My College Experience
My decision to change schools from The University of North Texas to come to Penn State, leaving behind friends I had made was a difficult and long process. The months leading to the decision were filled with a lot of stress, and put strain on family and friends alike. Adding to the situation was the strain of my not having a car, and not being able to afford to fix my current one. Even with these factors pressuring me, I think I managed to make the right decision, and left UNT, and came to Penn State.
I should have known right from the start that I would have problems. My first day on the UNT campus I was told I would have to redo nearly all of my previous college work.
They had different history, language, and English requirements than did my community college
from Pennsylvania, and despite providing course descriptions, the classes that did match up, were named differently that theirs, so they denied transferring nearly all of my classes. After a fight, I resolved to take the classes that they required differently from my community college, for example, American History, where I had European history
Things were not fixed yet, but at least I was taking classes, and making progress.To further worsen things, I fell ill not a week into the semester
. An initial strain
of the flu had me running a fever of 102, and made me pretty much unable to do anything. I managed to get over it in about a week, but then I got a secondary infection which once again raised my body temperature to 102+. I finally went to see a doctor. He
explained what happened why my fever broke and came back. He also prescribed antibiotics and cough medicine which got me on my feet again after another week. When I came back, professors were not willing to work with me at all, doctor’s note or no doctor’s note. My physics class even had a test the first day I was back, and I was forced to take it totally unprepared. Needless to say I failed the test miserably. To my surprise, so did the rest of the class. I managed to catch up in all my other classes to the point
where I could expect a C, but I never recovered from physics, and ended up needing to
retake it, and having my GPA smudged.
Towards the end of the semester, I went to make an appointment with the chairman of the Computer Science department. I got there and asked, and got a reply of “Why do you need to see the chairman?” I felt it was not a secretaries business why I needed to see the chairman, nor did I think he should be screening students like that. Despite my concerns, I let her know it was about transferring courses, and got a very curt reply of you cannot make an appointment to see the chairman for that. Shocked and angered at once again being blocked, I demanded to see someone about transferring classes, especially since they wanted me to go back and retake freshmen programming. They allowed me to see the one advisor that was left (1 for over 900 students!) who agreed that most of my computer science classes should in fact transfer. Finally, now everything seemed to be on track, and I registered for classes at the level I should have been.
As the next semester began, I realized all was not well. My linear algebra professor had never taught before in his life, and my data structures professor was from Germany and spoke with a heavy accent which must have been East Germen since I had never known a German with an accent like he had. Having not been with the university for any time, the Data Structures professor had no idea what to expect the class knew, and not feeling confident with his English, he just began teaching above the level everyone in the class. Stressed that I might get a bad grade in a computer science class, I began
devoting more and more of my time to it. We, as a class, eventually discovered he was
not teaching from our book. Instead he was trying to teach the next level course called
Algorithm Analysis. We approached him and informed him that we were not supposed
to be learning that material and that was why the entire class was at a loss. He then
verified that fact with his superiors, and ended up giving out mostly C’s. However, once again, other classes suffered, and I had yet more smudges on my GPA, the worst of them
being linear algebra since the professor was still learning to teach. I ended the semesteron academic probation.
Academic probation was a shock to me. I thought I must not be trying hard
enough, must not be applying myself, so I tried even harder. I had two terrible classes
and one tough class for this semester. I had the Games Programming Course which was
the whole reason I went down to Texas, which was one of the terrible classes for the
amount of work required. My other terrible class turned out to be terrible because I did
not like the subject of it, and the professor did not like me, thought I did not find out the second part until after the semester was over. My hard class was operating systems which taught some low level UNIX programming, which was difficult alone. At the end of the semester, the stress level soared higher than I knew it could go. My partner in the game programming class informed me he had done nothing, and would be changing his major, my LISP teacher finally informed me she had received none of my homework due
to a malfunction in the project submission system, and in rushing to try and cover my
games class, I skipped the final paper in my philosophy class, which turned out to be 50%
of our grade. The work for the game class was not worth a C, with no homework in the
LISP class, I could only get an F, and the philosophy class with only 50% also counted as
an F. The philosophy professor, not a full professor, but a TA, allowed me to turn in the
paper late, and I was informed that there probably would not be papers worth 50% of the
final grade unless there were only 2 papers in the class. One grade was then overturned,
and went from an F to an A. My games class professor gave me an I and allowed me the
next semester to do the work. However, the first grade I tried to get fixed was the LISP
grade since that was the one I felt most legitimately felt I deserved. At first she would
not budge. After both myself and my mother spoke with the chairman, my voice alone
did not seem to count for anything, she agreed to grade the assignments. There were 2
assignments that I could not do though. She had us attempt to work with students from
Turkey over the internet. For me it was a fiasco, the person was never online even at
times when we agreed to meet, times that would have been 10:00am his time. My
professor gave me no way out, and left me with a 0 for those assignments. This
amounted to me being able only to get a D in her class. This left me with an average still below 2.0 and I went on suspension.
During my suspension time I worked on a few projects. My game and my car kept me fairly busy. I replaced the engine and transmission in my car. I also finished my game which ended up looking much like Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo, and received an A, a nearly impossible feat in that class. My I was converted to an A, that combined with my having took physics at a community college and submitting it for a grade replacement from an F to an A put me back in good standing, and I would be able to register for fall classes. That had been the plan since before the semester began, but my previous bad treatment had me wondering if I should stay with UNT and expect more of the same. Making my decision though, would turn out to be easier then I thought.
I decided I did not want to have any more problems, so I went to the chairman who basically did nothing, and was unable to see me again unless by some miracle I
suddenly became a graduate student. I was also unable to get an appointment with the
Dean for at least 2 months, and if I were going to change schools, I would need to make
my decision before then. I turned again to my mother since my voice seemed to count for
nothing. This time though we had some ammunition. The school was in danger of losing
its accreditation, in computer science, and by all rights should have. They managed to
keep it since the chairman was on the accreditation board. With a 900 to 1 advisor ratio,
on average a 120 to 1 student teacher ratio, and a 90% drop rate, there was no way they
should have been accredited. When the questions as to why it was this bad was posed to the dean, and what she planned to do about it were put in front of her, she responded to my mother with nothing more than Your son is a bad student. My mother pressed further asking what that had to do with her having a department nearly losing its accreditation. She responded by vehemently denying that any such thing was close. Even with the accreditation requirements in my mother’s hands, she denied the obvious fact. We went
higher and basically went too high. This person was not able to discipline the dean,
or the chairman. So basically the College of Arts and Sciences was able to run itself
without any guidance from the university. This cemented in my mind two things; I would
not get anywhere with UNT until at the very least, I was a graduate student, and I wanted to avoid “research schools”.
Having decided to leave, I began looking for a new school. The University of
Texas at Dallas seemed appealing. Major names from the game industry were teaching
there, and the chairman was available without any questioning from his staff, even if I
was not a student there. On my second trip I tried to see about what would transfer so I
could compare with other schools to make my final decision. It turned out to be a
nightmare with me walking out on an advisor whose final words to me after a somewhat
lengthy argument were, “Well UTD is also trying to become a research school.”
I called up Temple and was given about as much courtesy as I could have expected from UNT, so they were crossed off. The only school that seemed to be willing to do anything for me had been Penn State. Over spring break of the semester I was on suspension, I visited Penn State, spoke with Dr. Bui, the chairman of the Computer Science Department, and even got to sit in on his Algorithms class. There was no mention of focusing purely on graduate students, and research. I applied, and was accepted, I moved back up here to
attend classes beginning with the fall 2003 semester where I made a 3.0 average, and
followed that up in the spring with a 3.6 average, and intend to graduate this semester
possibly above a 3.5 average should I manage a 4.0 this semester.