Friday, 3 June 2016

Project Insights initiated!

Hello dear readers, today I have decided to start a new project titled "Project Insight" - where I ask my peers to write articles on their thoughts and experiences in the college application process. All the while my blog deals with the nitty-gritty bits, the nuts and bolts, the "how" of the application process, Project Insight will be giving you some tips on answering the "why"s. Hopefully you will see their experience as being meaningful and embark on an educational journey of your own.

Many is better than one

Jon Elster (philosopher) once said that desires can be shaped by opportunities and vice versa. I guess my own desires were shaped by the opportunities opened to me when I was studying A-Levels. The sensation of coming from a small town and upgrading my ideals when I enter Sunway and meeting the geniuses was really an "eye-popper". That was my story, but have you heard about theirs? What inspired them to have such goals? I hope that blog will let you see education abroad as a feasible opportunity and therefore spark your desire for it.

Coincidentally the first person who volunteered an article also likes "Pi", he is non other than the genius Anzo Teh (One of the great people I met in Sunway). Receiving offers from MIT, Cambridge and Princeton, he instead chose to forgo all of them in lieu of University of Waterloo.

This is his story

Decisions, decisions, decisions

By Anzo Teh. Reposted with permission

The commitment date to US institutions hovers near, but I made a firm decision a month ago after receiving all decisions from the 15 universities that I’ve applied to (11 acceptances, 4 rejections).

I’m committing to the University of Waterloo.

Below is an excerpt of the whole process, tinged with the substantial pressure before happiness sank in much later.

1. The application process

Back in the good old days where we were ‘promised’ PSD scholarships by securing admissions into top 20 universities in my field, I joined my A-level comrades to strive hard in every aspect of application evaluation, and to decide between focusing on just a few top picks and trying our luck to more institutions in different corners of the world. My choosing of the latter added to me the toil of facing extra exams (like SAT) and admissions essays, the nervous feelings while sprinting against different sets of deadlines, and the fear upon shortcomings on every single application component and every single exam.

Come semester 3, the workload intensified until it culminated in October: early action for US apps, A2 exams, and Cambridge admission tests and interview. Cramming economics notes and handouts, battling with the clock while writing econs essays, frantically trying to complete my physics past years, chasing myself to fine-tune my college essays, and preparing for the interview at the same time was just too awful to describe here. I vivid remember how I increased my coffee dosage just to cope with all these and how I spent my final October weekend with my mentor to finalize my apps.
This application work subsided shortly then. Remarkably, PSD announced scholarship suspension (then restriction) in January. This prompted me to expedite my scholarship and admission applications to Waterloo. Thankfully, it finally ended on 9th February 2016 when I could officially sit back and wait for decisions.

2. College decisions

The first decision came earlier than expected: a rejection. I spent a few hours in paranoia, thinking of how one possible choice just vanished into thin air and worse still, worrying (mistakenly, though) that it may portend badly about my further applications. Luckily it didn’t last long when some good news appeared in my UCAS Track and in my email, and a month later I secured my first spot on PSD’s top 20 list. Well...gone were the PSD’s scholarships in January, but in February itself the full scholarships from Waterloo and HKUST assured me that everything would be okay.

Back in December, an email from Princeton extricated me from the anxiety of waiting as it instructed me to check my decisions in 5 days time. I woke up at 4am with my parents on the 17th after hours of insomnia, with eyes bleary and mind blurry. I then slumped into disbelief for a whole good week as an orange tiger with “CONGRATULATIONS” appeared on the computer screen, and couldn’t resist myself from sharing this news to my close friends who were with me when I suffered from mind-wreck during the application period. A similar decision got back to me as I accessed on Pi Day 2016, where I suddenly felt the earth moving under my feet and my mind got ecstatic.

My decisions period ended with a few rejections, but I’m thankful for what I had.

3. Making up my mind

Admission talks attended in 2015 helped me to identify several top picks, which are further winnowed by the mixed admission decisions and scholarship packages. Come mid-March, only three are left in my hand:all are attractive in their own ways.

I consequently devoted the final days in March just to evaluate these three universities, weighing not only on what each could offer me, but also on whether the difference in cost of attendance would tip the balance. While I had a preliminary decisions, new opinions everywhere made to re-evaluate my thoughts as the balance went shaky: did I miss out something?

The deadline of reply to Waterloo’s scholarship drew near, and I forced myself to be resolute, being as rational as possible in my evaluation. That’s when the decision on Waterloo was made clear of itself: a not-so-orthodox decision given what I had. Reluctant to say goodbye to the other two, but I felt relieved from this dilemma when I accepted my offer two days before the deadline.

4. Thoughts

The journey of settling myself into a university has been long and tumultuous, and without the people around me I wouldn’t be at where I am right now. Holding acceptances and scholarship letters with me has been a fantasy for me; it’s real now.
I shall therefore express my gratitude to them, including but not limited to: my family members (especially my parents), mentor, teachers, coaches, comrades and friends for their advice, help, recommendations, support and care.

As I kept saying that I’m extremely lucky upon these acceptances, it’s because I’m really lucky to have you all to lend a hand when I need you the most.

On a side note, I understand that my decision on Waterloo may be surprising, but let me assure you that this has been done after conducting thorough analyses. If this sounds surprising (or even disappointing) to you, then I can only promise that I will stay well and thrive there, just like how I should be if I were to accept other offers.

Time to move on, and I’m looking forward to the new journey ahead!

P/s: Anzo blogs too. Follow him if you think he is awesome!

This is the new direction my blog will be taking, a tag team combo of my own technical know how with the stories from my peers. I guess if Anzo could come to such a great decision, none of us can complain if we were not given the best slice of the pie. If you have any suggestions for improvement, please comment below. And if you like this story, please spread the word!

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