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Old 2011-08-21, 22:07   Link #1
Yuutsu
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Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: 雲の向こう
Anyone entering post-secondary for first time this year? Anyone?

Anyone about to enter university (or any post-secondary institution for that matter) for the first time this year? Any thoughts/advice you'd like to share?

For me, I graduated a couple of months ago. With summer quickly nearing its end and university rearing its fearsome and foreboding head, I'm starting to get a little anxious.

I do not really know too much about what to expect in university other than the fact that it is a fair-bit more difficult than high school and that it is more difficult to establish connections with professors/teachers (as classes are MUCH bigger).

Commute is going to increase from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours, and classes are going to change from an organized 8:30AM --> 3:00PM to a fairly haphazard schedule (made worse by the fact that I decided, in my infinite wisdom, to start the process of choosing courses ~10 days after the course-selection began... at that point, pretty much all of the courses were full).

Apprehensive about Physics, too. Physics is BY FAR the worst of my Sciences (my high-school offered Physics, Chem, and Bio). Yet, in my infinite wisdom (notice a trend? ), I decided to take Honors Physics....

So in conclusion...

Yuutsu, you dun goofed.
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Old 2011-08-21, 23:04   Link #2
DonQuigleone
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There's actually a College thread further down (probably could be merged...), though it's more of a griping thread.

My only advice would be to not worry too much. Enjoy yourself, but don't let yourself get consumed in the parties -> drinking -> no work doomspiral. Everything in moderation, a happy worker is a good worker. More specifically:

1. Make sure you make friends, talk to people. If you go the first few weeks without making friends it's very difficult to overcome later. You'll have to wait until next year in that case. And having no friends at all really makes life miserable (take it from me...)

2. Think hard about what you're studying. If you're not committed to your subject you'll probably flake out, and not get great results or worst case actually fail.

3. Actual College work is not as difficult as people make out. Usually the problems you're set (if in mathematics/science) only requires you to figure out the new principles you're learning, and little actual creative thought.

But bear in mind 2, there isn't much reward in college other then love of the subject itself. If you do well there's no one who going to hand out a welldone badge, or pay you a nice bonus. It's not that it requires maturity to succeed, it more requires motivation.

4. If you don't find what you're doing motivating then you should try and change course as soon as possible. The further you get into a degree the harder it is to change things around. Don't assume that you might start to like it later.

5. If you do find something genuinely too difficult, make sure you use the resources at your disposal. And if you're trying to take Honours physics and find you can't hack it, do something else. But if you actually really love the subject I'd stick to it. Motivation is what differentiates between success and failure in college. Intelligence has little to do with it (in the sciences at least). Though you do need a certain minimum level (mostly Mathematical reasoning).

6. If you fail in College, no one will actually care. A high GPA helps for getting a job, and you certainly need a high one to be eligible for postgrad. The worst part about failing in College is actually the blow to your own self esteem, but no one else will really give a damn. It's still a drag though, and I'd avoid doing so.

7. Contrary to what they tell you, it's actually perfectly possible to do well without attending most lectures (provided they don't use tricks to ensure attendance). You need good learning materials though. And going to classes does help with self discipline. So on balance I would try and attend most of your lectures. Though if you're fining your lectures so dull that you want to skip them it's probably a bad sign.

8. And just to hammer it in, make sure you're studying something you like. Sort of liking won't cut it, by the end of your course you'll probably hate your subject's guts and likely leave with feelings of dissapointment.
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Old 2011-08-22, 00:56   Link #3
Yuutsu
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0. No need to worry. The chances of me attending a party and drinking my head off are practically 'nil. Rather, I doubt I would even be invited to such a party -- not to mention I do not like drinking (don't like the taste), and will never allow myself to take drugs.

1. Will do. : ) This is one part that I need to improve. That is, my willingness in going out and actively making friends with other people. Not just for the sake of making friends, but to develop a pro-active and assertive attitude and lifestyle where I pursue something rather than wait for it to arrive. In other words, be less introverted and more extroverted. ^.^

2. That isn't actually too big of a problem (though I recognize that university might be different). There are very few courses/subjects that I do not like. I can even do well in the ones that I don't like, such as the Social Sciences.

