Back to my A-level days, I was struggling so hard with my A-levels had totally forgotten about my SATs. My low confidence I had in doing math totally made me feel like I wasn’t good enough to get into Harvard anyway.. why bother applying?
So when it came to applying for universities in the UK, I looked at universities that were good at economics and then I applied in the following order of my preference.
1) Oxford (obviously)
2) London School of Economics
3) University College London
4) University of Warwick
5) Durham University.
To be honest I was only looking at the first two because my parents had never heard of UCL, Warwick and Durham. So if I had failed to get into Oxford or London School of Economics I would probably have ended up in Australia. My parents were thinking of sending me to Sydney. University of New South Wales. My cousins went there and they have a really high regard for the university.
I filled in the UCAS form which is really one form that you can use to apply to 5 different universities and I submitted and waited. After a month or so I finally got my first offer. It was from Durham University that promised to offer me a spot in their university if I got ABB for my A-level results. That means a minimum of 1A and 2Bs. I thought it was quite achievable but it didn’t matter. I didn’t think my parents would let me go anyway.
Then came Warwick that offered me a spot for 2As and 1B. A higher standard but it didn’t matter again.
And then it happened. I had my first rejection letter from Oxford. Right after that… a rejection letter from the London School of Economics. The LSE one hit me the hardest. It hit me the hardest for two reasons:
1) It put the nail in the coffin for any remote chance of me studying in the UK since I had already gotten rejected by Oxford… the one other university that my parents recognize. Well they recognize Imperial College too but I wasn’t up for doing engineering.
2) The other reason why being rejected by LSE hurt because not one of my friends who applied there got rejected. Almost everyone who applied to LSE had gotten it. Some even turned it down for other universities… and I had failed to get it.
I started looking at Australian universities and more or less accepted that I would be studying there. Australia has a good education system and I had loads of friends going there too so I don’t know why I wanted to go to the UK so badly.
I had totally forgotten about UCL. until one day out of a big surprise my parents were talking to some of their friends about universities in the UK and UCL came up. They left that conversation thinking that UCL is actually a really good university and if I had gotten in they would let me go to the UK. Plus for the past two years UCL had ranked top in the UK for Economics and that was what I applied for. My hopes of going to the UK was renewed. So I waited for my offer letter to come and one day it finally did.
UCL offered me a position to study Economics at their university. Their offer though was AAA. 3 As. Given that I only took 3 subjects in A-Levels that meant I had to get straight As. Slightly more challenging but I had good hope. If I got in, my parents had agreed to send me to UCL.
So I studied hard and exam time came. I was only worried about Mathematics but after all the studying and practice I had done, I felt confident. The paper came and went and I felt confident I would get an A for it.
My next two papers were easy. Economics and Accounting. Both subjects that I’m good at. I aced the Economics paper… but something happened in my Accounting paper. I had done everything comfortably and was spending the last 10 minutes or so of my paper checking my answers over and over again. Then came the last 3 minutes and it was then that it hit me. I hadn’t turned to see a couple of last questions at the back of the paper. Panicked I hurriedly scribbled down answers of them as fast as I could… with whatever seconds I had left. In what felt like a flash… time was up… and I had my incompleted paper sitting right in front of me.
A few months later my A-levels results came back. I had gotten an A for both my Mathematics and Economics… but a B for my Accounting. One A short of qualifying for UCL. I felt angry at myself but I decided that hey… let me try one more thing. I called up UCL all the way from my home in Penang…. I told them about my situation and I appealed for them to still take me.
They promised to look into my case and at my personal statements… and they asked me which subjects I had gotten A for. I gave them everything they needed and hung up. There was nothing to do then but wait.
A couple of weeks later I got a letter from them saying that my appeal had gone through. They accepted me. I was so happy I ran to tell my parents and we immediately started making plans to go to London.
A few months later I was sitting in for my first lecture. Unlike LSE, UCL isn’t really popular with Malaysians. So there were only 4-6 Malaysians in my entire year. All of them… had gotten straight As to get in. They were surprised when I told them my story of how I appealed.
It took me only the first year to realize that while I liked studying Economics in A-levels, I hated it in university. At university, the Economics we did was very very mathematical. I spent years writing pages and pages of formula and all sorts of equations that I never use again today. I hated it… and my worried parents told me I could come home or burn a year and choose another university or course. But I said no… I promised them that I would finish what I started. I graduated 3 years later.
The 3 years I had in UCL were great fun.
I loved it… though the only thing I regret is that I didn’t skip enough classes to fully enjoy my student life there. Still… UCL was awesome and I’m glad it’s now made it to the 4th best university in the world.