3rd Semester of College: Overworking
From my first year of college, I learned that I can do anything.
However, I didn’t learn that I can’t do everything.
As a result, I overworked myself during my third semester of college. Here’s a short list of what I did as a first semester sophomore:
- Worked 2 separate jobs as an undergraduate researcher.
- Took maximum credit hours.
- Took all technical classes.
- Took upper-level computer science class with prerequisites that I haven’t fulfilled.
- Became an understudy for UIUC’s Student Cluster Competition team.
- Joined a non-profit organization and helped them create a new website.
- Applied for a lot of internships.
- A bunch of other things that I can’t fully remember.
My schedule during my third semester was always crazy busy. Everyday was practically a race against the clock for me.
My daily life became what is essentially a travelling salesman problem. I’d always plan out my day for maximum efficiency: minimizing commute time, minimizing time wasted when eating, etc.
During this semester, I stopped playing games to make more time for work. Weekends were practically non-existent for me too–Saturday and Sunday were days dedicated for finishing up leftover work.
Life during this time was pretty stressful for me. As the icing on the cake that is my stress, I also had:
Thank you for your interest in **Company**. Unfortunately, we are unable to find a good match … **You know how the rest goes**
At that time, I was getting so much rejection emails for internship applications. Getting regular rejection emails every week was pretty exhausting.
Here’s a peek of how my internship hunt went:
The diagram isn’t actually comprehensive as I didn’t keep track of all my applications from the beginning. In total, I think I sent ~150 applications.
I learned much later that a lot of my rejections were probably caused by my decision to make my resume using LaTeX. As it turns out, a lot of resume parsers aren’t able to parse resume made using LaTeX properly.
After remaking my resume with Google Docs, I received a much better response rate from my applications.
I personally highly recommend testing your resume against some available parsers online. If online parsers can’t properly parse your resume, you might want to consider remaking it.
Getting ghosted and rejected while having a busy schedule was rough.
It didn’t help that there were incidents such as:
Which might not look very bad, except for the fact that:
- This was sent a few hours before a final interview.
- All the recruiters completely ghosted me after this.
- This was sent after going through all the tedious paperworks where you have to disclose your background, citizenships, referrals, etc.
Thankfully, my third semester still ended pretty well. In my third semester I:
- Secured an internship with Google.
- Became involved with another interesting research group.
- Joined new organizations and met many amazing folks.
- Learned a ridiculous amount of new things.
- Developed–maybe saying “was forced to” might be more accurate–great habits in managing workload.
Of course, this result doesn’t justify overworking. Had I overworked myself even more, I could’ve very easily burned myself out and cause long-term damage to myself.
Besides, overworking doesn’t always mean more result. One hour of focused work could easily be better than three hours of working when tired.
My third semester was a rude wake-up call that I badly needed.
After experiencing this rough semester, I started focusing more on work-life balance and mental well-being.
I still struggle sometimes to this day with working too much, but I now enforce a personal rule that has helped me a lot: never work to the point that it negatively affects long-term result.
In a sense, the rule is the human equivalent of: writing clean code with exhaustive test cases is better than hastily rushing features.