The Guide to Graduating College
On Thursday, I will be graduating from San Francisco State University.
Coming into SF State, I had this strange fear of not being able to graduate within four years. I thought of it like getting your anus waxed; I just wanted to get this over with.
My parents didn’t go to college, so I didn't get to have these navigational resources in the beginning. But I knew they would always be there for me, even in the days where I felt like Mama and Papa Huang were dimensional terrestrial beings grasping to understand what I was trying to do.
I thought college would be a steady, grueling, constant grind, with intermittent Netflix binges to medicate myself. It was just me and my popcorn chicken addiction trying to foolishly prepare for the real world.
I made a lot of mistakes in these four years. Friends were forgotten or lost, pounds were gained, and some dreams were deferred.
But hey, at least I’m here. I did the best that I could, and that’s all we can do.
I got to do a lot within these four years. I met a lot of good people— a lot of from studying abroad.
I think about that time in Kalmar every day.
All the memories and experiences I’ve had while I was in Sweden has really shaped how I see myself, who I want to be in the future, and who I want standing next to my freshly-waxed bottom.
When you’re out there without anything resembling a home, you think about your place in this stupid Milky Way Galaxy.
And as the doors to the AT&T Park open on Thursday at 15:30/3:30pm, I’ll walk into the field knowing that I'll always figure it out.
You will make mistakes and fuck up, because you're still trying to develop into a fully formed human. In this guide, I will tell you the practical tips to graduating state college within four years. How to survive college, how to make friends, how to figure out your place in the future... You have these four years to learn.
Take AP Tests, Maybe Classes?
In high school, there is a huge emphasis on taking AP classes and how they look good for your college applications. But I don’t remember any emphasis on how beneficial AP tests will be when you ARE in college. Obviously, you need to take this AP classes to prepare you for the tests.
I really don’t suggest taking a bunch of AP classes for no reason other than to beef up your academic resume. You should be somewhat interested and proficient in the subjects, otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
I took three AP tests in high school and referencing SF State’s AP tests to credits ratio...The best AP tests you should take are in the following categories:
AP World Languages & Cultures
They exempt you from the most general education requirements so you get to take other major or more G.E classes, which speeds up your graduation track. AP English Language exempt me from taking two semesters worth of introductory English classes at State, which was really handy.
Stick To Your Major
I like to keep it real here at lipinghuang dot com. So that’s why I’m telling you now:
It’s not okay to change your major.
In college, we’re told by peers and advisors that it’s normal to change majors and that they changed their majors a bunch of times before figuring it out. But the problem with trying to “figure it out” is that it costs a lot of money and a lot of time.
If you want to figure out what you want to study without the heavy ramifications of the tuition from a four-year academic institution, community colleges are the place to do it. There’s a stigma against CCs, but so many of my friends have transferred to four-year universities from CCs with great experiences.
But assuming you’re heading straight to a four-year, you need to stick to one major throughout your academic career.
Let’s say you’re trying to figure out if you want to be a Business Accounting major. In order to take those accounting classes, you need to take ECON 101 and 102. Don’t forget MATH 110, along with ISYS 163.
Okay, you got those done. They were okay, not your calling. But finally, you get to take Introductory Accounting! Let’s get to the good stuff.
Except you realize accounting drains every waking fiber of the being you call yourself. Accounting is not for you. In fact, maybe Business is not the major you want to study. You think, “Do I really want to be complicit in the destructive nature of capitalism?” as you sip your venti vanilla latte from Starbucks in your $7.99 t-shirt from H&M.
At this point, you can either change your major or suffer by sticking to it. I’m not saying that you should never change your major. If you have the time, resources and the course prerequisites still stand, then why not?
Just know that when only 31.3 percent of students in public universities graduate in the traditional four years, you gotta make sure your first shot is the right one.
Join Metro Academies (College Transitional Programs)
Metro Academies is a transitional program for first-gen college students who don’t necessarily have the navigational resources to succeed at SF State. The program gave me the connections to advisors and exclusive courses that helped fulfill our G.E requirements.
I also got to meet and connect with peers that were in the same boats as me.
We were all young scholars trying to swim this perpetual ocean that was the institution of academia, with only a floaty attached to our left arm.
College matriculation programs like Metro and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) really help set a foundation for the beginning of your college years. Metro was there for me for two years, and it gave me connections that helped with recommendation letters and just friendships in general.
When you go to school while living at home, it’s hard to make these connections.
So having that community of peers where we take the one or two classes together, it does make a difference.
It’s nice to have a consistent group of people to talk shit with during class.
Take Intro Accounting Classes Online at CCSF
I know a lot of you Business majors are not interested in and may even hate accounting with a passion. But as Business majors, we have to take intro accounting courses.
I took financial accounting at SF State during my sophomore year. It was a three-hour lecture that met once a week.
Now I’m not saying I hate accounting, I’m just saying that the antichrist probably worked at PwC as an auditor.
So this is a recommendation from me: take financial and managerial accounting during the summers at CCSF, online. Why? Because all the answers to the homework, quiz, and exams are posted online on Chegg. So with a few payments of $14.99 a month, you get to get a perfect A- on both of ACCT 100 and 101.