I understand what you are trying to say, however! I agree. It is VERY important to take something you have a genuine interest in rather than study something you don't while hating it all-the-while.

3. As far as I understand it (I have very limited understanding of anything), the courses I am taking are fairly difficult. I want to truly understand the material beyond the ability to answer the question. I need to know why things work as they do and how concepts connect with one another on the grand scale. Reasons why this is true will be answered in #6.

4. Completely agree. For now, I'll take the classes that I managed to get into and see how that goes.

5. Yes, this has actually been mentioned before to me. No matter how I look at it, it's great advice that's unfortunately (I feel) overlooked by many people. Maybe it's the fact that some students feel they are essentially admitting they are not smart enough to understand the materials by themselves when they need to rely on outside resources? Especially when that might not be true at all.

6. Uh oh. Um. Please brace yourself....

Wait for it...

...

Yuutsu wants to apply to medical school. Yuutsu wants to become a doctor.... *sadface*

Hello? Are you still there? Anybody there?
Bye Don~ Your advice was highly appreciated.

Anyway, joking aside. Yes, I really want to become a doctor. My goal is to get off to a good start and build a nice foundation by achieving good grades for the first year of university. To do that requires self-discipline and solid work habits -- something I hope and will strive to develop as fast as I can.

However, at this point, I do not have a particular reason as to why I would like to become a doctor. I just know that I want to become one. That is, if you ask me why I want to become a doctor, I cannot give an answer -- much less a good one. Right off the bat, I'm not off to that good start that I wanted. As a result, I plan to focus my first semester of uni on academics and evaluate where I stand. If I have achieved to a satisfactory level, I will then begin to pursue volunteering and extra-currics; ESPECIALLY those that pertain to the medicine so as to give me as much of a taste of the career as possible. Within the first year, I want to - once and for all - square off the question of whether or not being a doctor is what really I want.

In this respect, the first year is CRUCIAL because I want to know if I can truly enjoy being a doctor and derive an intrinsic sense of satisfaction with the career beyond outside factors such as its 'supposed' cachet and wealth. I can't deny that the latter two factors do not make the career, as a whole, more appealing to me. I can't. I would be lying otherwise. However, at the same time, it makes the goal of finding personal motivation and satisfaction all-the-more important.

7. I will attend all lectures if I can and assess whether or not they are worth my time. In the unlikelihood that I find the lectures to be a waste of time, I'll probably learn by myself. In reality, I probably will attend all the lectures anyway. UNLESS, the professor makes it CLEAR he/she REALLY does not want to be there lecturing. In which case I won't be wasting my time with this person.

8. Agreed. In that respect, I guess first year is really a scouting period, huh? I'm mostly taking a very Science heavy course-load. I loved Sciences in highschool, and I still do now. Hopefully I will still continue to love the Sciences, but who knows?

------------------------------

I typed University and College into the search bar. None of the threads really cover the whole incoming uni-students subject as I hope this thread will. Perhaps the closest one is "College students?" thread. I don't mind moving to that one. : ) Although the last post was ~9 months ago.

Last edited by Yuutsu; 2011-08-22 at 01:19.
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Old 2011-08-22, 08:36   Link #4
DonQuigleone
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RE Medical School, there's nothing wrong with aiming high. It's a solid area of study, and socially important. Obviously for Medical school you need a decent GPA, but I wouldn't aim for one of the really prestigious medical schools. Look at what the GPA requirements for most medical schools are (and don't get fixated on the "elite" ones), and proceed accordingly.

However the Medical path is a very long one, with years of post grad and medical interning after you graduate. Make sure you really want to do it. You have a good 4 years to decide, but don't let that be a reason to put your decision off.

Anyway, I think using first year to get a feel for things is a good idea.

