#The52Project (9) – “Write down your thoughts on one of the biggest days of your life.”

Yes, I am cheating this week, and skipping a creative project in favor of jotting down what I’m feeling right now, on what has to be one of the top five days of my life, ever.

I’ll break it down by sections:


The Official

I am wearing a Stanford hat. Raise your hands if you ever thought you’d see that sight.

Now put your hands down, cause you’re all liars. I’ll explain why in a bit.

This morning, I hopped on the Caltrain to Palo Alto for Stanford University’s “Admit Day”. When I left the house, I was hoping to arrive in time to eat breakfast with the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP) cohort, but because I misjudged how long it would take to walk the damned campus and because MUNI is a sluggish wheeled contraption, I missed breakfast by about 10 minutes.

After that followed a day full of talks, discussions, and information about the program, which is about 90 large. Tidbits and anecdotes presented to you in list form below.

Draw your own conclusions about where I’m leaning about Stanford, in relationship to Cal. Those two are the leaders in the clubhouse right now.

  • PERK: STEP has a weekly seminar every week, with free pizza and burritos.
  • PERK: They were also offering 20% off J. Crew for STEP members this weekend. Holding an event or something. J. Crew y’all!
  • I counted 17 people who were accepted in the English cohort. 3 were guys, including me.
  • (+) One of the very attractive parts of STEP was how consistently they preached about community. The group is very close and supportive of each other, which is huge and a big part of what I’m looking for — a place that will help me become the best teacher that I can. A network of similarly motivated people that I can rely on throughout my professional development is a part of that.
  • I also really liked what I heard about their focus around marrying practice and theory. At STEP, you get to try out what you learned immediately the next day, making it a constant process of refining your pedagogy, rather than waiting to do so in, say, your second year.
  • (-) This is also the main negative of the program that I am mulling over right now, because I am not necessarily looking to rush into teaching right away. I feel like I have a lot more to learn, and wouldn’t mind that second year to mature a bit myself.
  • (+) A potentially attractive loan package should be offered. I’ll find out next week with the full details, but the program should be at least somewhat affordable, as long as I continue to work in education for 4-5 years. That will trigger forgiveness of most of the loan amounts.
  • (+) The people seemed nice enough. When I came to Cal, I felt outclassed and self-conscious for a long time, before learning how to hold my own. Whether due to my age and experience or to the people themselves, I didn’t really quite feel that way today. I’m not saying I thought I was better than anyone, but I did think I belonged somewhat.
  • (-) Free football/basketball tickets. Not. even. if. you. paid. me.
  • PERK: My mother is still offering an iPad for committing to Stanford. Michael Rollins decided to generously match that offer for Cal.
  • Asians were a minority in the group of about 90.
  • (-) The campus is really big. Way, way too big. And I don’t know how to ride a bike.
  • (-) STEP people said universally across the board that you won’t feel a part of the campus. I may not want to, but I’d like the option.
  • I bought the hat for my commitment ceremony at the end of the month. If it ends up on my head then, you’ll know where I ended up going.

The Offer

Surfing TheGradCafe forum these last several days, many people predicted that Harvard would release their decisions on Friday, March 7th, or Monday, March 10th, based on previous years’ admissions dates. So, I had been joking on Twitter about exactly that — Harvard offering me while I was in Palo Alto, to steal Stanford’s thunder and all.

I did not think it was actually going to happen, but here’s how it went down — from about 2-4 PM, I could not get service to save my life in the CERAS building. No Twitter, no email, no nothing. It was only at the end of the day’s presentations that my 4G re-activated; and in fact, when I was in line to buy the above hat. Seeing the email, I didn’t really think twice. Instead, I turned to Sharon, firing up the website as I told her to watch me get rejected.



No matter what else is said in an admissions letter, everyone really only looks for and processes one word. Congratulations. If it’s there, you’re golden. If not, well…better luck next time.

And so I found it, sitting right on the first line.

Eyes going wide. Like, Abed Nadir in Community wide. I tell Sharon quietly…”Wait…Sharon…I got in.” Sharon is, of course, thrilled, then goes outside to check her own admissions letter, alone. After paying for my hat, I find her out there on her phone, chatting emotionally in Korean to one of her parents…because we’ve both been accepted.

Imagine that. On the day we’re supposed to be spending in Palo Alto to figure out if we would like to attend their program, the biggest name brand school in the world decides they want us.

A few minutes later, I called my mom, who isn’t really big on being emotive, but seemed proud. It wasn’t until after that that it started to sink in.



