The Big College Question


There is so much competition to get into college and it is not hard to see why every year so many students get into one with so much hope that they will accomplish everything they would like to. More often than not, that is precisely what happens because drop out rates are really low at public and private universities, that have a good standing academically – think national, regional and global rankings.

Most kids aspire to be be a physician, dentist, nurse, psychologist, civil engineer, dietician and nutrionist, pharmacist, construction manager, lawyer, hairdresser, art director, cab driver, real estate agent and software developer. So imagine how tough it is to get what you want from a degree when so many people graduate high school (or college) with the same career aspirations.

Most of these students did not get twenty-five A+ or As in their SPM/”O” Levels/GCSEs because those are only for those brilliant students who never had to worry about a college fund – they survived through it all at uni (imagine bean bags, a twenty-page thesis, and environmental research trips to Dale Dyke Reservoir, Peak District, Sheffield) on a government scholarship.

Some students did qualify for those means-tested grants for homes that had low incomes but it is hard to imagine they managed to get scholarships on top of that even if they did do great despite growing up in absolute poverty. Most kids however do not have those opportunities available to them because they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth – it’s a slogan that is often associated with the University of Pennsylvania because for that is the kind of students that go there and graduate.

I did not have those same aspirations because I wanted to be in public service, because I wanted to be an analyst in technology, because I wanted to be an enginner, so for me, it was more about competing against myself. It is about coming to school every single day at around 7:30am and go back to halls at around 5:30pm. Inbetween you don’t get to do much, aside from read books, have dinner and watch anime/BBC News once more – you always have to work that hard.

After college, some students want to pursue a postgraduate education, such as an MBA, which would help them get further ahead in their chosen profession. For me, it is a PGCE because I have wanted to be a teacher for some time now. I wanted to do a PGCE in Computing because it is a vocational degree and it would enable me to work with a subject I find interesting.


I do not have worries of things like GRE, like most kids because I have only studied British curriculums, my whole life. My high school exams were from EDEXCEL (it was never as simple as SATs, with a whole lot of school lockers, drama competitions and yellow-coloured school bus riding!) and my degree is three-years long, not four years long, like at MIT. I liked Yale University for that: they do no ask for your SATs when you have studied EDEXCEL, unlike Columbia University.

The duration of my degree is the same as for any BSc (Hons) in a science/technology subject in British universities, so I think it is interesting and quite funny to see other kids run around with those troubles because Stanford University only accepts GREs and SATs for admissions, even if you studied your whole life in Hong Kong or the Hong Kong curriculum.

I do have those worries similiar to other kids about voluntary work, about getting that scholarship during my postgraduate education, about winning that award, about getting that graduate job, about getting those As/A+, about enjoying my learning. But it becomes a little bit of a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” reading when you read about how worried kids are about whether or not they can finally walk through those corridors at Stanford Uni because their GRE scores in California are not matching those late-night dreams in Hong Kong.

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Author: Osmi Anannya

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