December 20, 2012

A letter from a third-year student from my college

This is a letter from now a senior at my undergraduate institution. At the very start he wanted to pursue graduate school in economics, and sought advice from me often. At the beginning of the fall semester he asked me whether he should quit one of the math courses that I recommended him to take and is of great importance to his future graduate studies, because he felt he couldn't understand any of it and was afraid he was going to fail. I encouraged him to hold on to it, and told him that only if he can handle such stress and difficulty can he eventually make it through grad school, if admitted by one at all. Eventually he followed my advice and handled several of the harder courses in mathematics in one semester. Here is his thank-you (with original formatting and style) and my reply.

Hello, fj, 
How are you?
Sorry for replying you so late. The reason why I haven't sent you my thanks after your last message has nothing to do with my busy schedule, and I've never intended to ignore your words. I just want to make sure I can bear all those coursework before saying thank you.
I'm glad to tell you that I've just finished all my final exams of this semester, including the ones of MA1, ODE, Statistics 1 and Optimization Theory and Techniques. I won't believe it if someone told me two months ago: "Hey! There's no problem with undertaking 4 maths courses at the same time. You needn't drop any of them!" But I do can break my extreme, with supports from you and some others.
The time when I told you my concerns on ODE, I was also asking for advise from professors and students. Opinions varied. If I ever decided to withdraw ODE, I must had been persuaded that I cannot comprehend it thoroughly without sufficient background knowledge in mathematics. Luckily, I followed your ideas at last.
As you've been reminding me all the way: a PhD program in Economics is much harder than what I'm experiencing. If I cannot insist on taking mathematics now, it's little likely to go through the graduate study. You did reveal the essence of academic study: it's not enough to be just intelligent and gifted, perseverance also matters.
And it's only the beginning, I know. As you've mentioned, such barriers are common in the future. I believe I'll do what is  the same as today. Last but not least, thank you again for all your patience and help. It's really lucky to have someone determine my heart on pursuing my ideal career. And wish you all the best with your studies:)
Best wishes


Hi abc, 

I'm very glad to hear that. Congratulations! You are right, perseverance and strong-mindedness matter - way more than gift. I am also glad to see you took Optimization as well. It will be very useful once in grad school. Anyway, you should feel proud of yourself. Good luck! 
Happy holidays!