And generally, if you’re able to take even more classes during the summer, do it! Whether it’s at CCSF or SF State, get those G.E requirements and major prerequisites out of the way.
Follow The Roadmap
Earning a college degree requires you to follow roadmaps according to the major you want to study. Each major is unique with prerequisites and specific courses you have to take and satisfy to graduate with.
These roadmaps demonstrate the foundations of the structure your building, with the final product being a Bachelor’s diploma.
Some of the building materials can be different and switched out as long as they fit a certain requirement. Others are custom made and exclusive to the end-product, and without it, the whole thing crumbles.
15 Credits (or more) Only
A lot of advisors recommend students to take 12 credits (four 3-credit courses) instead of 15 during their first semester in college because they don’t want these first-year students to be overwhelmed.
But I think it’s more strategic to enroll in more credits and feeling it out first to see if you can handle it. We always have the option to drop the class.
And you also don’t have to take lecture classes. There are always online classes that are fairly easy and they fulfill G.E requirements that you can pack on to your schedule to get more credits in your semester.
Studying abroad is beneficial for so many reasons. If you are a frequent reader of this website (and I assume you’re not), you know that I studied abroad in Sweden for a year.
At Linnaeus University, I took Marketing and Business courses there. Most of the classes furthered my degree process, although not all of them.
However, I got to do all my Marketing electives abroad. And because of the Swedish higher education system, I think it was a lot easier.
My criticism of the course approval process was that it would be more accessible to study abroad if all the courses taken abroad are guaranteed to fulfill upper division requirements or major requirements, with department approvals already made.
Having to go through the loopholes of finding the right course to take, having it approved by my major department head and then not having that course be available abroad is frustrating.
It definitely delays your degree process if not everything goes according to plan.
While those qualms are valid, looking back, they are minuscule reasons to not study abroad.
The impact that this experience brought me can’t be quantified in how many credits it might have delayed me for graduation. When this happened to me last year, I made sure to schedule a full semester’s worth of classes during the summer I came back from Sweden to catch up.
Use Google Calendar, All The Time
Time management is a struggle college students deal with on a daily basis. Procrastination is common and almost referred as a quirky personality trait now. I don’t want to brag, but I’m sort of a master at time management.
When I was studying abroad, I wanted to turn up... But I also wanted to pass my classes.
I like to be proud of my work, so I wanted to grind away at my group projects until I was able to create a product that I was able to put my name on.
So during the day, I would be grinding on some report about internationalization in business and at night, I would be a Krögers dropping it to Despacito. This is an example of how I managed my time while abroad and how I do it today:
I put assignments and deadlines as red color-coded all-day events. This allows me to visualize what is due that day, and once I’m done with it, I can change that to green to signal that I am done with that task.
It’s a good process to follow as a student to make sure you get all your big projects done on time and to organize everything in your life.
You can put your Tinder dates, job interviews, chlamydia testing appointments and scholarship deadlines into this awesome app!
Hot Beginning of the Semester Tip:
Look at the syllabuses of all your classes. Professors always have a schedule of readings, assignments and exam deadlines. Import all those dates into your Google Calendar and color code them red.
Now you’ll always know when everything is due and not look like a jackass when you walk into your Finance class and realize there’s an actual fucking midterm happening.
Really, that’s what happened to this guy just a couple weeks ago in my class. He looked like he just saw his mom cannibalizing his girlfriend.
Use Google Drive, Docs, Presentation, and Sheets
I feel like you should already know this, but I have some friends (Rachel) who still use Microsoft Word when they are writing essays or creating study guides. And you know what inevitably happens as God laughs at you trying to be productive? It always crashes.
So switch over to Google Docs. You can always download as a Microsoft Word or PDF and submit it in that form through Docs.
Also, the general accessibility and shareability of Docs are insurmountable. You can also check who did the most work during group projects and make cute presentation decks.
Work as a Student Assistant
College students generally have no money, unless you’re an international student at SF State. They’re always wearing head-to-toe Gucci to an 8am class when everyone else looks like zombie Chinatown wet garbage.
I really lucked out when I applied to be a Student Assistant at SF State’s health center. You get to work conveniently on-campus while also simultaneously doing your homework, depending on the job.
And the longer you work there, the more opportunities to grow your skills. You get more responsibilities to put on your resume and establish deeper connections to your collegiate community.
When you’re for applying for on-campus positions, try to speak to the person responsible for hiring in-person and bring a resume. It eliminates the need for them to look through a whole bunch of resumes and saves them time.
Also, a lot of times they look for students with schedules that are open during the morning or during the afternoon.
These are the years to figure out who you’re supposed to be. You’re basically given a break to learn about what you hate and who you love.
Looking back, I’m thankful for this opportunity. I’m thankful for all the learning experiences that going to college brought to me. I complained about studying for midterms, the imbalance of group project responsibilities, and the $120 charge to do online homework.
And now I’m here: a Chinese-Venezuelan, first-gen Business Marketing major. I’m standing outside of the doors of academia while holding a placement diploma with an unreasonably high sense of confidence.
Looking right back at my acne-free (thanks Accutane) face— is the real world. I thought it was just a show on MTV, but it’s a real thing. But you know what? You'll be looking forward to it. So remember to bring on the strips. It’s time for a waxing.