June 13, 2019

I Had a 1.95 GPA in High School

If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. – Me

During my junior year of high school, when everybody else was trying the hardest that they have ever tried, I was on the verge of being put on academic probation. I ended the first semester of junior year with a 1.95 / 4.00 GPA. For those who aren’t familiar with the GPA scale, 1.95 is equal to a C- (73%-70%).

High school junior year transcript

My official high school transcript.

I applied to college with a 2.92 GPA.

To put that into perspective, the average GPA for University of Michigan’s accepted class in 2018 was 3.88.

Oh and fun fact, I also got a 1 (failing score) on the AP Computer Science exam and my computer science teacher told me that I wasn’t fit to be a programmer. Even so, I never stopped believing that my future self would pick it up and turn my life around.

I will split this post into two sections. Section one will be about why my GPA was so terrible. Section two will be about what I learned from this experience.

Why Was My GPA So Bad?

I was first introduced to a game called League of Legends around the end of my freshman year. Soon after I started playing, I became well-known in my school as being one of the worst League of Legends players in the grade. It was a popular game at my school and people often made fun of me for how bad I was. Like being the class-clown, it was somewhat fun getting attention this way, but deep down, it didn’t feel very nice.

It was around that point when I decided that I would stop at nothing to become one of the best players out there.

Of the 25 million players, I was stuck at the bottom 3% of them for two years. I was in what they called “Elo hell” (Elo is the name of the player ranking system. It’s the same ranking that chess players use.)

The lowest possible Elo was around 500. The highest was 2500.

I began to spend more and more time on improving my game mechanics.

I had many serious fights with my parents during this time due to my falling grades. I skipped classes and slept through exams.

My parents, counselors, and teachers became concerned for me and tried all sorts of measures to control my computer usage. I was so addicted to getting better at the game that I threatened my parents that I would kill myself if they continued to try to restrict my life. By the start of my junior year, my parents gave up on me and gave me complete freedom.

Some people are shocked that my parents would do that. My mom told me recently that it was because she believed in me and that if I did learn a lesson from all this, it would have to come from within. She was right and I am grateful for her beyond words.

Nearly two years later, I finally ended up in the top 2% of players in the world. I finally became better than all my peers at League of Legends. But, my GPA suffered as a result. It wasn’t easy. I stayed up till 4 AM on weekdays even when I had swim practice at 6 AM. I practiced my game mechanics for 10 continuous hours on the weekends and spent an estimated total of more than 1500 hours on the game.

The reason why my GPA was so bad in high school is simple. I spent all my time trying to become better than my peers at League of Legends. (And I finally did it.)

Dream Big and Never Stop Believing in Yourself

I’ve always had big dreams. Everybody should. I dislike people who laugh at others for having dreams. It’s the one trait that I value more than anything else.

Like my dream of becoming the top 1% of players in League of Legends, I kept on dreaming, kept on setting goals for myself, and kept on achieving them.

“Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.” – Steve Jobs

I remember that my biggest goal as a kid was to become a billionaire. I don’t know why. It just seemed like a goal that was challenging.

That was far-fetched for me at the time so I broke that goal down into subgoals. When I was luckily accepted by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, the only thing that I had on my mind was to transfer to a better university such as Columbia or the University of Michigan. The statistics told me that going to one of these schools gave me a higher probability of becoming a billionaire.

From my high school senior year’s second semester to accepting my admission to the University of Michigan in April 2017, everything I did was to help me transfer.

I quit gaming cold turkey and started studying because I had a new goal in mind.

It wasn’t easy, but during my first semester at UMass Amherst, I took 18 credits (18 credits is the most you can take without having to pay extra tuition) and got a 4.00 GPA.

My first semester of college at UMass Amherst

My most recent semester at UMich

After that, my goal was to get an internship at a Big 4 tech company (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google), which I achieved in September 2018 by doing LeetCode questions all summer long on top of a full-time job.

During all of this, I never stopped believing in myself, and my friends and family never stopped believing in me.

My next goal will be to find my dream job, wherever that is.

In two weeks, I will be running my first marathon. In a couple years, I plan to do an Ironman and climb Mt. Everest.

One day, I will start my own billion dollar company.

Note: It’s also okay if your goals change. Unexpected things happen and there’s nothing wrong with changing your goals, as long as you don’t change them too often. To know when a goal is worth changing, I reflect and ask myself the following question, “is this goal taking me in the direction that makes me happy day-after-day or am I doing something just because other people think it’s the cool thing to do?”

For example, between my sophomore and senior year, the only thing that I wanted to do was to pursue research in machine learning (ex. get a Ph.D. in machine learning at Stanford, then work at Google DeepMind.) I went soul-searching for quite a while, but finally realized that I was only doing it because it was the hottest thing in computer science and not because I enjoyed the work. What I enjoyed was leading others and building communities and products. See Being President Was The Best Thing I Did In College

Through a personal anecdote, I hope you realize the benefit of dreaming often and to never stop believing in yourself. As long as you dream and believe in yourself, you will do what is necessary to achieve your dreams. As a wise man once said,

“Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.”

© Wesley Tian 2019

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