[college] orientation for introverts

In just a few weeks, orientation will begin for college freshmen. At most colleges, especially small ones, orientation can be an intense bonding experience, and a positive experience that makes your friend circle for all four years. Yet, for introverts like me, orientation was torture. Having to go to mass events teeming with overeager first years, then being encouraged to spill my secrets to strangers, and everywhere, people plastered with sweet smiles. I know they were all very nice people, but the relentless onslaught of cheeriness made me feel even more depressed.

the kind of people I typically get along with understand this joke.

the kind of people I typically get along with understand this joke.

At my college, we did most things in our pre-assigned “first year mentor” groups. Being an introvert, you can usually immediately pick out who you do not get along with well; in this case, this was my roommate and my entire first year mentor group. For the first week, I tried so, so hard, despite that. I felt even more alone after that, as I realized time and time again, our thoughts did not align.

Some people have asked me on ask.fm some advice for college, and my number one advice is always “do everything”, which seems like a contradiction on the surface. It’s not. Try everything that you’re interested in at least once– at those activities, make an effort to talk to others.

I wish someone was there to tell me that I did not have to sit through the onslaught that was orientation. It is perfectly all right to shun and skip out on orientation events– there are plenty of ways to make friends, through classes, through extracurricular activities, and even through work. All of my good friends at college have been made that way; I knew none of them during orientation. Everyone has their own pace of finding and making friends, and do not let it bother you that perhaps you may not have a huge circle of friends by the time school starts. Tend to your own interests and your garden of friends will naturally grow.


the one thing to know when you enter an elite university

There will always be someone smarter than you.

Think about it– the type of people who congregate to these elite colleges are people who were valedictorians of their high schools, or close to it. They are people who are driven and have been constantly busy with ambitions and pursuits for four plus years. Those amazing undergraduates who do cutting-edge research and found companies on the side that you read about on the Harvard or MIT news? These types of people are going to be your classmates. In the 300-level class I took at MIT, the professor asked us if any of us had started our own company. No one had, and the professor was genuinely surprised. Surprised. In my own college, I am constantly impressed by the caliber of people around me, and flabbergasted that yes, she is the same girl who falls asleep in our math class.

a joke that I've come to understand.

a joke that I’ve come to understand.

To get a flavor of the people in your elite college, stalk the accepted threads in College Confidential. Do you fit the general mold of those accepted? If you do not– by that, I mean, you fall short— know that you have a lot of catching up to do. I do not doubt that you are a capable person that has distinguished yourself in your own way (unless you relied heavily on sports recruiting, the power of money, and your relatives are alums); you will need to apply this tenacity to making up for what your high school has failed to teach you. Mostly, because most of us cannot self-teach, this means attending the remedial classes in college. It may be embarrassing and mortifying, but trust me, underestimating is way better than overestimating your abilities. In the long run, you will suffer less if you grit your teeth and admit that you know close to nothing. After all, in an elite college, you are pitted against people who know everything and are not afraid to show it.

The easiest (laziest) solution is to not attend the elite college. I have many friends who did worse than me academically who are pulling 4.0 GPA’s in state college while in my elite college, only 3-4 people graduate per year with a GPA above a 3.90. Those in state college have much less stress about trying to catch up because everyone is relatively on the same playing field and they learn together at a pace better for them. They also have more time to devote to other subjects besides academics. In high school, one of my acquaintances was scouted by Columbia University, but he eventually ended up going to Penn State. I applaud his courage, because he simply was not a good student and earned poor grades, and thriving in an elite university would be a daily uphill struggle for him, especially as he would have to balance a demanding sport and demanding academics. Do not be swayed by the prestige. Think about you and your own sanity.

Hard as it is, acknowledge your weaknesses. Acknowledge there is always going to be someone smarter than you. Acknowledge that there are some things you cannot do no matter how hard you try. For example, learning four years’ worth of what you were supposed to be taught in high school in the space of a semester. Acknowledge that sometimes the costs exceed the benefits. Go into your elite university with your eyes wide open.

hey, you. especially you female persons. study math.