Shit. When I was in high school, my dad sneered at me for even saying the word, so to be able to deliver that news to them a couple years later…was nothing short of pretty crazy. [Both parents denied saying this when I brought it up offhandedly today, in case you’re wondering.]

Harvard is a big fucking deal. With all due respect to the other schools I’ve been accepted to and have been genuinely happy about, getting an offer from Harvard is a big. fucking. deal. It’s just about the most validation I can get at this level for my abilities as a scholar and a teacher, which I have rarely ever believed in. [You all know this.]

Given that, and the fact that my dad told me he was proud of me for the first time that I can remember, I started shaking and almost crying when I heard from them. It’s a really weird feeling to have to suddenly realize you really might be something for the first time in your life.

That, more than anything, makes this a big day. Just the forced realization that I am capable, something I’ve searched for for many, many years.

And yes, it’s true. I’m tipping my hand by telling you that, I do not plan to go to Harvard, having very little incentive, desire, or reason to leave the west coast. Sure, I’ll head to their talk next week and listen to what they have to say, but with all the things I know myself to value, I find it doubtful that I will end up in Cambridge later this year.

Maintaining and improving on my work at California Golden Blogs is a large factor in that, as are a variety of other factors: weather, distance, time zones making it impossible to watch my sports teams, and the fact that I have never valued anything more than fit in this whole graduate school thing. This might be the first chance in my life I get to grow on my own terms, where I want. I don’t take that lightly, and I want it to occur in a place where I feel will best prepare me as a person, more than anything — all the schools will likely be fantastic in preparing me as a teacher. [Come on, they’re all among the ten best universities in America.]

If all this makes me stupid in your eyes, then fine. But I think I’ve earned the right to make my own decision.

The Thank Yous

The process is not over yet — there remains one more school to hear from and a decision to make at the end of the month — but given what has already occurred today, I thought it’d be an ideal time to give some appreciation to people for everything that has happened so far. I do this kind of thing often, yes, but I always, always mean it.

To (only in some what particular order):

  • my ex-roommate Eric Xu, for suggesting and then pushing for an application to Harvard, just because why not? The fact that I have this offer from them is attributed almost entirely to your insistence.
  • the wonderful Sharon Kim, who has lesson-planned with me, taught with me, and saw all that hard work of hers rewarded with a Harvard offer of her own. I’m so grateful that I had you to share that moment with me outside of the bookstore today.
  • to Luisa Guilianetti, whose thank you gift I will finally be able to afford tomorrow, for being one of my most influential and meaningful mentors in this profession. This is your offer too, seeing as you wrote me what I believe is a far more wonderful letter of recommendation than I deserve.
  • to Paul Lai, who is far too humble to think he has had any role in all of this, but has been the picture of the educator I’d like to one day be. I am privileged to have been able to learn under your wing last two years.
  • to Professor Elaine Kim and Professor Khuyen Nguyen, who will likely never see this post, but deserve their own thanks for a lot of the above reasons. You put your names on the line for me, a debt that I am not yet sure how to repay.
  • to the people who have rode with me from day one, and kept pushing me along even when I rattled off my insecurities about getting accepted. Yes, you were right. [Are you happy now?] The commitment dinner I take you all to at the end of this month is only a small way of showing my thanks.
  • to every well-wisher and follower of the #NamWatch2014, whether I know you personally or not. You have made this experience incredibly enjoyable by tolerating my inanity.

One thought on “#The52Project (9) – “Write down your thoughts on one of the biggest days of your life.”

  1. Great Write-up. Congratulations on your acceptance!, and your future choice!

    Your story brought back a great memory for me. I was on my Michigan Public Policy Grad visit back in 1999 when a Michigan Grad Admissions staffer approached me on campus and said she had received an urgent call from one of my fraternity brothers in Berkeley, and that I should call back right away. Panicked, I called, only to find out it was some small issue.

    When I got home, I found all my brothers crowded into my room, with huge smiles on their faces. One was holding a fat envelope marked “Harvard – Kennedy School of Government.” They all proceeded to cheer and sock me mercilessly. One yelled “You can always tell a Harvard man, but you can’t tell him much!”

    Apparently, they had received the letter almost right after I caught my flight to Michigan, and they were afraid I would sign on the dotted line with Michigan that very weekend, so they decided to hunt me down through the admission’s office (no cell phone back then).

    In the end, I chose to stay at Cal for grad school (GSPP), primarily because I wanted to stay close with my little brother, and the fact that Cal provided a great financial package.

    Whatever you choose, enjoy the experience! Looking back, it was definitely one of my most memorable moments. Thanks for the reminder.

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