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The Truth about College Admission | Alex Chang | TEDxSMICSchool

6622 ratings | 274092 views
As an expert in the field of college application, Alex Chang discusses the secret behind successful college applications. He explains colleges’ mindset when looking through the applications, and how grades are not as important as what most people believe. He also talks about how it is important for the applicants to “be awesome” and be unique in order to get into “dream colleges.” Alex Chang is the founder and CEO of Ivy-Way Academy. He received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Harvard University and continued his studies at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. He started his own company in his senior year of college, and left his role as the Head Teaching Fellow at Harvard University in order to focus on education. Now, with 12 years of teaching experience, Alex looks forward to share his knowledge on college application processes. TEDxSMICSchool 2018 was organized by a team of 19 students at the SMIC School in Shanghai, China led by executive team members Wesley Ding (Lead Organizer), Kai Yi Mok (Communications), Jay Jung (Finance), and Victoria Liu (Design). Learn more about our mission to spread ideas at www.TEDxSMICSchool.com. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
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Text Comments (623)
Monique Johnson (2 days ago)
Is this a joke. We know you have to be perfect. We get it.
Lotus Root (3 days ago)
Hmm...lots of argument about not getting into Harvard because of being Asian. Asians, both in the USA and outside, how about take your talent and money somewhere else. There's Standford, MIT, Princeton..etc. Where you end up in life doesn't depend on where you go to school. If you are motivated and truly talented, you will end up being successful regardless. Jack Ma didn't have a Harvard degree.
Anthony D’Apruzzo (4 days ago)
cmon man I’m laying in bed in the middle of the night and I feel a flashbang just hit me at 1:45
prudhvi RAJ (4 days ago)
I have gre,toefl,pte and ielts vouchers they can reduce ur test fee from 3 to 4k ping me asap 7795739044 only india
Jeen Lee (5 days ago)
There’s bias: legacies, back doors through connections, discrimination against smart Asians, and outright bribes. It’s rigged.
talos1279 (7 days ago)
People don't care if they are pretending. Many students, as well as parents, just want to get admitted into a good university and have a reputation. That's all. You are in or or not, anything else they just don't care. The checklist is there for these people and there are a lot of them. Doing thing that the applicant is passionate about is pretty hard. They have a big problem deciding what to do. Most of the hardworking people are pretty much ground into the mind that you need to have a good education to get a good job and get good money to live. Anything else doesn't matter. People don't care. Only chase your dream after you have a lot of money. Do the hard thing in the society and you will be rewarded, not do the thing that you like. Getting perfect score is the clearest way to show that you are competent because it's the most objective way to look at many of your qualifications. What if the checklist fails during admission progress? The checklist can be transferred to apply for other universities instead. There are plenty of good universities in the world and there sure be one they will accept a perfect score.
Jason Peng (7 days ago)
70% of princeton's class is either from legacy, recruited athletes, or questbridge (which is BS in many cases) kids. So basically, you're competing for 30% of the class size. so basically, you're screwed.
Rider Walker (8 days ago)
i am good at cyber sport and won a lot of tournaments. Have you ever seen such a guy in harvard no because i have low SAT and 3.6 gpa lol(cries silently)
Mac_ Kenzee (8 days ago)
<3 he’s great.
P C (11 days ago)
That was "awesome"!
Michael Kempany (13 days ago)
Thats why I play fortnite instead of volunteering, it's my passion
King RedRohan (8 days ago)
Michael Kempany baller 🔥🔥💯💯😂😂
Ayesha S (14 days ago)
This guy had some really good points. The last point especially was 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼
Dong Hai STUDIO (14 days ago)
Nice talk, but everything he said contradicts itself. He urged us to be career-ready, that we don't need to have an elite SAT, GPA, APs, fancy Extracurriculars. Yet he got an 1450, which places him at the 98th national percentile. Yet he got into NYC Science Olympiad. He is a pretty bad example for an alternative way to get into elite colleges. The word "elite" or "ivy" themselves indicate that these schools are for elite students; therefore, to get into, you have no other choice but becoming one.