Regarding social life, you don't need to be a social animal, but having friends really does help. I ignored making friends, and resolved that the only thing that mattered was my academics. But in the end having friends makes your work better, and by the end of my academics while I had abandoned one for the other, I failed at both.

In that regard, make sure your university is socially compatible with you, don't go to a party school if you're a more "stay in" kind of guy. Luckily, in this regard, it's not that difficult to transfer to another university. But you can only easily do it in the first 2 years. If you're finding it impossible to make friends because the culture of the place is too different from your own, find somewhere else.

Another thing you also might want to consider is an academic exchange. They usually take place in the 3rd year, and they're really a great opportunity to see another university in another country. Think about it. I did it and I loved it, and I'm a pretty introverted guy as well (I found it actually helped in that regard).
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Old 2011-08-22, 11:29   Link #5
Vexx
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Drink less, study more.... seriously.
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Old 2011-08-22, 12:53   Link #6
synaesthetic
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Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
Drink less, study more.... seriously.
This.

I'm currently entangled in the California-education-madness. My degree requires classes that aren't available. Fortunately, it seems like the system understands its own degree of fucked-up-ness, and gives me plenty of "alternate" courses to take.

So instead of data structures & algorithms, I got to take a semester each of high-level programming (Java) and low-level programming (assembly). Oh joy. Fucking assembly. This is going to be the hell semester.

And I still have a metric asston of math to finish, too.
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Old 2011-08-22, 13:10   Link #7
Jinto
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Originally Posted by synaesthetic View Post
This.

I'm currently entangled in the California-education-madness. My degree requires classes that aren't available. Fortunately, it seems like the system understands its own degree of fucked-up-ness, and gives me plenty of "alternate" courses to take.

So instead of data structures & algorithms, I got to take a semester each of high-level programming (Java) and low-level programming (assembly). Oh joy. Fucking assembly. This is going to be the hell semester.

And I still have a metric asston of math to finish, too.
At my uni it was A&D algorithms and data structures (in that order). And I can tell you, you might actually be better off with those more "practical" classes (A&D was so boring... I can hardly describe how boring... and I am not jsut saying that, because I hate programming with pseudo PLs on a sheet of paper).
Whatever practical means in a college/university is still to be defined I guess. (if it is like our courses its still a lot of theory that you have no chance to use practically in the classes).
Anyway, Assembler should be easy, but also very treacherous because if anything it will strengthen the dark side that is spaghetti codeness. And as complete contrast you will learn OOP in the Java classes (I hope you won't get too confused with doing those two in parallel )
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Old 2011-08-22, 13:17   Link #8
synaesthetic
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I already did Java last semester, but I have been mucking about with Java ever since I downloaded Eclipse and the Android SDK over a year ago. So assembly should be ah, interesting after my adventures in object-oriented programming.
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Old 2011-08-22, 13:43   Link #9
Vexx
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I love assembly.... definitely a Black Art in the Witchcraft of engineering (of course, I was boring, I'd usually code and document as if I were doing a high-level language, any demonic tricks were kept within a block and explained) but all I know is PDP-8 & 11/65, ibm360, perkin-elmer 8/32, and lego robotic blargh. Not exactly current stuff.

I'm downloading the Android SDK and Eclipse now.... there's some apps I want to try and write that I really haven't found the equivalent of in the Market. The weird thing is that they're pretty simple.... its just that the available apps are either 9-headed hydras with too many buttons or the converse, an amoeba-like thing that doesn't do what is needed at all.

To the OP:
You want to become a doctor... what I can say is that you'll probably be a *better* doctor is your undergrad is in some degree with a heavy emphasis in problem-solving. Some applied science or engineering discipline, for example. The absolute best doctors I have ever encountered or read of had undergraduate degrees where one *solved problems* as an emphasis more than just memorized huge chunks of material (many of the life science degrees are heavy on taxonomy).
The downside of that is that it is harder to keep a 3.5-4.0 GPA in problem-solving degrees... but most medical schools with a clue do take that into account. I understand molecular biology involves a lot of detective work so that would be a "life science" example.
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Old 2011-08-22, 14:26   Link #10
Gamer_2k4
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My advice to you is simple: don't dick around. Yes, college is supposed to be your last chance to be young ("totally PARTY" and all that stuff), but it's also the groundwork for the rest of your life. If you screw around for the last four years of your youth, you'll be screwed for the next four decades of your adulthood.

