Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Sep 4, 2010

Life Is Too Short to Live Other People’s Dream

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:03 am

Some of my friends asked for my son’s resume so that they would know how to help their children for college application. I told my son of this. He made some comments, which is very sensible. He said, “You must have your own dream. Find out your own passions. Life is too short to live other people’s dream and not your own.” I wish parents can take heed of this advice.

On one Saturday afternoon, I read Success magazine while waiting for my daughter’s art lesson. There is an article asking “How Have You Reinvented Yourself?” The answers are below.
24% answered started my own business
22% managed stress better and focus on the present
31% lost weight
17% took control of my finance
6% devoted more time to the family

1, Sep 1, 2010

Your Excellent Academic Records are Only a Reference

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:52 am

Last Sunday I took my daughter and a neighboring girl to skating. From their conversation I learned of two Chinese children who were excellent academically but were rejected by their dream places — MIT and Harvard. They are excellent at least in the eyes of their parents.

On Monday evening, the mother of this girl talked to me over the phone on how to get into a good college. Why were these children rejected, with their extraordinary academic achievements and plenty of extracurriculum activities? The following is what I shared with her. I would suggest parents read my postings under College for further ideas.

(1) Keep in mind one’s perfect SAT score plus a bunch of excellent AP results are only a referencce for the admission officers. They guarantee nothing, especially if the child is an Asian American and there are too many of this kind.

(2) Admission officers evaluate the whole person, qualities like responsibilities, independence, maturity, commitment, leadership, dream and ideals. From this grand schema, academic behavior is only a small part of the story.

(3) The children may have devoted a large chunk of time to extracurrilum activities, but what admission officers look for is they do it because they have passion for it, not because they feel obligated or they just want to impress the admission officers.

(4) In the end, this is what I want to tell both my neighbor and all parents — there is no one sure way to reach the top, no guarantee whatsoever, with so many uncertainties that are beyond our control. If a child is excellent, he/she will shine no matter where.

Finally, it is always nice to know that all roads lead to Rome. Just remember it is the child’s own journey and make sure the child enjoys his journey to his goal. As my son put it, life is too short to live other people’s dream.

1, Aug 27, 2010

College Expense, Children Appreciation and Parent Responsibility

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:19 am

Last Saturday, 8/21, we went to a friend’s house for a potluck. As usual, such a gathering consisted of healthy eating and talking; no alcohol and smoke, nice and clean. Since all three families have college kids to support at the moment, we inevitably moved from the topic of the economy to college expenses.

While very few American families give full financial support to their college-bound children, most Chinese families here try to relieve their children of any financial worries while the kids are in college. Even a Chinese neighbor of ours working at a restaurant satisfied whatever their college daughter wanted. As long as we can afford it, we don’t want our children to get student loans with a high interest rate and a heavy burden upon graduation.

To be sure, it is definitely a priviledge for the Chinese children to have such supportive and self-sacrificing parents. On the other hand, it is expected that children appreciate what their parents are willing to do for them. I have heard more than once that the children take for granted what the parents have done for them as if the parents just do what they should do. You find similar cases in China, too.

It is sad to hear such stories. On the other hand, it is up to the parents to teach their children to appreciate their parents’ support and not to take for granted their parents’ loving care.

1, Jul 17, 2010

A Depressing Way to Start Life After College

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:22 am

I read an article on 6/1, by Ron Lieber, provided by The New York Times. “…a 26-year-old graduate of New York University, has nearly $100,000 in student loan debt from her four years in college, and affording the full monthly payments would be a struggle. For much of the time since her 2005 graduation, she’s been enrolled in night school, which allows her to defer loan payments… This is not a long-term solution, because the interest on the loans continues to pile up.”

It is so dreadfully depressing to start life with such a heavy financial burden. There are many cases like this. I don’t have the heart to spit out further unkind words toward those already unfortunate people. Still, I see this the result of ill-advice and unwise decision on part of both parents and the children.