Jason Peng (7 days ago)
i have a cousin who went to harvard and knew this guy. This guy got in through questbridge, which makes it WAY easier to get into top schools. I've seen kids get rejected from state schools through the regular application but those same kids get into ivies with questbridge. So I would take this guy with a grain of salt.
Someone Important (14 days ago)
College picking is random most times if you have good scored like this you get wait-listed
Robert Green (15 days ago)
TED talks are great and everything, but I think the mics are "too good." I could definitely do without the swallowing noises, etc...I enjoy the content but it's ear torture.
Manasi S (16 days ago)
Tip: Colleges look for students that have their own niche, somehting that they have been working on for many years and have surpassed the average amount of work/experience in...these students have a better chance of getting into their reach/fit schools that well rounded students that dont have any focused projects/activities
MrHatoi (17 days ago)
So the way to demonstrate to colleges that you should be accepted is by showing that you have enough skills to do things some adults can't do and figure out what career you're going into... Isn't that kind of the point of college?
Ren Pilak (22 days ago)
Why did Ted Talks invite an Asian person who self-admittedly said is great in Math and Science, (surprise!) talk about “other” ways to get into an Ivy League? I want to hear from someone who is a B-C student from a tough neighborhood with an unusual upbringing who succeeded in HS by being different. NOT from your typical Asian super-achiever. So, disappointing, TedTalks! BTW, he didn’t say anything that is already not know. to many. Huhummm, boring!
Capricious (22 days ago)
Was this a satirical presentation on the absurdity College (Harvard) Admissions have on high schoolers??
Nikhil Verghese (24 days ago)
What if I don’t like a class but I’m good at it. I am a freshmen and take all honors. I have a 4.0 gpa but I don’t like English. I don’t stress on it and it is quite easy. So should I not take the honors class for it?
gillian owens (27 days ago)
I love to do college public speak it would so good for talking in front everyone .
Anthony Marquez (29 days ago)
Or you could donate a small loan of a million dollars and get in that way
Kabutoes (30 days ago)
Who is Ted and why does he talk?
Tony Dang (1 month ago)
The yellow and white colors are a bad combination. Can’t see the text
Sahib (1 month ago)
am I the only one that noticed that sound at 6:01 ?
David T (1 month ago)
6:01 i- what does- what's that
WolfLover2K16 (1 month ago)
And yet if you don’t have a “great” gpa or test score, you don’t have a chance...
TheMabes69 (1 month ago)
Gets into Harvard--doesn't have the common sense not to stand right in front of his presentation so the audience cannot see the screen. Priceless.
Hypnos (1 month ago)
I’m guessing he has to stay within that red circle he’s standing on. There’s audio and video that they want to optimize. Same thing happens on night shows, they have a block they have to stay inside of
Arjun Kumar (1 month ago)
Thank you man.Thank you
Master Adjuster (1 month ago)
Be a legacy student lol.
Shafer Hart (1 month ago)
You are a really bad example to put forward. 1450 on your SAT isn't bad _at all_ and if your friends have the same "bad" score then they are also a bad example even if they happen to be "awesome". You actually did all the things you said people shouldn't do but those things dovetailed perfectly with important high school subjects like math and science and you happened to love them! Not everybody is lucky to have a genuine passion for those. Still, your advice is good to keep things in perspective at least.
Nor Amiratun Najwa Azli (1 month ago)
Why his another video 'The Unspoken Reality Behind Harvard Gates' is gone? I just watched it 2 days ago. I tried to search it again today and it's gone now. Please reupload.
Shafer Hart (1 month ago)
+Nor Amiratun Najwa Azli damn, now I really want to watch that other video. It's the one I originally wanted to see but by the time I got to it it was gone 😢
Nor Amiratun Najwa Azli (1 month ago)
+Shafer Hart it's not the same. Because the camera angle is not same though. Plus, i think he wore a different outfit on the other video.
Shafer Hart (1 month ago)
I thought it was the same video, is it not? Maybe he went further into how people buy their college essays, etc. Chinese people know those scams very well.
Peet Morris (1 month ago)
Where is his video on this theme that had 'behind the gates' in it please?
princess mayumi (1 month ago)
princess mayumi (1 month ago)
I wish I knew this before... :-(
Traveler S&C (1 month ago)
I like the philosophy of this video.
