By Khaled Itani
As college decision time nears, some of you might find yourselves lost, overwhelmed and/or confused regarding where you want to go for college. While it is normal to feel stressed, you can’t let these negative emotions get the best of you, and you will come to find that when you can think calmly and clearly that a lot of things tend to work themselves out for the better in the end. With that being said, you will likely be doing a lot of reading and asking around for advice and perspective on where to go for university, in this blog post I intend to give you some insights on staying in your hometown for undergrad which may help you in your decision making.
Even if you are anticipating scholarship money or grants going into university, you still need to consider the costs of textbooks, access codes and if you are leaving home then rent and perhaps even gas money (all these don’t even account for tuition and fees!). You should consider these factors, evaluate the costs per year and make an informed decision from there. It may be exciting to experience a new life elsewhere, but if you are given the chance to graduate with a bachelor’s degree with close to no debt as well as not having rent to pay, it puts you in good footing in the future especially considering the student loan crisis in the U.S currently. Discussing cost can be a sensitive topic, as different people receive different types of financial aid/scholarships or none at all, and some scholarships are only usable at Florida institutions (e.g Bright Futures), so while this topic can be stressful, you shouldn’t avoid it and you need to be realistic.
For a lot of us, graduate programs are probably somewhere on our timelines. It is important to consider that being an undergraduate is typically only a 4-year journey, in the big picture of things, 4 years really isn’t that long. A lot of you are finishing high school now, so I’m sure you know the bittersweet feeling of 4 years going by fast. If you are thinking that you will be bummed and upset about being at home for undergrad while your friends are out experiencing a new scene, you need to remember that for graduate school it is VERY likely you will be studying in another city, state or in some cases maybe even a different country.Additionally, the fear of missing out on travel during your academics is only as real as you make it, regardless of which university you go to, you will most likely be able to find internships, study-abroad programs, shadowing-abroad opportunities, etc. which can help push you towards your goals while still experiencing a change of scene. From my personal experience however, as a Pre-Med student it is more difficult to try to do study abroad from my experience, especially because you have a lot of prerequisite classes and science classes you need to get out of the way, additionally other commitments like research, clubs, plain-out wanting to just be able to rest, etc. can tire you out and you may find out that maybe study-abroad isn’t for you, but everyone is different, this is just my own opinion.
3. Dismissing the fear of “not being able to grow”:
Some people fear that staying at home might prevent them of becoming their own person. Most people graduate undergrad at around 22, you have plenty of time left on your life to grow as a person, but additionally it is worth mentioning that you will likely end up getting pretty busy in your own academic life and involvements that you will start to grow without you even knowing. Transitions are often filled with struggle, and from struggle comes growth, when I look back at my growth regarding academic capability, I definitely feel like I experienced huge growth in relatively shorter periods of time during my undergrad semesters. In my case, I took College Physics I and II as a freshman, while typically these classes are taken by Juniors and Seniors, while taking these classes it was a struggle no doubt but after coming out of it all, I can look back and definitely say I experienced growth in my study habits, time management as well as my general outlook on difficult classes and even my work ethic to an extent. That being said, all this growth occurred without even factoring in a stayed home for undergrad, which now in hindsight I do find it weird that at one point I thought I wouldn’t be able to grow as a person staying in Orlando… that being said though, other types of growth can occur if you leave home for college, but it is incorrect to think that you can’t branch out, learn new things and develop yourself while studying in your hometown (and if you’re from Orlando… Orlando is huge, there is no shortage of ways to involve yourself to gain experience outside of your classes).
4. Programs of study (Note: this section is mainly for those who intend to go Pre-Health):
If you intend to go into Pre-Med or a Pre-Health field, it is important to know that a strong emphasis of your coursework will come from your medical school prerequisites, there is no “right” major for anyone pre-health (or even pre-law for that matter). It is worth noting however it could be convenient for you to go with a science related major (e.g: Biology, Health Sciences, Chemistry, etc.) so that your prerequisites coincide with your major requirements (2 birds 1 stone) but in the big picture your major doesn’t matter too much. However, if you want to study something very niche and specific, and you are certain that this is pertinent to your end goals then go for it (this might apply to people who are looking for a specific branch of a liberal arts field, or a specific type of engineering), but for example if you want to major in Neuroscience and go to a distant school for that specifically while your end goal is Medical School, you can simply do a common Biology major at a local school and still be able to get into medical school just as easily (easily is a bad word because nothing is really easy to be honest).
