Category Archives: Pursuing Higher Education

CSET Series: Math III and OpenCourseWare

I have a personal problem where when something difficult peers over my life’s horizon, I go into denial and procrastination mode.

Leetle by leetle, I’m doing better… mainly because honestly? It makes my God happy when I try my best.

Last month, I spent one week feverishly cramming for the first of three math CSET exams (In CA, you need to take 3 subtests to earn a math teaching credential… although I don’t know why I have to get one since my multiple subject cred technically covers up through 8th grade and I doubt any 8th grader will be learning calculus no matter what’s in Common Core…).

I felt pretty despondent about it because I honestly knew very little.  No, I’m not being modest. At one point I wrote in the free response section, “Hello, I plan to teach in urban Oakland where there are very little qualified math teachers.  As you can see, I’m a creative problem solver and I am great at explaining my thinking. Please be gentle.”  Or something along those lines – basically appealing to their pathos.

Now in two weeks, I have the third subtest (CSET III for trig and calc).  Two days after, I’ll have the second subtest.  I just don’t have time to do them any time else.. although now that I think about it, if I don’t pass, I might as well have just scheduled these for later.  (20/20 hindsight).

To add to all this unmotivation is the fact that trigonometry kicked my BUTT in high school and although I loved calc, I can’t say I really remember any of it.  (Truly, a 5 on an AP Calc exam doesn’t really work 10 years later..).

BuuUUuuUUuuut…just now, I figured out the cosine of 5pi/4 by drawing a picture .. so now I feel a leeeetle better about my prospects.

I’m using Khan Academy, Barron’s AP Calc book and UCI’s Open Courseware to prep math teachers for the CSETs.  I’ll let you know which worked out the best for me later.

If you know of any other resources, let me know!

Example diagnostic problem from UCI's OCW CSET Test prep!

Example diagnostic problem from UCI’s OCW CSET Test prep!


Phew! What do you suggest we do?

I just received this email today, and I am so thankful that my program is only one year long.  I have no idea what the cuts are like for undergraduates, but this will definitely make a difference for many students hoping to pursue higher degrees.

Dear Student:

Like those of us in the Financial Aid Office, you may have been following the news regarding the debt ceiling debate in Congress over the summer.  In early August, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed into law.

Two provisions of this budget Control Act will have an impact on graduate students borrowing federal loans beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year. These changes will not apply to any loans borrowed prior to July 1, 2012.

  • Elimination of the subsidy on Direct loans made to graduate students
    • Direct loans to graduate students beginning with the 2012-13 academic year will no longer be subsidized.  While the total amount that students can borrow will remain $20,500 per year, the full amount will be unsubsidized, meaning interest will accrue from the time the loan disburses.
  • Elimination of the upfront fee rebate on Direct Unsubsidized and Grad PLUS loans beginning with the 2012-13 academic year
    • Loans borrowed prior to 2012-13 had an origination fee of 1% for Direct loans and 4% for Grad PLUS loans. However, .5% of the Direct fee and 1.5% of the Grad PLUS fee were suspended and were waived if a borrower made their first 12 monthly payments on time.  Beginning with loans for the 2012-13 academic year, these upfront rebates have been eliminated.

For students planning future graduate study, it will be important to understand the implications of these changes which will go into effect next year on your future educational costs.  For current doctoral students planning on borrowing in future years, you will want to make note of this important change.

This system is groaning.  I’m a firm believer in smaller government, and I think regardless of current policies, we as individuals can act in ways that correspond with our beliefs.  What do you think we (the people) can do to work around this?  Should we be changing our mentality concerning graduate school?  Should we be content with state school graduate programs?  Perhaps even, the whole mentality of preparing students for careers ought to be tweaked.  If we gave them marketable skills when they were younger, maybe that would prepare them better for the job market?  Does this mean we nix the liberal arts initiative?  DO WE THEN TURN INTO ASIA?  WHERE THEY FUNNEL THEIR CHILDREN INTO A SET CAREER STARTING FROM WHEN THEY’RE YOUNG?!  Okay, I’m starting to hyperventilate.  Maybe it’s better for me to take a nap and come back to this.

How Did You Achieve Your GRE Score?

Orientation has been quite disorienting (har har), and I’ve only been here two days!  Anyway, one thing that I think may be of interest to you is a question that was posed during a multicultural understanding workshop.  What contributed to your GRE score?

When I first saw the question, I first thought, “Hah, nothing!  God?”  Because my whole GRE experience was pretty ridiculous and intense.  Long story short, I was teaching abroad and had to take a whirlwind weekend trip to Bangkok during the weekend the Red Shirts were about to revolt.  I was in the middle of teaching and had no time to study.  When I got my score, I was positively thrilled and amazed because all 3 of my practice exam scores couldn’t even break 1300.  I thought that nothing had contributed to my GRE score except maybe for the fact that perhaps I think like a middle-class, white male (is that stat still valid?). Yet as I began listening to the discussion around me, I realized a lot contributed to my GRE score.

First of all, I came from a stable family background.  My parents were 1.5 generation American and they had a strong “Asian” work ethic.  Although they never forced me to get involved in stereotypically asian activities, they did expect me to work hard.  They also helped me with math, since math is something that’s easier to teach.

Also, I grew up reading a lot.  My mom spent a lot of time with me (and my siblings) as a child, working on our phonics and reading skills.  We used phonics song tapes and Bob books (which apparently still exist!).   My dad would also buy me literary classics even when I was a child.  I would always try reading it, and I finally finished my first classic, Jane Eyre, in sixth grade, and loved it.  Also, despite the fact that I didn’t know how to speak English before elementary school, because I grew up in a predominantly caucasian community, the language became of second nature to me.