Kyle Rocha (1 month ago)
It don't matter u going to work ...do something chill n less stress is nice
Tan Thien Ye (1 month ago)
Think about it, if you faked it until your death, it will be real. It is just a matter of perspectives.
Carmen Lim (1 month ago)
This is so ironic as I watch this video after I just submitted my applications a while ago....
A Male (1 month ago)
6:01 lol TedX ASMR
Max Kim (1 month ago)
6:00 Those sounds make me feel so uncomfortable. stahp.
peter tuann (1 month ago)
not helping, he is assuming there is no money involved, that Harvard is just looking at everyone based on talent, NOT TRUE, otherwise Harvard would be MIT. Harvard has $30 billion dollar endowment because it is a rich kids' school, but it ALSO has about 50% very talented kids, including affirmative action kids. There was a reason Jared Kushner's dad donated $2.5 million to Harvard, there is a reason why the richest man in Hong Kong donated millions to Stanford, so his two sons would get in, etc. Depending on your background, Harvard is looking for different things. This Harvard CompSci nerd assumes everyone is like him, middle class white or Asian. Does he explain how entire Trump family all went to U. Penn Wharton? Rich kids are looking at things differently, blacks & Hispanics are HEAVILY RECRUITED, while every college wants to avoid turning into Chinatown or Indiatown.
5,000 Subs Sin Videos :v (1 month ago)
If you apply to Harvard you know you need money, be rich, or have a scholarship. Ofcourse if you are poor the harsh reality is you won't apply even though you are the most talented person in the world. It is not his fault.
Crying Waffles (1 month ago)
This Asian is hella annoying. Two tips for college admission: 1.don’t look at your friends, be yourself. 2. Choose the school that you can afford and fit your study habits
Eason Chen (1 month ago)
well, i mean, he’s Asian
Sondre Faanes (1 month ago)
How do i turn weightlifting into something that gets me into uni when my country dont give out sports scholarships haha
jim w (1 month ago)
Life is not a race. Be yourself. Stop comparing. It doesn't end.
BowTie 8 Bit (1 month ago)
If you have rich parents who can "invest" in a new computer lab for the university, then you are "awesome" and will get in.
Intelligence Injection (25 days ago)
Everyone knows that, you think you are contributing to the conversation?
Liya Shaji (2 months ago)
Amazing speech, well done, wish I had heard this sooner
David Kelly (2 months ago)
Wish I didnt see this junior year rip
Nick Mozzicato (2 months ago)
I wonder how this tedtalk would change if it were directed at art students applying to art/design colleges with a portfolio.
Alex Sparks-Bakota (2 months ago)
Look at the dot over his head at 3:22. Nice try buddy
Isaac Talbert (2 months ago)
Terrence King (2 months ago)
He is so nervous 😬
Cyra Strong (2 months ago)
Ok I feel really stressed now and I’m a freshman 😂
Lesli Herrera (1 month ago)
Clark Gray (2 months ago)
I found waldo in like 2 secs but that's not the point of the video is it?
Miasworld (2 months ago)
All y’all complaining, GO TO A DAMN STATE SCHOOL. But if you wanna go to Harvard or Yale or Stanford this is the reality🤷🏾‍♀️
asia321999 (2 months ago)
How much do ACT scores matter? I did very well on the English portion and terrible on the math portion. Would that affect my acceptance? (I applied as an English major if that changes anything)
Masterblaster 303 (2 months ago)
College is the most expensive dlc
Nabil Baugher (2 months ago)
I agree with the basis of this argument but it still seems like he puts too much of an emphasis on getting into the most elite schools. Your education is what you make of it. Sure, the top 20 schools will offer more resources and opportunities, but success in college is really about what you choose to do with your time and energy. In other words, the name of the college you get into is far less important than the things you do, the people you meet, the experiences you have, and the knowledge and wisdom you choose to gain.
