Erik McClure

Why I Am Screaming In Rage


The story behind my current educational crisis starts a long time ago, back when I was in High School and was entirely focused on going to college. I had long ago learned how to extract what teachers wanted and feed it back to them using the absolute minimal amount of effort, allowing me to concentrate on my independent research. During my senior year, I turned this up to eleven and painstakingly did everything that was required of me, allowing my personal research to lag seriously behind.

The UW rejected me.

So then I wrote them a letter in protest, explaining how my contributions to 3D graphics and CSE at the UW would be invaluable to them, and that they were making a huge mistake by not letting me, an extremely valuable student, in to the college, which is arguably a pretty arrogant thing to do.

They let me in.

Once into the UW, after pulling off a stunt like that, I immediately began to follow the rules, attending all my classes, doing my homework, examining all the classes that the major wanted me to take before they’d let me in and trying to do well in all of them. I screwed up, and my 4.0 in English got me a 2.8 in my third math class, which killed my chances of getting into the major a first time. I knew full well this was my fault, and I was determined to correct it. So, the next quarter, I got a 3.9 in Math 308, which the advisor told me “very few students are able to do.” I did everything she said that I should do, including avoiding the Phys 123 class because I would not be able to do well in it and it would hurt my chances of getting in.

They rejected me a second time. This time there were two reasons - One, they wanted me to take a programming oriented course at the UW before they let me in, and two, they wanted me to have more “consistent” grades.

These reasons are highly disturbing for a number of reasons. First of all, I hadn’t taken any CSE courses at the UW because there are only 2 introductory courses that I can take, and because I scored so crazy-high on the AP exam (a 5 on the hardest version of the test), I was exempt from both of them and I was told by the advisor to not take them again if I didn’t need to. This is concerning for a number of reasons, the least of all wondering just how well informed the advisors are in the first place.

The second reason is simply insulting. They are telling me that they want me to get good grades in everything despite saying in their admissions guidelines that they take into account the course difficulty and relevance to the major in question. Not to mention that judging my ability to perform well in a CSE course depending on how I did in an art class is kind of insane. Again, either this is misinformation or they’re just making up excuses to not let me into the major.

I grit my teeth, but I think, *ok, I can still work with this, I’ll just petition for a majors only course, like the advisor recommended based on the committee’s comments, and then I can get into an advanced programming course and prove to them just how much I know and why not letting me into this major is such a tremendous mistake. As long as I get good grades, they’ll have no excuse to not let me into the major’s only course.* I got good grades (3.4 GPA).

They rejected the petition.

If I continue to follow their rules, I will be stuck in an introductory course whose most advanced topic is basic binary trees. This course is a weed-out course, and as such if you want a 4.0 you have to get at least 99%. This wouldn’t be so much of a problem, except they also have a strong emphasis on proper code formatting. That means that, if there was someone else in the class who know everything like I did, whether or not I get a grade good enough to get into the major with will be entirely dependent on how pretty my code looks. And I will have only that single grade to try and somehow get me into that major.

It is at this point, I’d like to return to how I got into the UW in the first place. I stopped following the rules. I did something crazy and stupid, and then I got in. So its time for some crazy and stupid things, because I only get ONE LAST SHOT at this before I run out of time and have to declare another major or stay at college for 5 or 6 years. So if playing nice hasn’t done me any good, I guess I’ll have to do things the hard way.


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