First of all, always keep in mind this hard truth: education is an investment in money and time. You don’t invest heavily in anything that does not promise greater return. It is tantamount to nothing but high degree of stupidity if you think of college education as years of merry-go-round free spending partying life.

Secondly, don’t take on the attitude of borrow-and-spend now and let devil take care of the bills later. Don’t borrow in the first place, if you can help. If you have to, borrow as less as you can even if it means you have to tighten your belt and forsake new dresses and other forms of luxury. It is called delay gratification and not putting on the airs on borrowed money.

Third, work and study while you are in college. It enriches not just your purse, but also your work experience, so that you are ready to jump on some employment right after college.

Fourth, boost up your grade and apply for scholarship whenever there is a possibility. There are all sorts of scholarships. You just have to exhaust your search for it if you believe you are qualified.

There are always ways for you to get out of trouble. You have to rake your brain to come up with some solutions. Going into deep debt should always be the last desperate resort. You go there only if you are sure you can get a big fat salary to take good care of it after college.

1, Jun 12, 2010

American Education System and Elite Society

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:10 am

Some time last month I read an article sent to me by a friend of mine regarding American education. There is an interesting section on American society and its education. According to the author, the U.S. is an elite society, where a tiny minority of elite dominates and rules over the overwhelming majority. They make and enforce rules to, among others, perpetuate their dominance in society.

Top colleges and universities like Ivy Leagues are supposed to bring out country’s and world leaders; those of second ranking are to train high-level employees; grass-root technicians come out of colleges of third ranking; the rest are for ground-covers, rank and filers who work for others all their lives. The assumption behind it all is if you are motivated to make it to the top at the tender age of 18, you have the material in you to be the world leader in the future. The hidden agenda of American educational system is to bring up different groups of people who will willingly follow the laws of the land, support the status quo, and hold their assigned positions in society. This line of thinking smells of Marxism, the line of thinking reveals the origin of the writer.

For parents, the sweet part of American society is that the elite group is not a fixed and exclusive one. Instead, it is widely opened to all who are willing to work themselves up the social ladders. That’s how people like Obama gained his hold in the white house and how Sonia Sotomayor became the U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and how American society undergoes changes toward a better and more democratic one, not there yet though. This is something that Asian parents should think hard when they push their youngsters to Harvard-level colleges.

1, Jun 3, 2010

Your Passion, Your Degree, and Your Potential Earnings

Filed under: Career,College — admin @ 12:43 am

A few weeks ago an article on 10 lowest-earning degrees caught my eyes. It was provided by PayScale’s list. Here they are.
10. Drama (starting annual salary: $35,600; mid-career annual salary: $56,600)
9. Fine arts (starting annual salary: $35,800; mid-career annual salary: $56,300)
8. Hospitality and tourism (starting annual salary: $37,000; mid-career annual salary: $54,300)
7. Education (starting annual salary: $36,200; mid-career annual salary: $54,100)
6. Horticulture (starting annual salary: $37,200; mid-career annual salary: $53,400)
5. Spanish (starting annual salary: $35,600; mid-career annual salary: $52,600)
4. Music (starting annual salary: $34,000; mid-career annual salary: $52,000)
3. Theology (starting annual salary: $34,800; mid-career annual salary: $51,500)
2. Elementary education (starting annual salary: $33,000; mid-career annual salary: $42,400)
1. Social work (starting annual salary: $33,400; mid-career annual salary: $41,600)

My first observation is none of them are from science/math/computer fields. All are from humanity/social science.

Secondly, it is hard to combine a fat paycheck with what you are interested in. You may very well go ahead with music if that’s where your passion is, but you have to go extra thousand miles to excel in the field, to be one in a million like Lang Lang, in order to even find a decent job. If you are not ready to give your bloody best and you still want an extravagant lifestyle, you are better off staying away from the above ten degrees. By the end of the day, as always, it is your attitude and your efforts that count and that will determine where you will end up eventually, regardless of your choice.

