College admissions

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The past weekend (04/01/23) was also the deadline for the US college admissions. I think some refer that as Regular Decision or RD, which is corresponding to the regular application/admission time and I assume most kids get admission via the regular admission (not Early Action or Early Decision, EA or ED, scroll all the way down to see their definition). I knew because my niece is senior this year. I am not going to disclose which college(s) she got admissions obviously: the only thing I may add is I would be dying happily if I got admitted to any of those colleges when I came to the USA for graduate school in 1997.

The other thing I may add is, speaking from my own college admission back in year 1989, I was not admitted to my 1st choice Shanghai Jiaotong University (SJTU). And I was not happy. I remember I cried in the day I got the admission letter from Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) at Wuhan, Hubei Province. Besides the disappointment not being able to get the admission from the dream school, another factor is the unfamiliar of Wuhan: it’s a long trip from my hometown Ningbo, either by train or boat; spicy food; and different dialect which I quickly realized. Remember at the time the train is usually slow: I recall a 特快 from Shanghai to Ningbo was about 8.5 hours, and the travel distance is about 300 km. Now Gao’Tie top speed can reach 300 km per hour. Re: the dialect, I recall my Hubei roommate said: my shoe dropped from the window. In his dialect, it sounds like my baby (鞋子 => 孩子) dropped from the window 🙂 I picked up my Wuhan/Hubei dialect listening skills quickly though I cannot talk in Wuhan dialect. It’s a bit different from the Ningbo dialect to say the least. Another side note I like to add is there are meaningful number of migrants from 江浙沪(Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai) in Wuhan. Some of the teachers are originally from 江浙沪, and we can tell from their mandarin. In rare cases, on the campus I would heard Shanghai dialect, 上海话,which is almost like Ningbo dialect. And there was also this saying: 老乡见老乡,两眼泪汪汪 (google translate:When fellow villagers see fellow villagers, their eyes are full of tears)。I remember in the fall semester of 1989, the students from Zhejiang province had a gathering, and I met a few elder students from Zhenhai Middle School (my earlier blog post, I still need to clean up the Chinese translation).

Things worked out for me eventually. I was upset for a bit at the beginning when I attended there, and I even told my classmate that I prefer SJTU over HUST. But my resentment or bitterness did not last long (this is in contrast to a friend years later attended WUSTL here in St. Louis). I quickly got into learning mode and focus on two things my cousin’s husband told me: computer programming and English. Note he was an engineer and a graduate from SJTU too.

Also everyone has to be herself/himself eventually: being far away from home, while hard at times, did provide that opportunity for me to grow. My dad did not visit me in the college. He dropped me off at Shanghai in August 1989, and I took the Yangzi River boat from Shanghai to Hankou (the port and the main downtown in Wuhan). From there I looked for the “HUST new students welcome center” at the port, and took the popular truck (yes we all stand at the back of the trunk), and it took probably 1.5 hours for us to enter into the tree covered campus in a hot summer day. Oh, the boat trip was about 60 hours upstream (about 48 hours downstream, from Hankou to Shanghai).

One winter I told my parents that I wanted to stay at HUST for winter break, meaning I would not go back home in the Chinese new year. I really didn’t want to take the train as I went through very crowded train from school to home and vice versa. I wrote some of it here: and quote myself

“Once in college at Wuhan, it was probably my sophomore or junior year, I told my parents that I am not going home for Spring Festival (Chinese new year). My reason is the crowdedness in the train, as explained here. My mom, who usually does not write to me, wrote a letter and urged me to return home. So I obligated. Note the train is still crowded, once I stood about 15 hours in the train on the way returning school from home, during the Spring Festival travel. I recall the train was so crowded, and there were 7 people in one bathroom (the toilet room). And once a girl walked to the bathroom, asked guys turn around so that she could use the restroom. They wouldn’t oblige. So she has to walk or to be precise squeeze through one more train cabin. I do recall one girl (she is from Wuhan university and Dongyang, one year senior than me), gave me a peeled apple when I stood next to her.”

Also, if I can quote a word from the sister-in-law of my “from Shandong province” roommate (you/we know who are you :-): 学好,玩好。Translate in English: work hard, play hard. This reminds me of a slogan that was popular in Wuhan colleges in my time: 玩在武大,吃在水利(电力学院),爱❤️在华(中)师(大),学在华(中理)工。In English: play at Wuhan University; eat at Hydraulic Electric University; love at Huazhong Normal University; study at HUST. So there you do, I only have one thing to do while I was attending HUST, and that is to study. PS: on the grand scheme of things, I think many married couples will agree, that marriage (choosing the right spouse) is as important as choosing the right college, if not more. There is another Chinese saying on this: 男怕入错行,女怕嫁错郎 – Google Translate (I modified slightly): Men are afraid of entering the wrong industry/job, women are afraid of marrying the wrong man. I say vice versa: women are afraid of entering the wrong industry/job, men are afraid of marrying the wrong woman.

Now if I could reflect, I also met quite a few interesting friends while I am at HUST, including my 1st girl friend (there are both heart warming and heart breaking moments, that I can promise). And I also learned my English including practicing verbally mostly with my girl friend. Coding wise, I learned mostly on my own, a few years down the road, both my English skills and coding helped me in the US. Believe it or not, for graduate school entrance exam, ironically or not, I tried SJTU again, and I failed again as well (due to my lack of study/practice on math, and also a bit sub-par performance during the test). But that’s okay. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. My main focus over those years increasingly shifted to “let me go to the USA and take a look”: instead of just watch it from movie such as the movie “True Lies”.

Long story short, after graduating from HUST in 1993, in summer 1997 when I was in 20s, I came to the US for graduate school at University of Missouri at Rolla, now Missouri University of Science and Technology (or Missouri S&T). Applying to the graduate schools in the US in fall/winter 1996, and spring 2017 was not easy, as I like to start graduate study in fall 2017 (I think the application process is worthy another blog post). I still remember the excitement(and nervousness) I had when I was taking a phone call from a professor (he was originally from Taiwan) at my cousin’s apartment in Shanghai. I am glad things worked out and I was able to come to the US on end of July in 1997. I could not fall asleep the night before. Thanks to my families and my friends. To this day, I still remember my arrival, the pickup at airport, stop by at the McDonald’s, and move into the tiny apartment, and I slept through to 2 pm the following day 🙂

I don’t know what my life trajectory will be if I attended SJTU as my 1st choice. I have been working in this country for a while (20+ years since graduate school).

So where am I, to all the high school senior, class of 2023, remember the Nike motto: just do it and the best of luck…

Appendix I: some abbreviations for college admissions

ED: early decision. I believe one can only apply for one college, and if accepted, one has to attend. This happens before regular admission.

RD: regular decision. The most common scenario of college admission. One can apply for many, potentially receive more than one offer, and one can make decision regarding which one to attend then.

EA: early action. One can apply for a few. This is different from ED as one does not have to choose a college if there is an offer. Here is how collegeboard explains the EA and ED.

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