From Wikipedia:

An event in George Dantzig’s life became the origin of a famous story in 1939 while he was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Near the beginning of a class for which Dantzig was late, professor Jerzy Neyman wrote two examples of famously unsolved statistics problems on the blackboard. When Dantzig arrived, he assumed that the two problems were a homework assignment and wrote them down. According to Dantzig, the problems “seemed to be a little harder than usual”, but a few days later he handed in completed solutions for the two problems, still believing that they were an assignment that was overdue.

Six weeks later, Dantzig received a visit from an excited professor Neyman, eager to tell him that the homework problems he had solved were two of the most famous unsolved problems in statistics. He had prepared one of Dantzig’s solutions for publication in a mathematical journal. As Dantzig told it in a 1986 interview in the College Mathematics Journal:

A year later, when I began to worry about a thesis topic, Neyman just shrugged and told me to wrap the two problems in a binder and he would accept them as my thesis.

Years later another researcher, Abraham Wald, was preparing to publish a paper which arrived at a conclusion for the second problem, and included Dantzig as its co-author when he learned of the earlier solution.

In 2009, about 32% of PhDs awarded in mathematics were to women, compared to evolutionary biology, in which 48% of women were awarded PhDs. Women likewise are relatively equal in biochemistry, statistics, neuroscience, and molecular biology.

But why are we behind in the hardest of the ‘hard sciences’? Mathematics, physics, astrophysics, computer science, engineering? Less than 20% of physics PhDs were awarded to women in 2009.

That statistic is almost hard to believe because I come from a women’s school where a great majority of students I know personally are math and science majors. You’re looking at one of them– an economics and mathematics double major. At my college, 51% of tenured faculty are women, when you’re looking at a nationwide average of only 31%; research suggests that in the sciences, the more females there are on the faculty, the more likely their female students will pursue the sciences. I am surrounded by smart, driven women, 80% of which make it to graduate school in the next 10 years after graduation. Additionally, after MIT, my college was the home of the second established undergraduate physics lab in the United States.

But these are anomalies, by and by. This does not happen in other schools, not even in some Ivy Leagues and other top-notch schools. In general, women simply do not dive for physics, mathematics, and engineering. In an era where we say that a woman can do anything a man can, we are still far behind in matching men in the hard sciences. I will not go into the details why, but you can read these following articles if interested:

Maybe not all of us females can be like Mr. George Dantzig and solve ‘unsolved’ conjectures for homework, but we can still shoot for those physics, mathematics, engineering PhDs and excel. I am begging you, if you have any interest in the sciences, especially the hard sciences, please continue to explore that in college.

Perhaps we all do not need to study pure mathematics and go to math grad school, but females can all certainly branch out to biomedical engineering, pharmacy, and computer science, all high-paying disciplines that require higher than average mathematical skills and reasoning. From the way the world economy is going, the majority of jobs will be located in a sector that utilizes science and technology. Mathematics cannot be overlooked. Even for women who would like to head out into the service sector– being savvy in mathematics and economics would help lead to an even cushier retirement.


I came into college looking to major in history, but I ended up with mathematics. However, many of my female friends from high school are the opposite, at the onset, they proclaim allegiance to engineering, but some (not all) find the environment too daunting and difficult that they gravitate towards cinema studies, and god forbid, biology. Not all of us have the good fortune to be inspired and surrounded by so many women who are driven in the hard sciences, but just know, you can do it. Even if you are not the brightest banana in the bunch, but you like mathematics a hell of a lot better than reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles in English, just go for it. Please do not fall into the “I’m too pretty to do math” trap. Weather through middle school and high school, and trust me, you will find many females like you in college.

If you love it, you will always be able to find a way.

[nerd] math major memes!

To celebrate my return from hiatus, I was busy (wasting time and) looking up math memes. Set theory, I will conquer you this fall, just so I finally understand 90% of the math memes out there. That’s actually the only reason I’m considering a mathematics major. Right.  Continue reading

[school] the one thing you must do when applying to college.

Ask for advice from people who recently went through the college application process. 