Finally, after a classmate shared how she came from a very poor school and how it was one science teacher who noticed that she actually belonged in a higher class (she was put into the lower-level classes with other students of latino descent), and did all the paperwork to get her in (without that one event where would she be?), I realized that the fact that I ended up going to high school in Palo Alto also contributed to my GRE score.  I was surrounded by people using elevated language and on track for a 4-year (most likely prestigious) college.  Even though I had no clue about the application process, I was naturally planning to go to college.

I then was fed into a good public university, Berkeley, which further honed my vocabulary, reading, and writing skills.  Granted, I had my personal drive and ability, but that alone is not what got me here.  I mean, my GRE score wasn’t great, but neither was it bad.  And after thinking this through, I see how it wasn’t just Kaplan and Anki that helped me; it was an amalgam of circumstances and opportunities.

I’m thankful to the Lord for His placing me in such situations, but am also realizing that I need to be a faithful steward of such things.  Another realization is that I need to be humble about myself and patient towards seemingly behind children.  There is so much more going on than just schooling and effort.


Cripes, I missed an easy scholarship deadline.

I really hate it when I pull a hare and end up losing my race.  For example, I was pretty gungho and on top of funding my education and finding scholarships in January and February.  By March, I had all my rec letters ready and my transcripts sent.  Then slowly but surely, I let myself relax.  I was sick of writing essays about myself and reasoned that I deserved a break.  Sure, a break is fine, but… NOT WHEN YOU OVERSLEEP!

I figuratively overslept and missed out on a scholarship that I think I had a really good chance of getting.  Not to mention, I wasted $50 since I had to send 2 sets of transcripts.  I guess this is supposed to make me all the more motivated to apply for the other few I have my eyes on, but honestly, I just want to give up and go home.  I’ll just … take out more loans.  (Lazy, lazy, lazy. Bad, Junia, No!)

In other news, private schools do take care of you, and I actually feel a glimmer of hope that after grad school, I’ll actually be able to snag a job!  Lately, people have been coming up to me and commenting cute nonsensicals such as “now that you’re going to Harvard, your comments seem more legit” to “You must be a genius.”  Honestly, I think getting into graduate school is a lot easier that getting into an undergraduate program.  And if I were really that amazing, I’d already have a job, and I wouldn’t have to grad school and learn more job-attracting skills now, would I?

I’m just grumpy that I missed out on a few thousand dollars.  Boo hoo.

Lesson Learned:  Slow and steady might not necessarily always win the race, but fast and flaky definitely will make you lose. 

math and science and bears, oh my!

I’ve been rethinking the purpose and direction of this blog (hence the long hiatus and a folder full of half-written posts in my drafts).  However, this is a pretty sweet piece of news, “Cal Teach Graduates First Credentialed Teacher”!

Last year California approved Cal’s math and science credentialing program, Cal Teach.  This year, they graduated its first credentialed student (who earned her credential while also working on her Astrophysics degree).

Do you know what this means, potential math and science teachers?  This means that you can graduate with a B.A and a credential!  This means you won’t need to enroll in an additional credentialing program, which saves you a year!

Not to mention, the last I checked, despite budget cuts and all, Cal is a wonderful place to work out your ideologies and challenge your presuppositions to really see what you can do and figure out why you do it.

“Science, mathematics, engineering — these are the elite core professions. And a large segment of our population has been shut out of them from the day they walk into kindergarten class,” said Mark Richards, dean of the College of Letters and Science and one of Cal Teach’s key supporters. “This is more than a matter of competitiveness for our country. It’s a matter of social justice.”

It is also a matter of economics and survival in an increasingly-technological world. The United States currently ranks 48th in the world in the quality of mathematics and science education, according to a report of the World Economic Forum. Another study by the National Assessment of Education Progress reported that less than half of U.S. students are proficient in science, with California ranking shockingly near the bottom of the 50 states.

Unlike traditional models, in which teaching content is divorced from teaching pedagogical skills, Cal Teach relies on an integrated, holistic approach. The program offers students simultaneous access to developing content knowledge and a teaching credential while also giving them valuable field experience by placing them in local urban school classrooms.

Economics, technology, integration, holistic approach, social justice – all in one excerpt?  Bingo.  I’m glad that despite difficulties with the deficit and figuring out how to truly teach, Cal is constantly reevaluating and finding ways to pinch pennies and still offer relevant paths for the future.  Proud to be a bear.

Hello Harv, here’s to a darker shade of red.

I know I’ve been posting like crazy these past few days, but I have a lot to share.

Below is the result of one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life.  (Which says a lot about the cushy, soft life I’ve been living thus far).


And for those who can’t read between the lines, or hasn’t been super involved in my life so far (;-P), yes, I guess this means, I’ll be submitting my SIR to Harvard sometime today.

I learned that I’m stingy in everything; because choosing one means saying no to the others… and I was always the girl that wanted everything.  I’ll check back in later to provide a more nuanced reasoning to my decision, but if you’d like, shoot me an e-mail and I’d be happy to explain.  I hope my transparency in this whole process (both in person and online) can clarify questions, erase any doubts you might have, and even encourage you!

*Ira = director of STEP Elementary.  Super helpful with everything.  The Stanford professors are awesome and it was really difficult to pass up the opportunity to learn from them. :/

A bite of humble pie

This just goes to show that I really have no idea how the application process works.  I’m just glad I got in somewhere, and sad I didn’t get in here.  I think it’s more a blow to my ego, though.  Maybe my heart too – after all, my alma mater did just reject me.  Still, go bears!