Cristiana Quinn (2 months ago)
As an independent college advisor for 15 years, there is a MUCH bigger reality at play here that is not discussed. Top colleges want diversity among students--and that means students from every state, every country, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American. They usually want a percentage of first generation college students, recruited athletes, musical prodigies, faculty/staff children, legacy/VIP Donor children---just to name a few categories.....Its not as simple as demonstrating a passion. It certainly won't hurt, but it needs to be set against the context of the bigger picture of why getting into the top colleges is so competitive......
fanatsywriter 12345 (2 months ago)
Is getting into a top college so special? I'm not smart enough, nor did I do enough, to get into an Ivy League school. But I always wanted to, so I can show people down here that they can do it. But it's tough working twice as hard as others and having that fear of paying out of state tuition. I wanted to go to Brown University and Cornell, but I know my average GPA during high school was definitely not high enough. I don't know everything that they take into consideration when deciding who gets accepted, but it's not like I had the knowledge nor did I realize how important and how fast reality would hit. I'm a Senior, and this year, I am doing much better in my classes than before, and I have a passion for writing poems and stories. But I don't think anyone is going to see that, because the ivy leagues want A students and people that volunteered and make 36s on their ACT and I'm not one of those people. I'm a chill, laid back kind of person that loves helping people, but I don't know where to start or how to do so. And whenever I ask, they always decline. I also love playing the cello. I don't have one, but I learned the basics of how to play it and read music over summer before this year and it was great. I have my passions, just not my smarts in subjects like history or math
Bulldog Bank. (2 months ago)
TryingToGetMyEdumacation (2 months ago)
Omg my depression hit so hard i did terribly my first two years and I was unable to join any extracurricular activities because of it. I managed to pick up the slack the last two years with a B average. What really sucks about it is that almost my entire family are high achieving and graduate with STEM related degrees and finish high school in the top percentile. It does show that I have high academic potential but I failed to use it because of mental issues/laziness.
fanatsywriter 12345 (2 months ago)
Same dude. (Or dudet). I know how you feel. Not all the way, because my family isn't like that, but everything else is relatable
Dude From Nowhere (2 months ago)
Gee, I did Strategy One, and got into all four colleges that I applied to. Hmmm, how was I able to achieve a 100% success rate with such a terrible strategy?
chinchillout (2 months ago)
The way it works is you're supposed to have an internship at your dream job, 18 college credits and 1000 hours of community service by 8th grade then you'll be all set for admissions by senior year.
Jason Peng (7 days ago)
abraham Alatorre (2 months ago)
Strategy #1 is how to get into a UC
Justin Yung (7 days ago)
thanks to the fact that California proposition 209 BANS affirmative action in California schools, so they actually look OBJECTIVELY at a student's academic competency. I disagree with a lot of California's laws but prop 209 is 💯
Suqin Li (2 months ago)
But high GPA is really important... and I'm sad that I'm just ordinary
Alex Chang (2 months ago)
If you watch my video from 2:29 again, you’ll see that I said your GPA and SAT do not paint the whole picture. Case in point: I’ve helped hundreds of students with lower SAT and GPA than you to get into BU. One of my students two years ago had a 3.0 GPA (!) and a similar SAT score, and he got into NYU.
Suqin Li (2 months ago)
Ivy-Way Academy My Sat was 1430 and Tofel was 106, but my GPA was only 3.3... And I wrote about my passion about solving the Rubik's cube, still got rejected from Bu and Brandeis
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Suqin, speaker Alex here! How are you so sure that high GPA is really important? ;-)
Vishnu THE AWESOME (2 months ago)
Great one!
Kat's POV (2 months ago)
I started exposing my kid to all kinds of interests and activities at a young age. Once I figured out their passion I made sure they became the best they could be at it. Once they're in middle school it can be too late sometimes. Too many parents have their kids spread thin with activities. I think making them specialize in one area is the most productive. Sports, dance, music, art, acting, chess, building, creating, arguing. Whatever it is! Help them stand out.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
That's great parenting! It's good to spread and try different things at a young age, but once they get older and find their interest, they should hone in and be amazing at it :D
Levi Davis (3 months ago)
Is it bad that I found Waldo within 5 seconds without pausing?