Everyone has their own story, their own journey and their own path. As cliché as it sounds, don’t compare yourself to others so much, everyone’s circumstances are different, and a lot of things go on in other people’s lives that we don’t know about and may never know about. Ultimately you need to do what is best for you, you have your whole life ahead of you and you shouldn’t put false ideas into your head that college is the end all be all or that college is going to be the best years of your life (You really think the climax of your life should be at 22?). You should start asking yourself deeper questions, are you the type to get homesick? Would getting your own space be beneficial to your relationship with your family? Are you ready to be sorta on your own? Is it something you can afford? Are you doing it because you want to or because everyone else is leaving? Through it all, think carefully, evaluate your options and the costs, talk to the right people, and make an informed decision. In the end things will work out, so long you work hard and have honest intentions things will work out.
Written by Justin Chu
Misallocating my time. Because of this, I’ve stretched myself too thin on extracurriculars and did not allocate enough time to effectively prepare for my classes. This was a major issue I had not only during senior year but throughout high school. Sophomore year I had my first major GPA drop because I did not have the stamina to keep up with my academics along with marching band/Wind Ensemble and being part of a conference planning committee. It will only diminish as I was not willing to let go of my extracurriculars. As a result, I graduated high school with a 2.78 GPA and did not receive my IB Diploma. Despite my poor academic performance, I was fortunate enough to be accepted to UCF by the recommendation of my Guidance Counselor.
I needed to make up for my failure back in high school. From the beginning of freshman year, I learned how to utilize my calendar to time block my day, practice deliberately studying for 45 mins increments and taking 15-minute breaks in between. Through trial and error, I was able to build up my academic foundation and manage my extracurriculars/internships more effectively.
To the students entering their senior year or advancing a class in high school, start valuing your time more. Consider your opportunity cost when deciding on your next task. Once you have a better grasp of your time, enjoy your high school experience. Enjoy not having any serious obligations and find something that will bring you joy. If you can’t find what brings you joy, actively searching for your passion counts. Have something that makes you so good that people can't ignore you. And if you end up graduating poorly like me, it’s not the end of the world. Post-high-school will be an opportunity to reinvent yourself. It’s honestly what you make out of it at the end of the day, and the dividends will show.
Written by Sarah Joe
Writing a college application is probably the last thing you want to do when you’ve already written countless essays and studied an insane number of hours for standardized tests. But fantastic applications make the job easier for the admissions officers, get you scholarship money, and force you not to slack off your senior year (oh, and did I mention getting you into college?). That being said, here are a few things I found helpful when coming up with my application.
Written by Joanna He
My advice to you
Hello! My name is Joanna He and I will be sharing some tips and tricks that might help you better prepare yourself for junior year. First off, I’d like to mention that what they say about junior year, is true. Yes, it will be your hardest year in highschool and yes it can be VERY stressful. There are multiple factors to junior year that you need to keep in mind and in fact, they all actually connect with one another.I’ve definitely learned a lot throughout my junior year, so these words of advice are actually based on my own personal experiences.
One key point that I have to mention is to NOT PILE SO MANY AP/IB CLASSES ONTO YOURSELF UNLESS YOU KNOW YOU CAN HANDLE IT!!! Trust me, I know this from personal experience. Last year, I thought that I could handle 4 AP classes, but in reality, it was way too overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I do know people that are fully capable of taking multiple AP classes and do perfectly fine. Just know what you can handle. Taking a lot of AP classes won’t mean anything if you don’t pass them, so make sure you’re aware of what to expect from each class.
SAT help or help in general
This category, in general, is one that I struggled with the most. When you are a junior, there are 2 things that are very important. Number 1: Maintain a good GPA and number 2: Getting a good SAT/ACT score. Different people study in different ways. There are some people who start prepping for these exams as early as their freshman year. But, there are also people, like me, who don’t start until about half way through their junior year. ( I do not recommend this haha.. It didn’t turn out well and is now haunting me) Regardless on whichever method that you choose, I HIGHLY recommend getting that extra help if you need it. When people tell you to study for the SAT, they tell you to take multiple practice tests but what they don’t tell you is that the SAT is not material based, it’s knowing HOW the test is structured. A lot of students find it more beneficial to study by themselves with a practice book. However, for me, I preferred having someone who was experienced in taking the SAT help me. Every time my mom asked if I needed an SAT tutor, I said no, simply because I didn’t want to look dumb in front of my friends or looked like I needed the extra help. As my junior year was coming to an end, I started to realize that I have not started studying, my score stayed the same and I was applying to colleges soon. That’s when it hit me that I needed to get help. My mom and I did some research on a couple of different places that I could go to and found one that had everything I needed. Ever since I finally reached out and got the extra help that I needed, I started to see some progress. I took a practice test and noticed that my score increased by 200 points!! If you think that you need help on the SAT or just your classes in general, reach out and get the help that you need!! Ultimately, this is your future you are building so don’t feel ashamed if you need a little extra help than your friends.
