How Did you..

How did you determine what to study in university- Undergraduate ?  I mean you major course of study? What drove you in that direction? What did you study?

It is of significant interest to me because I always try to see or understand choices as a collective. Were you forced into a department based on almighty JAMB results? Did your family lobby a particular department for you? I know this tends to happen more in Nigeria. 

For me I started out as a Premed – Biology major. My two strengths leaving secondary school were Biology with Mathematics coming in a close second. I wanted to be a Doctor – a surgeon to be exact- in retrospect this makes no sense because the length of my attention span is like that of a five year old.  If you notice i tend to deviate from the Original topic after a while…so i hit the ground being a biology major.

In my Sophomore year (year 2), I had to take Genetics and Chemistry classes. I barely passed genetics – absolutely no interest. Chemistry I failed to the point my GPA went from a 3.2 out of 4.0 to 1.3 for the semester. I came out with a cumulative of 2.1 or something real low – I lost my scholarship and got a memo to appear in the Dean’s office. I went with my 17 year old self and looked morose after the poor old white mam kept asking me how the school could help and I just kept crying…one of my gifts when I am confused is I can cry for China…the old man just kept saying “we will figure it out”.

So on my next visit to the Dean – they had gathered all my transcripts and started going through them. Apparently the day i took the math and English placement to enter the College…I had done very well in English  (don’t ask me but I think Americans are very forgiving of mediocre English) somehow only managed to pass the mathematics portion without failing to be placed in the 2nd lowest math class-Intermediate Algebra. For Biology majors i Had to take up to Calculus 2 or so, and between that and intermediate algebra there were maybe 6 classes. I was being recommended to skip a math class every year and despite skipping I had A in all 4 classes i took.

The Dean called in the Head of the Math department a Franciscan Brother (I went to a catholic college for the first two years – St. Francis College). And the department head saw me and was like hey kiddo “are you in trouble?”. I said “sort of”. So they began discussing and the Brother said he knew me because I was one of the few females in the school that always got a math waiver letter which he had to approve to skip a class….

So the discussions started. I never considered mathematics as anything that could give me a career up until that moment. I was asked to consider a change in major to Mathematics.  I started doing my research and even went back to the said Brother for help. He then recommended a school I could attend to me which would have put me on the applied math path. So in anticipation of year 3 I applied to SUNY Stonybrook and I was denied admission because of my poor GPA. I then decided to apply for a transfer to Dowling college close by for their Mathematics and something program and i got in. My 3rd year was the turn around year for me…i did well and decided to re-apply to Stonybrook and they accepted me into the Applied Math and Statistics program.

Long and short of the story it took me five years instead of four years to finish University. ..I barely went to summer school –  a lot of core Math classes aren’t really offered in summer school and I spent most of the time working to supplement my tuition. In Stonybrook I applied for and got a Women In Science and Engineering  (WISE) scholarship and was back on track.

I met many great people who kept pushing. The Undergraduate chair Professor Alan Tucker was a funny doofy guy who would always yell about Konisberg in combinatorics class…and pretty much challenge us. I remember my undergraduate wriing paper – i started out writing about coding and he told me – “write something else”. I sat down and wrote a 30 page paper on Pascal’s triangle, probability and quadratic equations (there is an actual relationship between all three)…he told me I was “Intrinsically Brilliant”…and began recommending companies for me to apply to for jobs.

I don’t in anyway regret the 5 years I spent instead of four…neither do I regret the failures along the way…some of it is funny still though. And I am an active contributor to the WISE scholarship of which I benefitted from tremendously. I am pleased to say I got an email recently that SUNY Stonybrook (Stonybrook University)- one of the largest public Universities in America is now number 4 in applied mathematics among all public and private Universities in the US. My alma Matter is ranked higher than Harvard for what I studied? Wow who would have “thunk” it.


The link to the information is here
A brief description of the department is below

The Department has 20 full-time faculty and 15 adjunct faculty with primary appointments in other Stony Brook departments or in federal and industrial research laboratories. Applied Mathematics and Statistics faculty work on a wide-range of important problems, from designing better drugs to fight AIDS to assessing the effectiveness of foster care programs to helping the Federal Aviation Administration route airplanes around weather systems to designing fusion reactors.

So its your turn, what did you study? What are you studying…and why? How did you end up there? If not university what trade did you learn and why?

Winners Wednesday is still HERE



27 Comments on How Did you..

  1. SS1 1st term in my second school we were given classes based on our performance,I did well in all the science courses,so I was in science class ,my Dad and I quarrelled about it cos I wanted to be in commercial class and study accounting and he wanted me to study Medicine
    Well I followed my heart,studied accounting thou my lecturers made it really stressful trust Nigerian lecturers to do that
    I really dnt know the reason I choose accounting given that I dnt really like the real accounting course but apart from that I love the whole process and the idea of being a policy maker is cool


  2. *secondary school


  3. I studied Economics ‘cos that was what my dad wanted. Now I have this desire to start afresh, but I’m a little torn at what career part to take..teaching or nursing. I hope I have it figured out ny next year. For now, I have other important projects to tackle.


    • Nne it will come to you. For me I was so strung on coporate finance as a career and over 10 years later it feels really overated. Education is the way for me. It may take time, but it will come.


  4. // August 12, 2015 at 00:31 // Reply

    Like Nne, that’s what my dad wanted. There was this misconception that if a student is good in English then law is the natural “calling”. Oh well, no regrets because what I would have liked to study (music/theatre arts) would never have been agreed to, so it’s just as well.


    • Thelma, I still don’t see you as a lawyer – I always imagine you as a writer or some other creative type. I believe Nigerian parents always think they are helping us secure our future – while in actuality leaving us with confusion.


