Regarding your academic progress …
After my first quarter at the University of California, I was put on “academic probation.” Technically, that meant I had a grade point average of less than 2.0 (less than a “C”). Non-technically it kinda sucked. Nobody likes to be labeled “less than average.”
For all practical purposes though, it didn’t mean much, except that the associate dean sent me a hand-signed letter alerting me to the achievement (see snippet below). It’s not such an unusual event for a college freshman, unless they send the letter to your parent’s address by mistake, and they read it first. That’s what happened to me. Dad wasn’t thrilled.
Now, I’m no genius, but I’m not a complete dope either, so this turn of events puzzled me. I got good grades in high school without much effort, and did okay on my SAT test. So, I figured, it must be the university’s fault; I just had crummy teachers.
As I recall most of my professors graded on a curve. That means you could actually score 28 out of a 100 and still get an “A” on a test because it was so difficult, and nobody scored well. I know this for a fact, because an 18/100 once earned me a “C” on a differential calculus test.
But that’s irrelevant. Curve or no curve, I needed better grades to get out of the probation doghouse. So the first thing I did was change my major from engineering to psychology. That’s got to be easier I figured. Wrong. If anything, psychology was only slightly less perplexing than engineering.
A word of wisdom if you’re a client looking for a web designer. Experienced designers cost more. And experience rarely means programming skills. It means a broad understanding of the web and how people use it. Reducing complex systems into simple interfaces is a talent that improves with practice.
It was during my psychology major phase that I met Harry Ford (not his real name). Harry was also a freshman, and was blessed with that rare gift of knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He was going to be an orthopedic surgeon, and nothing was going to stop him. The psychology course we shared wasn’t required of him, it was an elective; he took it just for kicks.
Three or four nights a week Harry and I would sneak into the plant sciences building and study in an empty classroom (the main campus library was always too crowded and noisy). We’d usually quit studying around midnight and go to Nation’s Giant Hamburgers, a short walk from campus. I’d guess that most of my monthly allowance went to the folks at Nation’s. And that’s okay — I haven’t had a better burger since.
What to ignore
Harry didn’t seem that much smarter than me, but I soon noticed that he did have something I lacked; he knew the secret to studying effectively. He knew how to learn. He knew what to study, what to ignore, and he knew how to take a test. I knew none of that stuff.
The dean’s list
After a few months of watching and listening to Harry, my test scores began to improve. By this time I had abandoned the psychology major for philosophy (don’t ask). Within a quarter I was off academic probation and my grade point average nearly doubled. Interestingly, they don’t send you a congratulatory letter when you make the dean’s list.
I graduated a few years later and never saw Harry Ford again. From what I hear, he’s a prosperous and prominent orthopedic surgeon in Silicon Valley. Way to go Harry. I owe you a lot. Or, maybe it was just the Nation’s burgers — You never really know for sure where success comes from.
Um, okay. What’s your point?
Web design is about solving problems. Business owners want more customers. Period. The solution to that problem rarely has anything to do with snappy code or trendy frameworks.
It’s real easy to get hung up on the all whiz-bang technology, and spend months spinning your wheels learning a bunch of unimportant nonsense. Instead, go find an unlocked classroom and read a good book about marketing. Or, just go have a burger with a friend.