Above everything make sure you sleep!!!
Whether you are completing an assignment you put off or simply lost track of time doing homework, always make time for you to sleep! Sleeping is especially beneficial to students as sleep helps restore energy that we can use the next day. A good night's sleep also helps your body to fight off common infections by releasing key hormones while you sleep. Some tips and tricks I have to help achieve a good night’s sleep is to practice your time management, try to avoid having all nighters, don’t take naps during the day, and don't leave all of your assignments for the weekend to complete them all. Most of these things that I just listed I’m guilty of haha. BUT, I don’t want you guys to ruin your sleep schedules. Sleep is important!!! I hope this helps you guys! Junior year will be the toughest year yet for most people and you will feel like giving up at times but just remember that even if you fail, as long as you gave it your all, that’s truly what matters the most. Good luck! You’ll do great sweetie! :)))
Written by Alex De Guzman
Junior year, a frightening year for some and an exciting year for others. Junior year is one of the most crucial years where your academics should be taken seriously, as college begin to look at you. So here’s some tips to help you rising juniors take on junior year.
Plan everything out, as far as a month ahead. Try to figure out what next month is going to look like, whether it’s family events, birthdays, or big projects. Having everything set out in front of you helps you have an outlook as to where your focus should be for upcoming events. Knowing what’s coming up for you helps you not stress out because you already know what’s going to happen and trust me, stress comes around a lot during junior year.
Learn to balance academics and school with relaxation. Yes, it’s important to focus on academics and making sure you pass classes. But going out with some friends every once in a while helps relieve stress that’s put on your body from school. I’m not saying go out every week or study everyday, but just have a general sense of when you need to study and when you need to spend time with friends to help relieve stress.
Lastly, enjoy junior year! As scary as the word, “junior year” sounds for some, it’ll be a great time. You’re almost done with high school, which is horrible for some people to know but it helps to know you’re almost there. Go out and have fun, explore new things that you’ve never done. School is important, but let it take over your life, so don’t forget to have fun!
Written by Timothy Nguyen
Junior year is going to be your hardest year in some shape or form. Mentally, physically, emotionally, even schedule wise it will be your most challenging year yet. Junior year is the last year colleges look at for admissions, everything you've done up until this point, slack or shine, has come to one big battle royale of a year. However, as much as academics are important this year, its just as important to make sure you do some cathartic activities as well. If all you do is academics, you will pull yourself apart faster than a lvl 5 hurricane would tear a palm tree out the very ground its rooted in. What do I mean by cathartic? Do something you've always wanted to, workout, draw, make a video, go to a theme park, do something other than school when the stress is at an all time high. Of course hold your academics above all else, but make sure you take care of yourself too!
Start looking into your future, I know it's scary at times, especially if you're not sure what you want to do yet, but just start looking. You must look before you find. College, careers, artistry, travel, whatever the case, start thinking now, start planning, because if you start later you're already at least a year behind where this lightning fast world expect you to be.
SAT and/or ACT
Take it as many times as possible. Prepare for it now other than later. Ask your counselor (or maybe a counselor) if you're eligible for free SAT or ACT tests.
Take all your classes seriously, whether it be IB, AP, Honors, Regular or Intensive, be resourceful and smart. Work smart not hard.
If you haven't already, join a club or sport! This can be one of your cathartic things and it can also give you that push towards an interest or a little extra kick you need for college. Clubs are a great way to meet people and help you be resourceful.
Calm down! Stop taking everything so seriously and enjoy high school! You’ve only got 4 short years to take it all in. Life will be stressful at times, but the best thing we can do is try our best and learn from the mistakes we make! Go out and make a name for yourself! Stay strong, you’re gonna do beautifully.