Why I'm Graduating So Late
Who needs a degree in Silicon Valley, anyways?


It's obvious I'm an engineer because I made a chart. Here's the summary: Four years go by, four classes and a language left, spent the next four years working full time and going to school part time, started to look too old to get student discounts at movie theaters, finally filed to graduate.

Here's the details for those of you who aren't bored already: I got a Computer Science degree from the School of Engineering at Stanford University. This is a very tough degree. To compare, a psychology degree from Stanford has 60 required units, 45 of which are specific courses and 15 of which can be electives. The Computer Science degree has around 100 required units of specific courses. You need 180 units to graduate, and if you add the distribution requirements (around another 45 units) and the foreign language requirement if you didn't take enough language in high school (another 15 units) and that's 160 units of sheer requirements, let alone if you want to learn a few other things in college, like say, music, drama, or user interface design.

These days, many engineering students take more than four years to graduate. Including me. After my first four years were finished, I still had two Computer Science courses left, an advanced math elective (required by the school of engineering, because three quarters of Calculus plus Linear Algebra just isn't enough math), and a course in Gender Studies (University requirement to ensure I don't wind up furthering the patriarchal agenda that our male-dominated society uses to oppress them broads.) All this, plus my foreign language requirement because I was stupid and didn't take third year spanish in High School. And my senior project, which isn't shown because I completed it while I was working full time at Scitor. For that, I wrote a compiler from scratch, for a game my friend (and project partner) Robert Morris and I had designed. It was fun.

Summer 1995. Like many guys in Silicon Valley, I had a summer internship which turned into a full time career. I wound up on the development team at Scitor Corporation, which if you read Fortune magazine, was recently ranked the 5th best company to work for in America, in their list of the 100 Best Companies To Work For. Of course the best thing for a completely broke student thousands of dollars in debt with student loans was the fact that I was actually earning money instead of spending it. This turned out to be a very good thing, because even with Scitor helping me pay for my last few Computer Science courses, I still had to finance the rest of my schooling on my own. And with Stanford courses costing around $750 per credit, you can imagine how expensive that can be. I was smart and fulfilled the foreign language requirement at the local community college for $9 a unit, so at least I saved money there. (Finally, all the money I pay for state taxes actually seems like it's going towards something I use!)

Anyways, I completed my last course at Stanford during the fall of 1997 and finished up Japanese at Foothill by spring of 1998.

One might ask, uh, if you were done with courses in spring of 1998, why are you graduating spring of 1999?

Paperwork. Huge, heaping mounds of petitions, forms, program sheets, senior project details, transfer credit forms, requests to be allowed to take courses at Foothill, and more meant that it was going to seriously suck to file to graduate. I actually attempted it, but got dismayed by the huge amount of paperwork and blew it off. At the time, my company was located a few miles away from Stanford, so I knew if I ever decided to fill out the forms, I was close to the school. And I was making pretty good money, since most Silicon Valley tech companies know that smart computer geeks don't have to have a degree to be able to invent the next technology that earns them millions.

Anyways, our company just moved away to Sunnyvale, which is closer to where I'm currently living but not very close to Stanford (only about 25 minutes away, but still, annoying.) So I decided, I'd might as well get that diploma to decorate my new office. I made about a dozen trips to various offices, filled out form after form, and I'm pretty sure that I'm getting my degree. At least, the student computer system and the Computer Science departmental secretary tell me I'm going to graduate. If not, I guess I'll wait another year and try again.

Before I jinx anything, by the way, I'd like to say that assuming I do get my diploma as expected, I'd like to thank my Mom and my Dad for making it possible. I'll give you each of you guys a lot more thanks later on. More details to follow...

(Addendum: Oh yeah, I did actually graduate. The diploma hangs on the wall next to a bunch of Final Fantasy 7 action figures and attempts to look impressive. Overall, I'm glad I got my degree. Stanford was a great school. But before anyone sends me hate mail saying 'damn you snobby private school bastards', let me say the most important thing: What school you went to doesn't matter. What matters is what you learned. It doesn't matter where you learned it. -A

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