Harvard is so irritating. Unless you're an Harvard student or professor, you generally can't go in their libraries. Unlike MIT!

The reason for this somewhat random piece of advice is because high school graduations are coming up, and there are quite a few seniors I know who are unhappy with their college acceptances. One person, in particular, was accepted into my college. Her parents asked me to talk to her, and I dutifully contacted her, but she did not reply. She later apologized, saying that she was disappointed–she had Ivy aspirations.

I wish she had talked to me sooner about it, because so many people end up applying to Ivies, ignoring other suitable school choices (like the liberal arts!), and then have to fall back on “safety” state universities.

As you make your list of prospective colleges, please talk to someone who is around your caliber (grades, extracurricular activities, goals, etc.) who has applied to college recently, for they know best what colleges are looking for, what worked and what failed, what is realistic and what is simply dreams. If you are brave enough, bare everything to them: what your grades are like, your SATs, APs, extracurriculars, and such, so they can give you more detailed advice. They will give you a realistic picture of what you can expect, so you don’t put all your eggs into one ivy-lined basket.

On a related note, when you receive your acceptances, make an effort to talk to people who are currently attending the school. Colleges that accept you want you to attend, so they provide the glossy image of themselves. Though I love my college, I would not recommend everyone going there–for example, if you wanted to study music, you would be much better off going to New England Conservatory or Berklee.

Perhaps in the future I will post a comprehensive list of college application advice, but this is the one piece that breaks my heart the most. People are naturally communicative and kind, and want you to do well. Please utilize this resource. Please ask.

[school] Advice for those entering first year of university!

This is sort of pretentious to do, since I’ve only just completed my first year. Yet, someone asked me for advice, so I decided to type up a post. Plus, I have too many recent kpop posts! Darn.

So, please keep in mind, these are things that I did, but may not necessarily work for everyone–

Keep a schedule. College is the first time where you have a lot of freedom and independence with your schedule–when to work, when to hang out with friends, when to do homework, etc. This can be very overwhelming to remember, so I suggest keeping a schedule that is easy to use and is accesible; I use Google Calendar, which syncs to all my mobile devices and can be accessed anywhere there is an internet connection. A lot of the times I forget when I have work, but a prompt reminder from GCal 10 minutes beforehand is a lifesaver. Also, scanning my schedule briefly, I can see where I have pockets of time to do homework, errands or to hang out with friends, and I can prioritize my activities accordingly.

Keep a to-do list. This ties in with keeping a schedule. I’m really forgetful, so putting everything down on Google Tasks on GCal helps me to keep track of due dates. Also, it’s just really satisfying to check something off and cross it out once you’re done.

a typical week for me: schedule & tasks

Have a plan. Colleges will have a list of requirements you need to fulfill in order to graduate, and also, your major department will have required courses as well. Please look them up. Though it’s your first semester, and you should explore your options, make sure you aren’t just picking classes and activities willy-nilly, but classes that you will enjoy and also help you towards graduation. Otherwise, you will find yourself as a senior taking an overload of classes, which is not the laidback, I’ve-got-three-job-offers, ideal. Looking ahead and developing a plan is an absolute must for those considering medical school.

Never, ever hesitate to contact or meet with professors. Professors are there to connect with students, and help them with their academic growth. If you don’t understand anything, if you just want to talk, if you just want to check out their shelf of books, just visit them during office hours. In university, though they want you to do well, professors don’t necessarily coddle you through every step. Thus, the student needs to take the first step in a more personal relationship.

Get things done early rather than doing them later. This oft-repeated, last piece of advice is easier said than done. Procrastination is the bane of all college students. However, trust me, however painful it is to start studying for your finals two weeks in advance, you’ll be easy and breezy once it comes to the final itself. The sense of self-confidence that stems from early preparation is worth it. Also, it’s better to do studying in shorter bits over a long time period rather than an 9 hour cram session. You have more time to absorb material, ask professors questions if you don’t understand, and not be as bored (one hour studying for multivariable calculus versus nine hours?! If I ever did the latter, I think I would have tried to throw my books out the window).

