Time flies at university. High school already feels like ages ago, seriously.

Looking back, I feel that I had a lot of crazy ideas when I was younger. Before deciding to go in to computer science, I really wanted to go into biology and become a pharmacologist. It all started in the summer of 2013, when I took the grade 11 level biology class in summer school in Vancouver. We got to dissect frogs, earthworms, and sashimi grade squids. Almost everyone else there was repelled by the scents of preserving alcohol and food remnants in the specimen’s cavities. Except me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. During a field trip to the Vancouver General Hospital Disease Centre, I was the only one daring to look at a severed toe infected by gout. It was truly intriguing.

People told me that “biology is not a real science” because most of it is, supposedly, just rote memorization of obscure Latin and Greek names of phyla and proteins. But I didn’t think so, and finished the entire curriculum of grade 12 biology on my own in just two weeks after summer was over. Then I found out about the National Biology Competition hosted by the University of Toronto, and promptly signed up for it. For the next two months, I read university textbooks on biochemistry, evolution, and cell biology, and in my free time, I watched YouTube videos made by high school biology teachers. I was ranked 106th in the country in the competition. I found a volunteering job as a museum educator at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

I was also very interested in filmmaking in grade 11 and took the film and drama course. Here’s my very first short film.

[Admission]

I didn’t know how competitive university application was until the end of grade 11. Before that, I thought a high 80 would suffice for most top Canadian universities, at least that’s what was advertised on most university pamphlets and viewbooks. But during the summer before my grade 12 year, I stumbled upon the StudentAwards forum (now called Yconic) and was absolutely terrified by the “Admission Average” threads. Apparently the (rumored) cutoff for CS was 93%? That’s ridiculous.

So I worked my butt off in grade 12, aiming for both Software Engineering (SE, another great program) and Computer Science (CS) at UW. Admission averages are calculated differently for these programs, though. SE requires 6 BC academic courses, and 5 of them have to be English 12, Pre-Calculus 12, Calculus 12, Physics 12, and Chemistry 12. On the other hand, CS is much more lenient in terms of required courses. You only need English 12, Pre-Calculus 12, Calculus 12, and two other academically accepted courses (in my case, I picked Biology 12 and Computer Programming 12).