It’s finally happening. After seven semesters at this great university, I’ve finally found myself, finally realized what I can offer this world. I’m going to be a statistician.

Paul Wong
Jon Scwartz, Two sides to every Schwartz

I know all the questions you want to ask me: Jon, hasn’t it been your stated goal over the past three years to get through college without taking a single math class? Didn’t you lend away your trusty TI-83 calculator freshman year, telling your friend that you would never need it back? Do you even know what a statistician does? Didn’t you want to become a sportswriter?

Yes, yes, not really and yes. But here I stand, announcing to the world that those feelings are all in the past now that I’ve registered for Statistics 350.

At first I was bitter. Registering this past Thursday night, I found myself marveling at all the classes I wanted to take in the second semester of my senior year. But while they all seemed interesting (and let’s face it, easy), the course descriptions were missing two pesky capital letters that would have made them perfect: QR.

Friends in the area heard me cursing the University’s Quantitative Reasoning requirement. For those outside the Ann Arbor community, “Quantitative” and “Reasoning” are two big, important-sounding words to replace a smaller, uglier “math.” “Why must I take a math class?” I asked, the driving question in a monologue peppered with expletives.

As I saw it, the life I had chosen was one for which I would never need any formal training in math. Furthermore, if not for a mistake by my adviser freshman year, I would have been done with the math requirement. Even she couldn’t figure out the system, convincing me to register for a class that she said would fulfill the requirement, but which obviously didn’t. So there I was, hitting the “register” button and preparing myself for a life as a statistician. The irony here is that because I had to take Statistics 350, I couldn’t register for a class on sportswriting that I had been planning on taking since my sophomore year. But why waste time with something that I’ll never need or want, right?

I soon came to realize, though, that being a statistician might not be so awful, at least not in my mind. I have a feeling that statisticians probably make a ton of money, at least more than a sportswriter does. Plus, as a statistician, I’ll be able to pull a John Nash and go into a bar and calculate the exact odds of getting together with any of the women inside, thereby saving me the embarrassment of getting rejected. Not so bad when you think about it, eh?

Sure, there will be things about sportswriting that I’ll miss, but apparently I’m not mature enough make choices for myself. The thought that as a 21-year-old senior in college, I was more than capable of choosing classes that I wanted to take is obviously folly. I should consider myself fortunate that the University has “encouraged” me to expand my horizons. After all, it’s possible that had I paid more attention in Cultural Anthropology 101 (thank you, Race and Ethnicity requirement), this might have all been moot three years ago when I decided to become a cultural anthropologist. It hurts to even think about all the things I’ve missed!

I’ve decided to make the most out of my life as a statistician. Wanting to capitalize on the opportunity before me, I spent a good part of the last few days on the Internet, finding out all there is to know about statistics. Here goes:

There is, according to my estimations, a 17 percent chance that I don’t hate this class. I see just a 32 percent chance that the University ever considers improving the foolishness of its distribution requirements. I’ve estimated a 86 percent chance that when choosing between going to my statistics class and anything else in the world (believe me, anything), I will prefer anything else. There’s a 94 percent chance that I’ll be upset for the rest of my life because Ohio State beat Michigan my senior year, the same probability that I get nothing out of this class, thereby proving to me that the University is content to waste my money by making me take a statistics class instead of one I might find interesting.

But there’s a 100 percent chance that I’m going to owe the University a debt of gratitude for redirecting my career ambitions to the field of statistics. I just can’t wait until January when I can finally find out what that means.

Jon Schwartz is now in need of a calculator and has no recollection of who borrowed his. If you have it, or just want to vent about your own problems registering, there is a 100 percent chance that he can be reached at jlsz@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *