Reflections on Stanford

On this day, four years ago, I accepted my admission to Stanford.

What you may not know is that just five months before that, one of my best friends, an equally kindhearted critical thinker at my small all-girls high school, was accepted Early Action to Princeton. I was deferred from Princeton, my dream school.

I was devastated. Though definitely an overreaction, my anxious thoughts led me to believe that I was not “good enough” to get into any of my target schools, and that Princeton had deferred me as a courtesy to my school’s and my own reputation.

Having always gravitated towards math and acting, until I was 18, perhaps until that exact moment, I’d always thought I would stay on the east coast and study financial engineering (that's just what people did) while acting and auditioning in my free time.

However, my senior year I began spending frequent time in Montana, with a boy I was dating. Literally born and raised supported by the streets of Manhattan, I was overwhelmed and soon smitten by the stillness and beauty of the untouched natural world. His friends from his hometown were interested in pursuing art and nature conservation, entirely different than most of my friends from home.

Only I knew that by the time admissions decisions rolled around in March, I really wanted to go to Stanford. I was more excited about discovering the West than ever. However, as a math nerd with full awareness of probabilities, I just did not seriously believe I would get in. I hoped I had a shot at Princeton, considering I had applied early and written them a letter post-deferral.

It was March 28th, the day after I was accepted to Princeton. Stanford was the last school for me to hear from. I was in the Denver airport, minutes before boarding a flight home from spring break, when I saw the email: “Your Admissions Decision.” I opened it. I had been accepted to Stanford. (…… I literally yelled “I just got into Stanford!” And this woman nearby was like “yooo thats lit!” )

On this day, four years ago, I accepted my admission to Stanford. My dad had really wanted me to go to Princeton, but I begged him to come to Admit Weekend and eventually he agreed. He smiled as he watched me accept, on my phone standing in White Plaza, as the band played “It’s All Right Now” for the first time for both of us.

All I will say is that coming here has transformed my world.

Stanford, I love you for everything you have shown me. Thank you fostering the perfect environment to pick up computer science. Thank you for the amazing people you have surrounded me with. Their different perspectives, experiences, and passions have set me free. I wish I could share the students’ stories with the whole world; they have inspired and encouraged me in so many ways, more than I have time here to articulate.

Today, a few hours ago, I was accepted to Stanford’s computer science coterm, meaning I can stay another year to graduate with both a B.S. and a Master’s.

It was hard to start in computer science here. I had no previous background, and I was discouraged by the confusing symbols on my huge university textbook pages that somehow made a computer do something. Finance and economics, with an emphasis on math, seemed like the safer route. But the friends in my freshman dorm, taking the same classes as I but already with some previous background, encouraged me that the initial struggle was normal and to keep trying. There were many, many times that I more than doubted myself, but I have learned to accept, and often to even appreciate, failure. Today, I am more relaxed and genuinely thrilled about the future than I have been in years, perhaps even in my whole life.

What you may not see is all my failures: the number of applications I sent that were ignored, interviews soiled by extreme nerves and crippling self-doubt, and unanswered questions about how I failed. But if you had told me during high school that I would graduate with a B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, focusing in artificial intelligence (which, to an east coast higher schooler in 2013, sounded like magic understood only by a handful of the world’s geniuses), and working as a software engineer at Facebook, I simply would not have believed you. Today, I have so much excitement about the future of Facebook and the incredible work we can do with its world-wide reach.

There is not a single aspect of human life that I don’t see technology having the potential to make better. My greatest passions in life are connecting with people, learning about them, and sharing ideas. I want to use computer science to help people make better decisions and collaborate more effectively in all aspects of their lives, from work productivity, to lifetime education, to healthcare services.

This year alone I have learned how to implement complex NLP classifiers, reinforcement learning models, and neural networks for deep learning, to name only a few topics. I became significantly more equipped for Decision Making Under Uncertainty (thats a pun lol… look up AA 228/CS 238 to find one of my favorite Stanford classes), and as a result, I moved from one great academic advisor, Cynthia Lee, to another, Professor Mykel Kochenderfer, who focuses in artificial intelligence. I am in awe of how much more I understand the world and how excited I am to help improve it. I am profoundly aware that the determined thinkers of my generation who lean in with open eyes, ears, and hearts can create technology that will provide opportunities for all people who desire them, across time zones, cultures, and races.

Thank you, Stanford.

Today, profros (potential freshmen) wander the campus during Admit Weekend 2018.

Godspeed, lovelies.