Daniel Mai

How's School?

So, how’s school?

The dreaded question, to which I just answer “It’s okay.”

I mean, I really don’t want to talk about it. I used to believe that school was really awesome. Nowadays, I’m not too sure.

I remember in elementary school where I would be really excited about it. Go to school to learn and play with friends, what’s there not to like? I was praised for a lot of what I did, like doing well in math1, or doing something that seemed “out of my capability.” In fifth grade I had to give a presentation to second graders on how to make a paper airplane. I typed up a whole page of instructions on Microsoft Word: materials, procedure, observations—-like a lab report. My teacher was really impressed by the document. There was a parent-teacher meeting not too long after and my teacher showed my page of directions to my parents, telling them how impressed she was. She asked them if they helped me make it or if I did it all by myself. “He did it all by himself. I only showed him how to put in the arrows (→).”

That was one of my proud moments in elementary school. Other moments like that include playing the violin at school concerts and making the winning shot in basketball one day during PE.

Then came middle school. I remember graduating from there I thought to myself that I would cherish a lot of memories that I had during middle school. Now, I don’t remember much. I was pretty much a typical child, coping with whatever social drama that middle schoolers tend to create. Middle school was pretty strange in hindsight. Classrooms were filled with students with smug attitudes, and some teachers really seemed like they didn’t express any motivation to teach us.

One thing I’m grateful for about middle school is the handful of friends I’ve kept from that time.

In high school, there was less “trying to fit in” compared to middle school. The group I hung out with were people I liked being around. Socially, it was pretty much the same throughout the four years. That was nice. When I talk to the same people now we have this attitude of “be yourself because I don’t care how you judge me.” We’ve spent enough time with each other during high school that we don’t need to be shy about ourselves. We don’t know everything about each other, but we’ve come to accept each other’s personality.

I don’t know where this post is going. It started with the question “how’s school”, which I assume means academically. But here I am talking about the social aspects of it.

Perhaps school is mainly a social institute first and foremost. We’re expected to do group work, interact with others, and survive for about seven hours a day being in a place with other people.

Anyway, let’s go back to first line of this post: How’s school? To be more specific: How’s SJSU?

It’s alright. It’s not great knowing that even though I’m doing well according to my transcript, all that doesn’t matter because it’s SJSU.

I was talking to my professor about grad school. Although I’m still unsure whether I should go for it, he told me that I should “definitely go.”

You’re fit for grad school. You have the grades and mentality for it. But don’t go here. Go somewhere with a good CS program, like Berkeley, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, or UCLA.

But it’d probably be a stretch to apply for the grad programs at those schools because you’re coming from SJSU. Just because you’re doing well here doesn’t mean you’d do well getting a bachelor’s at one of those schools. I mean, I dunno, maybe you would. But the fact is a degree from SJSU isn’t as significant as a degree from one of those top schools.

(That’s not exactly what he said, but it’s an accurate paraphrase.)

So as it stands right now, school is sort of holding me back. If I want to pursue research and go to grad school, I wonder if I have a chance to go one of those schools. I guess if I do go to grad school I shouldn’t aim so high and I’ll end up at a “backup school.”2

Nowadays, school is just this thing I “must do.” It’s a societal obligation that I go to college and get a degree. Sort of drab.

Who knows, maybe my thoughts on school may change later. But these are my thoughts right now about school and whatever else I blabbed about.

  1. I did “well” enough. I wasn’t doing calculus or anything. Just basic algebra. That’s pretty good for an American elementary student, right?

  2. Continuing on with how I started applying to university, I suppose.