Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
But everyone, in any classe préparatoire, is entitled to pass any entrance competition he wants. ie. even a lousy student from a cheap public classe préparatoire can attempt to get into X. Some classes préparatoires put heavy pressure on average students not to attempt too good schools so that the establishment's results don't appear too bad.

I was in the sister prépa of Ste Geneviève (which is a very good prépa) in Toulouse. It was a private, brand new prépa, Jesuits ... not too choosy, and certainly not as good as Ste Geneviève. It did ok with our batch, sending a few to X, Mines, Supelec ect and a few to HEC/ESSEC/ESCP etc. But I wasn't one of the ones to be that successful.

First of all, how and why did I end up in an unknown private classe prépa? Well I had been travelling all my life, going to whatever school system was available (Indian, English, American, Canadian, French, International) ... while doing distance education with the CNED as time allowed (public French distance education system). So I was bit confused with all those systems. I had to pass my Baccalaureate C (emphasis on maths/physics/chemistry) as a freelance candidate, and didn't have the right methodology ... as my philosophy teacher in my baccalaurate year was Canadian, my maths teacher Vietnamese, my Biology teacher Belgian ... each teaching in ways quite different from the French system.

So I went to pass my baccalaureate as a free candidate, with all the wrong tools. For example in Maths (very heavy coefficient), I finished the exam in an hour and left with a huge grin thinking it was ultra easy. Why? Because I didn't know that I had to justify everything I said. For example to the question "what is the limit of suite u(n)?", I would answer "3" and move on. As a result I got a 5 in Maths, and barely got a 10 in Physics/Chemistry. I only got my baccalaureate thanks to all the more literary topics where methodology didn't count as much as brains. But with those kinds of results, and coming from such a messed up background, no prestigious public classe préparatoire would take me.

What's more, I couldn't do Maths Sup because of my horrible results in Maths/Physics, so had to do HEC (economy) as this new prépa's director thought it would be an experiment for his system to see if someone as jumbled as me, with only one foreign language (when two were required), could live up to the challenge. And boy did I not want to do HEC! (and which frankly I think is potentially harder than Maths Sup because you have to be good in a lot of general topics like economy, history, geography, philosophy & literature, two languages ... and all along while maintaining a decent level in Maths - ie. 13 hours a week of maths lessons ... often our oral exams in Analysis were on the Maths Sup program -not Maths Spé :)  ). And I know what I'm talking about, most of my friends were in Maths Sup at the time and seemed to be having a lot more fun than me).

I soon enough realized that I hated prépa HEC, which was very hard for me (had to catch up on the French system, sometimes even on entire years I had missed out on, while also learning a 2nd language from scratch ... Spanish ... in a hurry) ... and I wanted out, so I zapped the idea of getting a prestigious one and instead aimed for the only two potentially non-business public schools I could get ... and got the public managerial telecom one (I also got those schools I hated above all, Grenoble, Toulouse ... the ones which back then were snotty and pretending to be good, but which ironically are now considered prestigious. I was so unmotivated by the idea of going there that during the interview at Grenoble for example, when asked why I wanted that school, I said "because Grenoble is a nice town and I like playing hockey" ... these schools embodied everything I hated about HEC ... my hard-leftie hormones were overdeveloped in those days ... what with all the Keynes and other bullshit I had to eat and eat and eat).

And so started my computer life, as I went for an engineering specialisation in my final year (instead of a managerial one) at my Grande Ecole. Which is why I had chosen it in the first place anyhow ... to have a go at a more techie future. It worked!

And right now I don't even give a shit about my diploma. I don't give a shit about my Grande Ecole's ranking, I don't give a shit about anything it means. Besides, my diploma is signed by François Fillon, and I don't like him ... he was Minister of Industry back then.

But just to get there I had to endure 40 hours of lessons per week, plus an addition 10-20 hours of exams per week. Which means that whatever time is left you have to spend studying.

This system is far too satisfied with its sense of elitism ... a lot of students in classes prépa believe they are gods ... and besides if someone as unprepared and unconventional as me can get through to the 2nd-tier prestigious schools, then it only proves that the system is worthless. Besides bis, my bunkmate in prépa was a shy boy with modest grades (12 average at his baccalaureate) when he entered our prépa ... but guess what ... he ended up going to X (after turning down Rue d'ULM!!!! (which is the top of the top of the top in Maths ... I believe they only take 23 students every year, the best in Maths). This guy was so gifted in Maths that he would even correct his teacher during lessons! However he had been turned down by all the prestigious public prépas because his Maths grades were modest prior to starting classes préparatoires. Which again, proves the system is worthless.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat Mar 25th, 2006 at 04:50:21 PM EST
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