year program with Columbia University. After speaking to the liaison, I learned that most students who did this program were physics majors because a lot of the courses overlapped between the Physics Department and the engineering requirements. He laid out a preliminary schedule of courses that he recommended I should take within the next three years to complete the program. It was booked with a heavy set of physics and math courses.

Physics was actually one of my weaker subjects in high school. Including the regents, I mostly scored in the low 80s. I did not think I would do well in the major unless I became interested in the subject itself. So that’s what I did. I read up on many articles and watched documentaries every week on the field to learn about the history of the subject as well as recent developments. I was fascinated and I loved it. It made taking the classes a lot easier and more pleasant. Rather than seeing my science courses as something I had to drag myself through, they became the fine tuners of the details of the bigger picture in which I saw science.

Though the 3-2 program guarantees admission to whoever meets all the requirements, it does not mean it’s a shoo-in program. To give this some perspective, the program has 150 seats available. According to QC’s liaison, the number of interested applicants from our school alone would fill all of those seats. But the actual number of students who get accepted from our school each year is on average five. From my perspective, doing well in the classes is not even the biggest challenge. The most difficult part is completing all of the necessary requirements within the allotted time. By the second semester, you would start to have on average 3-4 science and math classes per semester.

That can be something to fear or to look forward to depending on your mindset. If you are really genuinely interested in the field, what’s so terrible about learning more about the things you like? What I learned most from this program, aside from the wealth of technical knowledge, is that genuine interest and curiosity are much stronger mentalities and get you much further than rigid perseverance alone. You can keep telling yourself “just 3, 5, 10, or 20 more years of this and I’ll finally get what I’ve been waiting for.” If you’re only living for a reward, you don’t get to experience the path that gets you there, which can often be rewarding itself. Or worse, you set yourself up for greater disappointment should you fail in your endeavors. But if you can live with a curiosity and eagerness to learn about a particular field, I think you’ll be blessed with joy and satisfaction at any point in your life. Be a geek about something and good things will happen.

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   1. Anonymous - April 24, 2012

ditto everything you said about pursuing something one is genuinely interested in, it really does make a difference

   2. Bryan Nevarez - April 24, 2012

ditto everything you said about pursuing something one is genuinely interested in, it really does make a difference

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