Go to class, do your work, make friends, and get help if you need it. Colleges are pretty good about having tutors or similar programs, so be sure to take advantage of that if you're having trouble. If you can, live on campus, because it's a LOT more convenient. Some people don't like dorms, but dorms put you in close contact with your classmates, as well as close proximity to your classrooms. You'll have more free time or more time to get your work done, and you'll be less stressed as a result.

Quote:
Originally Posted by synaesthetic View Post
I already did Java last semester, but I have been mucking about with Java ever since I downloaded Eclipse and the Android SDK over a year ago. So assembly should be ah, interesting after my adventures in object-oriented programming.
"Interesting" is an understatement, especially if that one semester of Java is the only programming experience you have. Even though it's more efficient because of stripping away all the overhead, assembly feels like a lot more work, because of all the steps you have to take (and keep track of) to accomplish one simple thing. You simply have fewer tools to work with, so you have to be more creative with them.
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Old 2011-08-22, 20:19   Link #11
Yuutsu
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I did a year of AP Computer Science. We pretty much learned exclusively about Java.

What I learned in that year: OOP stands for object-oriented programming, NOT out-of-province or "oops, I'm never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down~ Never gonna turn around and hurt you~.

In other words, I UTTERLY had no clue what I was doing in that class. You guys might as well be speaking in moon runes.
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Old 2011-08-22, 20:41   Link #12
DonQuigleone
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I wouldn't focus on practicalities above doing something you like. Doesn't matter if it's a practically good course to learn, if you don't have the motivation to go through with it. Remember, there's no immediate rewards for College. Any potential "rewards" are 4 years away, after you graduate. That's a long time. Most businesses don't plan 4 years ahead.

Not only that, but a lot of stuff can change in 4 years. So don't focus too much on practicalities. It's much better to be studying something you like and be succesful, then to study something you only kind of like and be mediocre.
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Old 2011-08-22, 20:52   Link #13
Reckoner
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If you are serious about schooling I suggest finding yourself a nice group of people who are also serious about their studies. The worst poison in college I find is hanging around an unproductive atmosphere of people who just drag down your abilities to concentrate and work hard towards your goals.

Not that having fun isn't nice here and there, but the best of the best are those who prioritize their responsibilities over the usual partying atmosphere of many colleges (Especially like mine...).

I can say as a math major, my greatest difficulty hasn't been the level of material, but maintaining a good work ethic in an environment of the laziest and most apathetic people around in college. I often question why many people are even here, and what the purpose of undergraduate is anymore. Quickly finding that to get what I want, I must attend graduate school.
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Old 2011-08-22, 21:25   Link #14
DonQuigleone
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If you are serious about schooling I suggest finding yourself a nice group of people who are also serious about their studies. The worst poison in college I find is hanging around an unproductive atmosphere of people who just drag down your abilities to concentrate and work hard towards your goals.

Not that having fun isn't nice here and there, but the best of the best are those who prioritize their responsibilities over the usual partying atmosphere of many colleges (Especially like mine...).

I can say as a math major, my greatest difficulty hasn't been the level of material, but maintaining a good work ethic in an environment of the laziest and most apathetic people around in college. I often question why many people are even here, and what the purpose of undergraduate is anymore. Quickly finding that to get what I want, I must attend graduate school.
I think a lot of the reason people don't apply themselves in College is that there is actually no incentive for success, and most people are not usually studying something they really love (at least in the sciences). I'm convinced that half of the people in College (including myself) probably shouldn't be there. But that's a discussion that's been gone over in the "College, is it worth it?" thread, which I'd advise anyone who's having second thoughts to peruse.

