IMG_7094This month we had the chance to interview Griffin T., a BASIS Independent Silicon Valley graduate from the class of 2019. While attending BISV, Griffin found interest in Theater and Drama, starring in many school musical productions. He enjoyed dancing hip-hop and had a passion for rock climbing. Griffin is currently attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majoring in Materials Science and Engineering. He still finds joy in rock climbing and has joined the Hoofers Mountaineering Organization at UW-Madison. He plans to compete in the USA Climbing Collegiate Series this summer! Since attending UW-Madison, Griffin has received admittance to a few Ph.D. programs for Materials Science and Engineering- including UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, Penn State, University of Chicago, and Cornell. Here's what he had to say about college life after high school:


Have you changed your major or transferred to a different university since starting college? If so, what prompted that change? Was there anything challenging/surprising about the process?

Yes! I transferred from Kinesiology to Materials Science & Engineering. A pivotal experience at an art glass workshop inspired me to pursue a degree in MS&E because the science behind the glassblowing process fascinated me. I applied through the College of Engineering (which included a short essay and GPA requirement), and by my second year, I was on track to graduate with a MS&E degree. I felt confident that this was the way forward and I haven't looked back since.

20220402_181842I would say that the major transfer process went as planned. I was confident that my grades, level of interest, and advice from my engineering advisor would put me through since I had already taken several core STEM courses and proved that I could survive the engineering rigor. The challenging part was knowing whether I would get along with my peers and if I would actually like the subject.

But after my first MS&E class, I realized that I hit the jackpot. Not only did I really like the subject, my classmates, and the small class sizes, I benefitted from the extra career flexibility of an engineering degree. Had I continued with Kinesiology, I would have been overspecialized and stuck in a narrow range of careers that didn't align with my interests. Although I had a vague idea that an Engineering degree would be more useful than a Kinesiology degree, I didn't realize how well I would fit into the MS&E program until I experienced it for myself.


Describe your experience living on your own. (Have you gotten along with your roommates? How are the dorms? Have you moved off campus?)

Living on my own has been a mixed bag. While I have learned a lot - making food, keeping track of rent, and managing my schedule - the biggest challenge has been finding a stable roommate and living situation. Since starting college, I've changed roommates three times. It has not been ideal, but there were some good things that came out of it.

IMG_6042 - Griffin Tong (2)Every person I lived with had wildly different personalities. I learned how crucial it is to compromise and have open communication in order to achieve a great living situation. It also taught me to be more sensitive to others and respect different communication styles.  



What has been challenging about college?

The biggest challenge has been finding a work-life balance, because my enthusiasm for my classes and extra responsibilities tend to overshadow my well-being. Last year, I tackled three extra responsibilities (tutoring, being chair of a student org, and being a research assistant) on top of my coursework. I burned out very quickly. Although I loved everything that I did, I didn't have enough time and energy. Learning to reprioritize has been difficult for me because it means that I have to establish firm and sometimes unfavorable boundaries around the things that are important to me.


If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your high school self?

Ask more questions about yourself and others! I wish I asked more questions in high school. But because I didn't, I impinged my personal growth and made some hasty decisions about choosing my major. I know that sometimes it can be difficult to know who, what, and how to ask, but the more you practice with different kinds of people, the better you will be at making informed decisions and having interesting conversations. 

For example, if you're curious about a particular college, ask an undergraduate student. In fact, ask multiple from the same college. When talking to students, find out what are their experiences. Are they well-informed about campus life? Some will have more insightful information about one subject than others, and some are only receptive to specific questions and approaches. Asking questions is a great way to figure this out, and can be extended to many, many other situations.


IMG_6820 - Griffin Tong


Anything else you would like to share about your post-high school life?

Attending college has given me the most enriching experiences of my life. I have learned so much personally and academically, and every day I grow closer to the person that I want to be. Four years ago, UW-Madison was my "safety school," but now it has turned into something much greater because I have been able to capitalize on the resources around me and reflect on my learning experiences. No matter where you go, take what you get and make the most of it!




A special thank you to Griffin for sharing his insight into college life after BASIS Independent Silicon Valley. 

The Alumni Voice is a blog series that dives into college life after high school for our BISV graduates. We strive to create lasting partnerships with our alumni and strongly believe that  "once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat!" Stay tuned for the continuation of the series with graduate Anna S., Class of 2021. 


Photos in this blog were personally submitted by Griffin T. and used with his permission


BASIS Independent Silicon Valley is a TK - Grade 12 private school, providing students with an internationally benchmarked liberal arts and sciences curriculum, with advanced STEM offerings. Considering joining the Bobcat community? Join our interest list by clicking here to receive admissions updates for fall 2023 and more.