Paul Fang Interview – Successful Student Series

The Successful Student Series is an assortment of interviews with students who have worked hard and earned degrees from top universities. The purpose of this series is to learn about their study habits, college survival skills, and making the transition from college to career.

Featured Student:

Paul Fang

Undergraduate Degree/School:
UC Berkeley
BA in Molecular & Cell Biology (Genetics)

Graduate Degrees/Schools:
Harvard University
Masters of Education

Arizona State University
Masters of Natural Science (Physics)

[High School Questions]

How would you describe your study habits in high school?
My father instilled in me the idea of work first, then play. This has been beneficial throughout my academic career.

What types of extracurricular activities did you choose – and why?
I was on the swim team for 3 years. I also did choir, journalism, speech, and Academic Decathlon. I knew colleges wanted well rounded students.

Tell me about any goal planning or organizational strategies you used to get everything accomplished.
I try to make the best use of my time. In school, many teachers would give us time in class to start our homework. I would always take advantage of that time to get my work done.

If you could go back in time – and redo high school all over again – would you do anything different? And why?
I would try to do some internships or shadow someone in their job. This would have given me a better idea of what I wanted to do in the future.

What practical tips do you have for high school students who want to attend a top college?
Find out what the colleges are looking for. Visit the schools and drop by the admissions department. Sometimes they can give you some insight as to why some applicants were accepted and some were not.


What was the transition from high school to college like for you?
I think I was already a disciplined student in high school. So I didnt have too much problem with slacking off which a lot of first year students have because their parents arent around to tell them what to do.

How did you decide on a college major?
The Gourman Report is a book that lists the top majors of universities. Even a great school has good and mediocre programs. So I looked through the list of good programs at my school and picked one that interested me the most.

How did you balance your academic life with social activities?
I lived in the dorms and spent a lot of time with my dormmates. I was also active in my churchs fellowship group.

Did you take any internships in college – if so – what types?
I did research in a genetics lab and also did research for an education professor. Both experiences were very worthwhile.

At what point were you thinking about graduate school – and did you know what program you wanted to attend?
I knew I wanted to become a teacher around my junior/senior year. So then I started looking at graduate programs in education. I also talked to other students who had already been accepted into these programs.

Any tips for college students planning on attending graduate school?
Visit the school, talk to professors, and drop by the admissions department for that program.

[Graduate School]

What was the application process like applying to your grad program?
I submitted my academic records and took the GRE. I also visited the schools that I was seriously considering. At a couple schools, I made appointments with professors to chat with them about their program. Sometimes these professors are the same ones on the admissions committee, so if they know you, you have an advantage.

Do you have any recommendations for students planning on going to grad school?
Talk to the students in that program and in that field. Ask them what they like and dont like about it.

Aside from the academics, what was the biggest benefit of grad school for you?
Meeting people who come from all different kinds of background. It allowed me to discuss and debate various issues.

[Career Path]

Any recommendations for college grads making the transition to their first real job?
Talk to people in the profession and ask them what they like and dont like about their job. Ask them what skills and abilities are needed to succeed in that profession. Learn social etiquette and professionalism. Employers want people who will show up on time, are competent, and dress appropriately.

Any other advice for college grads getting their first job?
Dont expect to start at the top. You may have to start at an entry level job. But be persistent and work hard.