1, May 21, 2010

Questions Testing Your Success After Graduation

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:02 am

This is the questionnaire that I mentioned on yesterday’s posting. There are 50 questions, too many to try my patience. I list below some interesting ones. The answers to the questions reveal the character, the ambition and thus the potential of the person.

(1) How many activities do you participate in universities?
(2) Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
(3) How do you react when you receive a bad grade on a test?
(4) When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do?
(5) Before you go to bed, what’s the last thing you do?
(6) Why would you climb a mountain?
(7) How many hours a day do you spend watching TV?
(8) How would you feel when you don’t finish something?
(9) How well do you work with others?
(10) How do you prepare for an exam?
(11) How do you handle criticism?
(12) Why do you choose this college?
(13) After completing this test, what will you do?

1, May 20, 2010

High School, College and Life Beyond Part II

Filed under: College — admin @ 12:10 am

Continue yesterday’s topic…
While I was in Boston in August 2007, I was greatly impressed by the large Asian student body in that area. I learned about a quarter of them were Asian students. If that was the case, Asians must be hugely over-represented in American elite colleges and universities. Yet, outside campus, in the world of politics, economics and laws, we don’t see the same high Asian visibility. We have many Asian Americans going into laws, but we don’t have anyone like Sonia Sotomayor or Elena Kagan; in politics, no Asians have reached even to the position of the former Secretary of State Condelezza Rice, though I am sure there are millions of Asians much more intelligent than that lady. For Black Americans, even though they are over-represented in American prisons and under-represented in higher education, they have stronger and more powerful voice in American politics. They even have their own representative in White House.

There is no doubt that children from Asian families work hard and study diligently in order to get into top U.S. colleges and universities, but what happen to them after they leave university campus? Are they mainly good at hitting books or taking exams?

Yesterday I bumped into a questionnaire on the internet which tests your success after graduation. There are certain qualities that people must possess in order to succeed after graduation. To be sure, ability to study well is not one of them. Does it suggest that most of Asian Americans are not equipped with these qualities? I share with my children this phenomenon, as I don’t know what to say. I hope my children can mark my word and keep in mind going to a good college is only a means to an end instead of an end in itself. What is their end? This is the same question as asking them what they want to do with their lives. It is up to them to decide.

1, May 19, 2010

High School, College and Life Beyond Part I

Filed under: College — admin @ 1:45 am

While chatting with my son randomly, he mentioned that some of the students at MIT coasted through each day, making you wander why they were there. He believes that if you are determined to be a starlet, it doesn’t matter which college you go to. If you want to be mediocre, even Harvard cannot stop you from falling there.

These words remind me of what a friend of mine once said. If you want to be successful, you will eventually make it no matter where you are and how old you are. Otherwise, nothing can get you out of the rank that you allow yourself to fall into.

I am once again reminded of the huge responsibilities of parents that go beyond college admission. It is far from being enough to be able to send the children to a prestige college. You are not automatically guaranteed to be a success by any college. You might be pushed to one of the top by your parents, but the ultimate question is by the time you enter the college, you should have a good idea of what you want to do with your live in college and beyond. From there, you will either rise and fly or fall and slide away your college years.

1, Mar 17, 2010

New College Life in China Today

Filed under: China,College — admin @ 12:18 am

One of their greatest moments in life
This was from a friend of mine regarding college students in China. I know it is not a joke even though it reads like one. I have personally known or heard similar story. That’s how they fail and how they become loafers or parasites, living off their parents. Here’s the translation.

They sleep through the whole class;
So that, throughout the night, the owls are not tired.
At school cafeteria, they never wait in line;
They won’t stop texting until they are in debt.
On smoking and gambling, they know them all;
Ten bottles of beer won’t knock them out.
They cut classes together in groups.
They never have any luck in romantic relationships.
They miss everything in exams.
Long live university!

1, Feb 26, 2010

What Does a Job Mean to Young Graduates?