In the end, if you want your time in College to be a success, you really need to study you find intrinsically rewarding -> where the reward for the task is the satisfaction of doing it. And it has to be rewarding enough that you actually prefer it to more typically "fun" tasks. For a good college student their subject comes first and consumes their attention. It's not like a job.
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Old 2011-08-22, 22:35   Link #15
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Amusingly, in my undergrad degree the people who lived off-site always turned up to lectures early because they were relying on public transport (buses, train, subway). The people who lived in dorms would arrive early, on-time, or late, depending on whether they were disciplined or not. Since I was living at home I ended up making friends with the others who lived off-site, as we'd always have time to talk before the lectures started.

Anyway there's a lot of good advice in this thread, but there's a few things I wanted to echo/point out. Apologies if some (or all) of this seems obvious.

1) As others have said, motivation is key. There's nothing wrong with giving yourself, say, an evening a week to take part in a club activity or what-not (it's a good idea from the stress-relief/reward aspect), but aside from the (few) geniuses the people who do best in their university studies are the ones who buckle down and put the time in. There were sooo many people in my course who went out drinking, or messing around such that we went from 120 people in our first year to ~50 by the end of our third year . Finding out you don't like a course after having taken out large student loans, or having your parents pay for your eduction, or be fortunate enough to have a scholarship is a really bad idea. Being motivated and liking your subject will help a lot with (2).

2) Analogous to (1) is that discipline is crucial. In school, on the few occasions I handed in something late the worst would be getting shouted at by my irritated teachers, as they had to make time to mark work that I should've gotten finished on time. In university the penalty for handing in something late was a percentage docked off the mark for each day handed in late. Since the lecture problem sheets & reports counted for a percentage of the course mark, it made it essential to get things done on time. In other words, you want to start work early, and that way if you have problems you have time before the deadline to see the lecturer and ask for help if you don't understand something. My lecturers really appreciated me coming to them well before the deadline to ask for help, i.e. a few days before, not an hour before the hand-in lecture.

3) Make friends with the other hard-working people on your courses. Very few people are natural geniuses that can sleep through lectures and still understand everything. If you don't understand something you get more people you can ask for help.

4) Be prepared to teach yourself course material. In my first year I was lucky in that I had decent lecturers. By my fourth year it was probably a 50/50 split between decent and not-so-great ones; a great researcher doesn't necessarily make for a great lecturer . It'll seem rather irritating that you're (or someone else is) paying thousands of dollars and you're not getting value for money, but if you want to do well on the course you can't really write on the exam paper that you don't know the answers because the lecturer was shoddy . If you find the course textbook unhelpful, look up alternatives in the university libraries until you find one that clicks with you and explains things in a way you understand. All that matters is that you understand the course material, not which book it comes from .
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Old 2011-08-23, 10:11   Link #16
DonQuigleone
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4) Be prepared to teach yourself course material. In my first year I was lucky in that I had decent lecturers. By my fourth year it was probably a 50/50 split between decent and not-so-great ones; a great researcher doesn't necessarily make for a great lecturer . It'll seem rather irritating that you're (or someone else is) paying thousands of dollars and you're not getting value for money, but if you want to do well on the course you can't really write on the exam paper that you don't know the answers because the lecturer was shoddy . If you find the course textbook unhelpful, look up alternatives in the university libraries until you find one that clicks with you and explains things in a way you understand. All that matters is that you understand the course material, not which book it comes from .
THIS. I found that when it came to determining my success in a course it was all down to my ability to find learning materials. Most courses were of similiar difficulty, the big differentiator was how good the learning materials provided to me were. I was one of those "geniuses" that slept through every lecture... I relied a lot on learning materials...

It's one of the absurdities of university. Most of the time you spend studying is actually spent deciphering your course texts to get at the key principles and formulas. Very little time is actually spent learning anything.

If you were given "perfect" notes, and devoted all your time to it, you could probably complete all 4 years of learning in the space of a single year.
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Old 2011-08-23, 10:50   Link #17
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Originally Posted by DonQuigleone View Post
It's one of the absurdities of university. Most of the time you spend studying is actually spent deciphering your course texts to get at the key principles and formulas. Very little time is actually spent learning anything.