Some other studying tips: 

(1) study in various places— your dorm, the library, in Starbucks. It will break the monotony, and the material you learn will get associated to many places, helping your mind better remember it.

(2) study for one to two hours at a time, then take a break— like watching a funny Minho & Jonghyun video, doing some stretching, getting a snack from the dining hall. However, the danger about this is that when I start watching funny Minho & Jonghyun videos, somehow I start watching full episodes of Strong Heart.. but aside from my issues of self-control, having little breaks will also break the monotony.

darn you and your cuteness, Jjong!

(3) handwrite— it will help you remember. Period. I have reams of paper where I just copied this one formula, over and over.

(4) save everything you do— say you just had a quiz. You studied for it, wrote a study guide. Then you have a test. Yay! You already have a study guide for some of the material on the test, and you can focus on studying the rest of the material.

(5) don’t study with friends— unless that friend is me. I mean it. Otherwise, friends usually end up distracting you. However, if they’re me, they understand it’s important for you to have quiet time, and will leave you alone and hassle you if you haven’t finished your work. I’m a good friend. Right.

(6) turn off all notifications— like your cell phone. No texting. For me, I turn off my iPod notifications and disable notifications on my computers. So I have no idea when someone texts me, Facebooks me, comments on the innocent lam, and so thus, I don’t feel compelled to answer immediately. That’s sort of why I dropped off the innocent lam for the past two weeks. Though I did keep tabs on everything, I pretty much lost all my real-time response.

(7) suggested: listen to music— I am a music person, so I have music on for a better part of the day. When I say music person, I do not mean ‘kpop fangirl who listens to SHINee all day’ but rather, I’m musically inclined. For example, I unconsciously hum to myself, which is not astonishing news, but when I hum long pieces from classical canon, it all gets a little hairy, and people actually start asking me what I’m humming. Anyways, now you know I’m delirious, but music can drown out some of the outside distractions and provide something your unconscious can connect to while consciously absorbing knowledge. If you get distracted by music, avoid it. As T.S. Luna pointed out below, music isn’t a conclusive booster of studying or memorization skills!

I hope this helped! ^^ Good luck on your first year, everyone.

[kpop] SHINee’s height, weight, shoe sizes, education.

***updated: 19 May 2012***

***DISCLAIMER: when I say ‘updated’, I just mean I added new information, like most recently, their shoe sizes. Moreover, the weight statistic is from around debut period (2008), and since they were just teens back then, they probably have gotten heavier since then. However, I must point out that the Asian male body type is thin compared to the Western male body type in general.***


Taemin: 177 cm or 5’9.7″
Onew: 177 cm or 5’9.7″
Jonghyun: 173 cm or 5’8.1″
Minho: 186 cm or 6’1.2″
Key: 179 cm or 5’10.5″


Taemin: 53 kg or 116 lb
Onew: 61 kg or 134.5 lb
Jonghyun: 56 kg or 123.5 lb
Minho: 60 kg or 132 lb
Key: 59 kg or 130 lb


Taemin250 cm or 7 
260 cm or 8
265 cm or 8.5
260 cm or 8
265 cm or 8.5


Taemin: left Chung Dam High School for a performing arts school that will better accomodate his schedule
Onew: Chungwoon University, major: broadcasting music
Jonghyun: has taken the University Entrance Exam, not enrolled in a university
Minho: Konkuk University, major: film
Key: will study in Myungji University: music in 2012

These statistics are a little scary. The average American male at age 18 is 5’9″ and weighs 140 lb. Of course, we are somewhat comparing apples to pears; Asian males traditionally have more slender builds.

The BMI index places Minho and Taemin as underweight. Some people are naturally skinny, but I think Minho and Taemin can put a little more weight on; it would add, rather than detract, to their appearances. One huge part of SHINee’s androgynous and girly image are their waifish, slight figures.

And why is Jonghyun not entering university?! He apparently has the least busy schedule out of all the SHINee members, too. However, it is good to know that he is not as short as I originally thought he was, the way the other members tease him about it.

All very interesting to think about. Very much so. Now, go outside and play. It’s beautiful outside.

source: SHINee’s official Japanese website