It feels like a lifetime ago since I graduated from highschool, and sat my admission exams to college. At the time, most of my friends and I had chosen our majors (mostly engineering and hard sciences), but we still hadn’t understood how the boring maths and physics that we’d been taught had anything to do with how real life devices worked and calculations for buildings were carried out.
Both college and grad-school completely changed our minds. Instead of mindlessly solving exercises, memorizing formulas, and parroting the different laws of nature, we actually built them up and tested them, almost from scratch. Not only did we get a feel for all these different theories, but we also became truly aware of their limits, and ours as well.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been tutoring some young family members so that the pass their admissions exams for college. At first I thought it would be quick and easy: “I can do tensor analysis in my sleep, get this dumb algebra out of my way!”, but as we went through some sample questions and exercises all I could think was “this so boring, we keep doing the same problem, it’s just that the quantities and variables are different”. Nothing new under the sun – some would say.
There is no real point in trying to change the entrance exams since they are only a mechanism for weeding out those who are truly unprepared, and, most of the time, they are a just once in a lifetime nuisance.
If all goes well these kids will be admitted, and will go on with their lives until one day, they will look back to this difficult moment and be thankful that it happened a lifetime ago.