If you were given "perfect" notes, and devoted all your time to it, you could probably complete all 4 years of learning in the space of a single year.
This.

I waste far too much time in college searching for the proper learning materials, questions, and exercises, extending time in schooling unnecessarily so.
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Old 2011-08-23, 11:16   Link #18
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However, at this point, I do not have a particular reason as to why I would like to become a doctor. I just know that I want to become one. That is, if you ask me why I want to become a doctor, I cannot give an answer -- much less a good one. Right off the bat, I'm not off to that good start that I wanted. As a result, I plan to focus my first semester of uni on academics and evaluate where I stand. If I have achieved to a satisfactory level, I will then begin to pursue volunteering and extra-currics; ESPECIALLY those that pertain to the medicine so as to give me as much of a taste of the career as possible. Within the first year, I want to - once and for all - square off the question of whether or not being a doctor is what really I want.
I think very few people really *know* they want to do something before they've even tried it or familiarised themselves with the whole process. For example, in school the most intense feeling I got for my subjects was that I didn't mind this subject which is involved in this or that field.

This subject happened to be science in my case, with a slight preference for chemistry and biology. After spending a year on my chosen course, many times wondering if I'd ever really enjoy the subject on a deeper level than just 'get good grades, help people, work hard and stay disciplined because that's what successful people do', about halfway through the second year, after being forcefully nailed to my desk by coursework assignments and exam pressure, this deeper appreciation of 'the point of it all' started to resonate with me. The harder I work the more and more dots I connect and the more elegant the bigger picture starts to look. I now feel that if you get the chance to solve problems you're interested in, and get paid for it one day, you're one of the luckiest people on earth. Figuring out if you enjoy the process is probably one of the most important things to get right.

I was watching an interview featuring a game designer who's made some of the most highly acclaimed video games of all time (Zelda). When asked why he thought people liked Zelda, he said something interesting:

"I think everyone enjoys solving problems. When I was a kid, I really enjoyed solving problems, and I got to like studying, thinking investigating was fun. However, my school didn't seem to accept that it was a pleasure [laughs]. While it seems people hate it, they really like it. Everyone feels the happiness of doing something creative, or making a discovery. Zelda give you the chance to experience that on your own, even in the middle of the night, and in an interactive way."
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Old 2011-08-23, 11:49   Link #19
DonQuigleone
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Originally Posted by Kakashi View Post
I think very few people really *know* they want to do something before they've even tried it or familiarised themselves with the whole process. For example, in school the most intense feeling I got for my subjects was that I didn't mind this subject which is involved in this or that field.

This subject happened to be science in my case, with a slight preference for chemistry and biology. After spending a year on my chosen course, many times wondering if I'd ever really enjoy the subject on a deeper level than just 'get good grades, help people, work hard and stay disciplined because that's what successful people do', about halfway through the second year, after being forcefully nailed to my desk by coursework assignments and exam pressure, this deeper appreciation of 'the point of it all' started to resonate with me. The harder I work the more and more dots I connect and the more elegant the bigger picture starts to look. I now feel that if you get the chance to solve problems you're interested in, and get paid for it one day, you're one of the luckiest people on earth. Figuring out if you enjoy the process is probably one of the most important things to get right.
I thought I might end out liking my subject later, but I just ended out hating it.

Though, more accurately, I hated "the process". I grew to hate the whole "lecture, homework, exam" cycle. I don't know how much that applies to the subject itself (mechanical Engineering) though.

I would not make the assumption that you'll grow to like the subject later. It happens, but is it worth taking a risk that will tie you up for 4 years?
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Old 2011-08-23, 12:38   Link #20
Jinto
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Originally Posted by Reckoner View Post
This.

I waste far too much time in college searching for the proper learning materials, questions, and exercises, extending time in schooling unnecessarily so.
But thats actually a good real life excercise sort of. I realized that this trains your organizational and CNS (Corridor News Service) skills. Depending on where you are going to work, these can be essential for your career.
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