Yash Taneja Graduates from U.C. Davis

Yash Taneja, our 2018 recipient of the Carol Phan Memorial College Scholarship, has graduated from U.C Davis with BS Degrees in both Aerospace Science & Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Below, Yash writes about his experiences at college, how he decided to go to Stanford, and plans for the future.

Click here to see Yash’s winning scholarship entry from 2018.


I have graduated from UC Davis, with Highest Honors, with a dual-major BS degree in Aerospace Science & Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Now, I’m going on to get my MS degree in Aeronautics & Astronautics at Stanford University’s College of Engineering.

Over the past year, I went head-to-head with the looming question over all the graduating seniors: What’s next? I considered all my options including going directly into industry, continuing on into a graduate program (MS, MS/PhD, MBA), and pausing everything to start a company.

Starting with the latter option, I recognized that I haven’t yet identified a problem that I’m passionate enough about to go all-in for. Startups will always be an interest of mine, and I am confident that gaining more experience through education and industry will get me there.

Moreover, going into industry was my original plan when I started my undergraduate degree because I wanted to be done with school, start contributing to society, and begin my journey towards financial stability. However, as I reflected on my time in school, I realized that I enjoyed being in the classroom and learning in that environment. I would absolutely continue to learn and accumulate new skills in industry, but my internship experience highlighted that the skills I’d learn would usually be limited to the project I’d be dealing with.

I felt that I wanted more of the depth that comes with taking a university class, and I wanted access to a broad set of classes. So, I settled on graduate school. Even within this option, there are so many different programs I could choose from. I felt that I wasn’t ready for a PhD until, similar to the business route I considered, I had a problem I was extremely passionate about researching. Also, I felt that I didn’t want to pursue an MBA until I had more industry experience, so that I could get the most out of the program by seeing directly how my MBA knowledge would apply in the real world.

Hence, I settled on applying for MS programs and for jobs, and my plan was to choose whichever opportunity felt right. It was only while writing my essays for the graduate school application that I realized this is exactly what I want. I stopped looking for jobs and went all-in for graduate school. Now, here I am!

Why am I writing this? It’s because I feel like there are so many graduating students who face this question every year, and I always found it comforting to hear other people’s stories and decision-making processes. The biggest thing I’ve learned from all this is that you never stop learning about yourself, and each experience should be thought of as a datapoint. You might regret certain experiences, but that in itself unveils something about you; it’s a datapoint! If you ever don’t know the answer to one of these life questions, intentionally seek out experiences that you think will help you answer the question—you’ll be surprised where you could end up!

When I reflect on my time at UC Davis, it’s filled with beautiful memories, some of the hardest challenges I’ve faced, and a tremendous amount of personal growth. Each experience—some regrettable, but most enjoyable—has shaped me into the person that I am. When I look forward towards the future, there’s a lot of uncertainty still, but it’s this very uncertainty that makes life interesting!

More pics that Yash has shared over the years…… 🙂


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