  5. Chrisyinks // August 12, 2015 at 06:21 // Reply

    Studied Engineering precisely Mechanical Engineering at undergraduate level. My choice was hinged on the fact that i excelled well in sciences and graduated as one of the best science students in my year. Mechanical because i didn’t have a flair for other engineering disciplines and excelled best with my physics. despised biology. I don’t regret my choice but it seems i have a yearning for Economics and Law.


  6. I studied accounting, I have always had a thing for money and the business world. Crimson and I have similar stories, the school and my parents forced me into science class, but I wanted commercial class, my parents also wanted me to become a doctor and I also preferred accounting. luckily for me, it wasn’t so hard to adapt in university. Currently, I don’t regret studying accounting, I just wish I had a better paying job for all the stress.


    • zoe just dont give up,a better paying job will come keep being hardworking


    • Zoe, have you considered moonlighting on the side? Like doing work for firms? I know Nigeria doesn’t value professionals – maybe because we are certificate crazy?


  7. Growing up i always wanted to be a Dr (ObGyn to be precise). My mom was super excited and encouraged me (she’s a Nurse). So I went to Science class in SS1, moved to yankee for SS3, volunteered at the hospital, joined health clubs and all.

    Started college, everyone going to med school did Biology, so I did Biology. My 2nd year I talked to someone who mentioned I should keep my options open incase i changed my mind about med school. Studying biology will leave me with fewer career options. So i changed to Exercise Physiology (still on the medical part).

    3rd year in Uni i realized i was beyond bored. Decided i wanted to do something more practical and applicable to my life at the moment. So I switched to finance (My mother almost killed me and herself. i told her she would be ok) . Because I love to travel and learn about cultures, I added Multinational Buinsess.

    Finance & Multinational Business Operations.


  8. I studied Banking and Finance, cause I love anything that has to do with money, analysis and all. But I actually wanted to study Accounting and the two times I applied to my uni I was given Banking and Finance, so I thought maybe that was what I was meant to study (lol)I was also the best student in accounting in secondary school. But so far I have no regrets cause I’ve got other skills and a Masters in International Management so I’m not limited to just banks and finance houses.


  9. Interesting topic Ms Pynk. I totally enjoyed this piece cos it really hits home and it’s a topic that one needs to address to right some wrongs for our children’s sakes.

    I did well in Jss 3 exams and was automatically shipped to science class. (technical science).

    I even thought I’d study medicine (doctor tinz)- just because. Besides who didn’t want to be a doctor bacj then.

    I did my jamb, didn’t get medicine and got physics, I didn’t want. To end up being a teacher so I moved to computer science with help from Godfathers. Else, it would have been one sad story.

    I realized I had a strong flare for the Arts (Biz Admin, mass comm and law) based on borrowed courses where I excelled.

    I graduated and tried my hands on cisco networking, it was fun, but certainly not my calling jor.
    Today, I’m doing the whole Biz Admin stuff.

    If I had the right counselling. It would have been very different, I guess.


    • Clare Physics? My head is boiling just thinking about it on your behalf. Computer Science self just seems hard too…I tried programming and I suck majorly at it. I know what you mean about Business Admin…it gives you a variety of options.


  10. In my secondary school days i discovered i was very good in Physics,further maths and maths….all subjects that had to do with calculations basically.With this discovery engineering,maths?computer and statistics came to mind and my folks chose Engineering but i didn’t know what branch of engineering i wanted to major on so i left it all to jamb to decide and here I am… a Chemical Engineer!!
    Not practising tho but i hope to get there someday.


  11. You make maths very interesting, maths classes are courses I don’t really need to think abi worry about, Neva thought of having a career in mathscc


    • CC they actually are in a geeky and practical kind of way..don’t forget i studied applied math – so think about the likes of Fedex, DHL, Logistics companies etc. Its maths you actually use – unlike pure maths – that one is for the crazies…


  12. Sorry autocorrect is at work


  13. When I was little I had an aunty I admired so much, she was an Accountant, then getting to JS3 I was posted to Science class after the exams based on my results, I fought tooth and nail against it because I had zero interest in science. I was in Commercial class and I excelled in it, was stuck between Accounting/Banking and Finance/Economics, I struck out Economics because of my Maths ability/disability lool, settled for Accounting because it is a professional course according to Mumsy, did well but am thinking of branching into Finance, because am finding Accounting in practice to be a bit boring.


  14. when i was in secondary school, i loved chemistry, further maths and mathematics so much that i already knew i was leaning towards engineering, however i wasn’t sure of what specific field in engineering. i had an uncle who was a mentor and a mech engineer, and naturally he tried to pull me towards mech enrg but i just knew that wasn’t what i wanted. my parents wanted me to become a petrochemical engineer, but i felt that was too specific and i wanted something more diverse. One sweet day, i started reading up on chemical engineering and what chemical engineers do, and instantly i fell in love.
    Here i am today, a chemical engineer by academic training but not practicing, although i still hope to do so some day.


  15. Hmmmmmm.. So I attended a secondary school where they ship you off to different classes based on your performance in certain subjects. I did well so I was taken to science class(effiko class) heaven knows that how I kept passing chemistry is still one of d worlds wonders. My elder sister was helping me fill my jamb form and of course 1st choice was medicine 2nd choice I just told her anything but pharmacy.. that’s how come i am an optometrist today. Some days I have regrets because this country would just allow certain things to depress you and then some days its good cos im really good at my job and you get to help people daily. So yea my family is happy cos of the “doctor” title and I’ve learned to love what I do.


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