Filed under: Career,College — admin @ 12:05 am

This may seems a rather stupid question on the surface. From the basic economic sense, a job means a paycheck or a means of living. In the word of one person that was given to me when I landed my first healthcare position, “You just found a bowl for a living.” If that’s all you can think of regarding a job and if you are content with your bowl, you are only an inch away from a dumb fool. Unfortunately, this bowl is not guaranteed for life and can be taken away any time your employer pleases. You simply don’t have any control over this. If you don’t prepare for this moment, you deserve nothing better.

On a deeper spiritual level, there must be some transcendental value to our life experience. Otherwise, that corporal mass of yours is no different from the same fleshy one found in any pigsty. That is, you should always be able to think of something above bare physical existence that a job can satisfy.

Back to the more practical side, one should always keep in mind the precarious nature of a job, which is as fragile as a glass bowl. It might be scary to think of everyday at your office as your last day there. But it certainly enhance the temporary nature and the insecurity inherent in any position that is offered to you. Embrace this risk and insecurity so that you will feel the urgent need for developing your own hidden agenda while you devote your time to your current employer.

What is your hidden agenda? Ultimately, it is to constantly increase your skills and expertise, all kinds of experience, and network and connections, making yourself a valuable asset desired by everybody, so that when the final day of employment comes, you are prepared and have the choice of going to many places. This should be your career goal and plan.

In this sense, for young graduates, a job means preparation, connections, opportunities and potential for something bigger, opportunity for learning and gaining valuable work experience and sharpening your skills, even better, for a higher order of human existence. How lovely that shall be!

1, Feb 6, 2010

Beyond Classroom and Lifetime Learning (2)

Filed under: Career,College — admin @ 12:01 am

During my previous posting on this topic, I emphasize the continuation of learning beyond classroom. Now I want to point out study and work should be inseparable and what you should look for in your first job.

While you are at school, you should think about your future work or even better try to put your foot at the door of your future company. While at work, you should never stop enriching yourself.

A country has one-year or five-year plan. So should a college graduate. Ask yourself what you would like to see in yourself in one year or five years or a decade. Your long-term plan is your hidden agenda. Never for a day should you forget this, no matter where you are.

I often hear people brag about the salary of one’s first job. This is like picking up seeds while losing water-melon. The focus of your first job should be opportunities to learn and to grow, the big goal of your career development. One’s first salary should least be considered for young graduates. In fact, a fat paycheck on your first job is not always a good thing when some young people get content easily and become deflated in their will to strive for something better.

It is very risky to settle down on your first job as you deceive yourself with a false assumption about job security of 19th century! Generation-Y graduates should have known by now that the age has gone forever when a person can stay in one post till retirement. Always keep in mind this new golden rule: the only security is your skills, expert and the asset you build in yourself. While you are young and energetic, increase your own tangible and intangible assets is the top one priority. It is stupid to eat and get fat on your first job and find yourself loss of job as you are busy widening your waistline.

By the way, the trick to remember the feature of generation-Y is to look at these young people from behind when they bend forward. There you get the Y-image.

1, Feb 5, 2010

Beyond Classroom and Lifetime Learning (1)

Filed under: Career,College — admin @ 12:37 am

Recently I have given some thought on graduation and beyond. Perhaps because one of the young relatives graduated here last December, another one in China will graduate this summer and go for graduate study, and a third one on the way to graduate from a master program, and my own child will be out of college next May.

As always, my heart is full of words for these young folks. Some people can’t wait for graduation while some others are dreadful of life ahead and its uncertainty. Not a few people think graduation means the end of study and the start of work, as if the two were separable and as if they have learned everything that is to learn. I must say this view is nothing but short-sighted career suicide.

For one thing, compare to the vast ocean of knowledge, college education only leads you to the door of real learning, opening your eyes to your own prejudice and ignorance and thus firing in you the passion to pursue more on your lifetime journey.

For another, even with that meager amount of learning, you might be able to use less than 1 percent of it in your future post. The 4-year education is far from enough if you intend to lay back on this for your future cushion. The world is changing everyday, so is the nature of work, which demands you more than ever before to be able to keep up with new technologies. Unless you want to put an early end to your career, you shall never stop learning no matter where you are.

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