Arianna (2 months ago)
Weird flex but ok
Michiel Karrenbelt (3 months ago)
thanks Alex, but your talk was not so ~AwEsOmE~ though
1256 8488 (3 months ago)
This vid was awesome
Liew Man Hong (3 months ago)
Then, how can I know about whether Asian colleges admission are mainly based/or not on academic only? 😥😥
John Batchler (3 months ago)
It's not worth the trouble to get into elite school
Geoffrey Rothwell (3 months ago)
No mention of graduate school as a phase of life. A college degree is just a start.
Geoffrey Rothwell (3 months ago)
I did do well in high school, except I was weak in French. I continued taking French and now live in France. Try to improve your weaknesses and focus on a s couple of strengths. Note that none of this talks discuss how important selecting a supportive mate.
Steve LeMenager (3 months ago)
He is so wrong.
Naraendra Reddy (4 months ago)
One of my cousins got into Greensboro , North Carolina and was the 2nd topper of the college. Now he's got a job that gets him 200000$ . So it's not over if you don't get into top colleges. A top 50 college in the States with a good after performance will do you good.
Marisa (2 months ago)
What does he do for a job? Doctor?
Surabhi Chavan (4 months ago)
The Chinese education system you described is the same as the Indian education system. Honestly, the whole point of school was to get good enough grades to get admitted into junior college. And even then, we were only encouraged to do well in our 12th grade. I wish to god that our education system was like the american system, with such wide scope for skill development and opportunities to pursue our passions. But it's not. And now I, the product of the Indian education system, am trying my damnedest to get into the top American schools. Already got rejected from Harvard. Hope I at least get into some decent US university Cuz the liberal arts education in India is just plain pointless. Enough ranting 😋. Good luck with the whole application process guys.
Jimmy M (4 months ago)
Give up on the idea that you have to go to Harvard to be successful. Go to your flagship state school, save money, work hard in college, and maybe then go on to Harvard for graduate school or land a rly strong job.
Jason Peng (7 days ago)
don't go to harvard for grad school, you have to pay for that. go for undergrad, they give a ton of financial aid.
Jenn v (4 months ago)
Took me a whole book to read, he just said it in a video...
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Thanks for your comment Jenn! Mind letting me know which book it is? I'd love to read it too. -Alex (speaker of this TEDx talk)
محمد أشرف Mohamed Ashraf (4 months ago)
Thanks you man .
Alex Thoppil (4 months ago)
A college's definition of 'bad personality' is an Asian who is 4.0 1600 and on math team, orchestra, and science olympiad.
Alex Thoppil (4 months ago)
My view: Top tier universities are businesses that are trying to build their brand as much as possible. You build your brand by having famous and game-changing alumni. So admissions are based on how much potential the university thinks you have to become one of those accomplished alumni.
Danny Duncan (1 month ago)
Alex Thoppil illuminati confirmed
noah 446 (1 month ago)
Exactly right. Not only to build their brand, as you said, but also to increase the chances of getting that sweet sweet endowment money down the road once alumni become super rich.
Bubble Tea (4 months ago)
Wish i saw this earlier in my life
Oracle (4 months ago)
Two options: a) Don't be Asian b) Don't go to Harvard
Jacob's Music (4 months ago)
Interesting talk.
Christopher Onukaogu (4 months ago)
This just boosted my confidence level
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Thanks Christopher. Great it helps. Good luck with your apps! -Alex (speaker)
Yellow Platypus (4 months ago)
QUICK DELETE THE VIDEO BEFORE THOSE NERDS SEE IT . The next thing you know after the video is left for 2 years we all become carbon copies of each other in those applications
Nicholas Klapatch (4 months ago)
Where you go to school is just a place.
Daniel K. (4 months ago)
I am in 11th grade and When we did projects based on our high school activities in our “careers prep” class my projects had less in in then the other kids. I give up the majority of my electives to band (marching band, concert band, and jazz band) and I play 4 instruments. And I also take Spanish which is apparently(boring and basic) the majority of my awards are band or grade related awards. I am also not in many clubs and NO sports. According to this guy I’m not getting into a good college.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Daniel! Speaker here. I believe you misunderstood me--A point in my talk was about pursuing your genuine passion instead of blindly doing "what colleges want." I suspect you're doing band and playing instruments because you love them; if so, you're definitely on the right track. Congrats, and good luck to your high school and applications! -Alex
Pvt Ryan (4 months ago)
I created a club, have an internship during the summer, and have a 3.7 GPA.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
That's awesome! Good luck, and feel free to let me know if you have any questions! -Alex (speaker)
Jonathan Albrecht (4 months ago)
Why does all the volunteering in this video involve building houses in Cambodia?
