I applied to the Academy on a whim. I had just found out that I was getting an A- in algebra I, meaning that I would not be considered for double honors in high school. In my state of denial, I talked with a friend who had graduated the year before. He told me that the experience was absolutely worthwhile and incredibly rewarding. With just days before the application deadline, I spent an entire weekend writing and rewriting my application, not expecting to even come close to getting in.
So imagine my surprise when I received my letter of acceptance. I eagerly accepted, though still unsure as to what lay ahead.
Going in, I knew I wanted to do Computer and Electrical Engineering, but perhaps the most impactful engineering quarter I had was the Civil Mechanical Exploratory Class. Mr. Lopac’s speech on 6-Sigma and the incredible accomplishments of Japan in engineering completely changed my outlook on the island country. Within a year, I was hooked on anime.
The ever-increasing appreciation I had for Japanese culture reached its first climax when I went on a short-term exchange trip to Japan just a week after graduation. Why the first peak? I’m now planning to minor in Japanese Language at the University of Rochester. Japanese language and culture has become more than just and interest and a minor; at the two job fairs I have attended thus far, several companies such as chip manufacturer KLA Tencor and optics software provider Zemax have taken note of me and my resume simply because of the words “Japanese minor.”
My major at the UofR is Optical Engineering, so yeah, I’m one of those people who goes into engineering after the Academy. But why am I doing Optics when I could very easily do ECE? Going into college, I have felt that it is time to study something new and different. This doesn’t mean that I have ditched ECE. On the contrary, I continue to review what I learned in the four years I was in Mr. Paterno’s class.
This has given me a big leg up on my resume as well. Having the skills and experience from high school in ECE may not be close to the equivalent to a major or minor, but having the skill sets and knowledge of programming, circuit design, microcontrollers, and communication systems – just to name a few – has made me significantly more marketable, to the extent that I have the flexibility to pursue opportunities from tech giants like Google to chip manufacturers like KLA Tencor to lens manufacturers like Edmund Optics.
Of course, I cannot just look at the impact on my job and internship search as a result of attending the Academy. Sure, everybody says that you are guaranteed to procrastinate when you attend the Academy. It’s true, you will procrastinate. Badly. But in my procrastination days at the Academy, I learned the most important skill for college: time management. By spending hours on end at home watching anime and playing video games, I gained the ability to set aside time every day for personal enjoyment and gain.
How about all those clubs you want to join in high school? That’s nothing compared to the stress you will gain having to choose extracurriculars in college (I had more than 200 to choose from). But my extracurricular life at the Academy was pivotal in putting me in the activities I do today. My disappointment of not being able to do sports in high school resulted in me joining the Club Kendo team. My stint in senior year writing for the Academy’s school paper, the Eagle Eye, has resulted in me writing for and now joining the staff of my school’s paper, the Campus Times (changes are, by the time you’re reading this I’ll have become an editor). And I can’t forget that I’ve turned watching anime, still a favorite hobby for me, into a social activity by getting involved with the Anime Interest Floor on campus.
So I commend you, the reader, for getting this far. Before this paragraph, you have read exactly 666 words, which I guarantee you is a pure coincidence. This is also longer than any article I have written thus far for the Campus Times, so I guess I can rule out publication of this in our Opinions Section. But all joking aside, you, the reader, have a major choice to make. Maybe you’re debating whether or not to apply, or you’ve been accepted and not must face the decision of leaving (most of) your friends behind and perhaps commuting across the county for school.
This is not a decision you should take lightly, and I’m not here to tell you to go for it when you apply, or force you to accept your offer of admission. But here’s two secrets for you that may help you out. You will make some amazing friends at the Academy, while still keeping some from back home in your sending district. It will happen again when you go to college, but those new friends will offer you a whole new perspective that could have a major impact on your life.
The other secret is that the most important thing when searching for a job during and after college is not where you have attended, but what you as a person can bring to the table in terms of knowledge and experience. I of course will be taking courses in Japanese and Optical Engineering, but as a result of my time at the Academy, I have gained various problem-solving methods, an idea of what I will study in college, and knowledge and experience that I could not have gained anywhere else.
So when you make that decision, whether it be today or in a few weeks, I urge you to consider what I gained from being an Academy student and how that can be you in five years at a job fair impressing a company that could very well give you an internship, and later on, a job.