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Jonathan, speaker here. A huge proportion of students in Asia wrongly believe that volunteering (among all extracurricular activities) by building houses (among all volunteering work) in Cambodia (among all other areas in the world) is a HUGE plus on their college application. This "common knowledge" was mindblowing to me coming from a US-based public school. Many students in the audience that day did or planned to do this specific activity, so I wanted to dissuade them from it.
Sammy Williams (4 months ago)
This video genuinely eases my mind, as my junior year has been hectic.
Sammy Williams (2 months ago)
+Ivy-Way Academy Thanks Alex! IB is stressful, and I'm aiming for Duke. I'll update you when I get to the next stage.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Sammy, speaker here. Glad to hear! I hope you have a great, rewarding high school life doing things you love. Good luck! -Alex
Peter Zimmermann (4 months ago)
Wish I watched this as a 12 year old
DEMON HUNTS (1 day ago)
Same lol
ExterZ ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ (9 days ago)
We couldn't do anything differently though cause this video just came out last year lol
Krzakku (22 days ago)
17, wish i could send this video to 13yo myself
Jessie Li (1 month ago)
Im 13
5,000 Subs Sin Videos :v (1 month ago)
Im 13 :"/ and im stressed because i barely have 4.0 in 8th grade and :"v the SAT doesn't matter yet.
Jianjun Jia (4 months ago)
Move to the left, don't block your own slide show.
Mark Nepal (1 month ago)
He’s supposed to stay within the damn red circle on the floor
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Jianjun, speaker here. My apologies! I didn't realize the camera's positioning, and since there's a red circular carpet, I thought I was confined by it 😜 If there's anything that's not clear, I still have the slideshow from this talk, and I'm happy to share. Please just reach out! 😊 -Alex
Aditya Subramaniam (4 months ago)
I appreciate the content, but I think his public speaking skills make it less impactful and his perspective might be biased due to his socioeconomic status.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Aditya, speaker here; thanks for the feedback! I'll work on my speaking skills more. Harvard does do an excellent job in recruiting underprivileged and those who have a low socioeconomic status. I believe more than half of Harvard undergrads receive financial aid (not scholarship or fellowship), and I was able to attend Harvard all four years FOR FREE ($0) because my family is not well-off. I hope my experience relates to the majority 🤓
Sae :) (4 months ago)
Aditya Subramaniam that’s true
Elle GT (4 months ago)
I guessed right away where waldo was, and got it right! My luck is real
Anastasia Steele (5 months ago)
So to simply his points, be asian with rich parents.
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi Anastasia, speaker here. Thanks for commenting! Harvard actually does do an excellent job in recruiting underprivileged and those who have a low socioeconomic status. Well over half of Harvard undergrads receive need-based financial aid (not scholarship), and I was one of many to attend Harvard all four years for FREE ($0) because my family is not well-off. Hope it clarifies! :-) -Alex
Jenna Wang (5 months ago)
I don't think that was his point at all. please don't say that just because he is Asian himself.
Anastasia Steele (5 months ago)
I'm sorry, but to me college is a waste of time. When if you gert a degree that doesn't guarantee a job. I'd say that you should follow your passion.
Lino 0 (4 months ago)
Some passions require degrees.
Omar Hussein (5 months ago)
Psh, Americans.
KillerTanny Gamer (5 months ago)
Point being, I am a high school student How in the world am I supposed to know what i want to do for the rest of my life?
Ivy-Way Academy (2 months ago)
Hi, speaker here! I have done a few talks and workshops on finding your passion in high school. Invite me to your school's TEDx talk, and I'll share... 😉 -Alex
Roy Nelson (4 months ago)
Emmanuel Mensah kinda hard when you gotta pick a major
Emmanuel Mensah (4 months ago)
That is something you figure out in high school or very early in you 20s just take your time and find it