April, 2011

Look Ma I’m Going to College!

leah-85Congrats on getting into college! I bet you are beyond excited. I remember when I first got an acceptance letter. For some reason Swarthmore sent me a small envelope so I initially thought “Dang, here goes my first rejection.” It took me a while to open the letter because I didn’t want to end up in tears. But I finally had the courage to open the letter and in capitals letters I saw “CONGRATULATIONS!” I yelled, jumped, and danced. And, then I realized my dad was yelling at me to get off of him. I was so shocked and in my own world that I didn’t realize I tackled my father to the ground.

But, it was hard for me after the other letters came. I got rejected by some schools. And, I didn’t know how to feel. Was I mad? Relieved? Happy? I just knew that God has a reason for everything so I kept it moving and got positive about the places I did get into. So, be thrilled no matter what. Getting to college is such an honor.

As for deciding I can also give you this advice: do you! When trying to decide which option is best or what path to choose, think of yourself and be selfish for once in your life. It’s not about what your parents want or how many of your high school friends are going to a specific college. It’s about where will you mesh, where will you get a good education and where will you grow. I mistakenly thought that I had to please my parents by going to Tufts. And, yes it is a fabulous school. But I was the one who had to do the papers, exams, and etc, not my parents, so shouldn’t I choose where to go? I think people will always make the wise decision if they have faith in themselves and if they have a plan of action. Make yourself your first priority. It may be tough, but in the end, you will have made the right choice.


leah-85Don’t let the title confused. I’m not going to ramble off about a blanket. I want to talk about someone who will comfort you through the good, bad and ugly.

In college there are going to be times where you studied your brains out for an exam or you put lots of hours into a paper and the result is something you weren’t expecting. Disappointment. Failure. Rejection. Sometimes it can seem unbearable. But you really need someone to hear your story and say they understand. You will need someone to give you a big hug. This is where friends really come in handy. They are there to eat your food, distract you but most importantly to comfort you. I’m so thankful for my friends. But, I can say I really am getting my strength from God. He really understands what I need. So, for my religious readers check out Ps. 119:76 for this final push as a senior or even when you’re starting your freshmen year!

Rejection and Heartbreak: College Acceptances

jenny-85I’m not usually a crier. I don’t like people seeing me cry. It’s just not me, you know? I mean, I cried when Ash died in Pokemon: The First Movie, but it wasn’t the same as having your eyes water in the computer lab with strangers all around as you read the rejection letter from Stanford. Oh yes. Random people patted me on the back and offered me tissues. Kind of them, yes, but oh so embarrassing for me.

Yep, rejection hurts. But those other fancy paper letters in the mail with the special seals on them made the pain a little less. I mean, yeah, they’re not my dream school, but many other colleges wanted me too! Bright side: it’s not the end of the world! (Yet.) I know the rejection probably broke your heart, but we just have to get up and get over it. There are many other fish, I mean colleges, out there, some of whom think you’re just awesome and they’d love to have you as a student.

My choices were very different from one another. Amherst College and UC Davis. They’re on different coasts, have dramatically different weather, and one’s within reasonable driving distance to my family. To my many relatives and friends, the choice was already made: Davis. Approximately 2 hours away, and I could go home, be with my friends and all that. But then there was Amherst College. Far away, cold, no home cooking. My aunt’s exact words? “How are you going to live without us???” Actually, just fine, albeit very homesick.

My final choice was Amherst College. Why? *Ahem* Financial aid. *Ahem* Exploration. Independence. I felt like I needed to grow, so what better choice than to simply move on out of my comfort zone? And it also helps that New York and Boston are both a bus ride away.

Just think about your options. Where are you going to be happy? Where are you going to enjoy learning? For many of us, this is the first big choice we’re going to make. Choose what seems right. Flip a coin. (I’M KIDDING!)

Gang Violence at Harvard

jesse-85I can’t believe how much time has flown by! There are already only a few more weeks in school and I’m so close to being halfway done with college… It blows my mind.

It has definitely been a life-changing experience so far. One of my favorite aspects of college is the ability to share what your passionate about with the large community you’re in. Many schools have the resources available for you to create, organize, and host an event on campus. Whatever it is, YOU can do it.

Like dancing? Put together a showcase. Like Art? Organize an art show. Is there an issue you care deeply about? Put together an event or forum. Whatever it is, it is up to you to bring that to your community. You don’t even have to be in college to do it! You can do it at your high school, in your neighborhood, at the local Rec Center, wherever! All that matters is that you are able to bring something to the community.

One of the things I was hoping to bring to my community was awareness on the issue of Gang Violence. I reached out to the administration on campus, contacted some of the student organizations I was involved with, and helped organize an event that I think went pretty well.

Check out the video I made to help begin the spread of awareness.

Did you like it? Check out the follow up video filmed right before the event and then some words about bringing whatever it is YOUR passionate about to YOUR community!

The Big Decision

shaun-85You all have long imagined receiving your Golden Ticket in the mail: the “Congratulations!” letter from your Dream School, whether that be Yale, Tulane, Scripps, or University of Kansas. You envision yourselves proudly wearing a Dream School sweatshirt, and hanging out on the gorgeous campus reading dense philosophical essays with friendly fellow Dreamers. You have worked so hard, and now your hard work is about to pay off.

But reality is often much more complicated. 2011 is the most difficult year statistically to gain college admission, let alone a Golden Ticket from your first choice college. And even if you do gain admission, financial aid, both need- and merit-based, is tougher to snag than ever. Here are a few things to consider before making your Big Decision.

First of all, keep an open mind. Even though you may have your heart set on one institution, realize that you have many options. There are several schools that fit your aspirations, whether your focus is in athletics, small class sizes, diverse student organizations, or academic prestige. Just because a school is not in the Ivy League does not mean you will not have a meaningful and valuable college experience. When making my decision, I was worried that my education at Washington and Lee would not be as appreciated by my peers, family, and future employers because it was not as well known in the north, but since then I have come to realize the extent of W&L’s prestige and influence around the country, and I am proud to be a General. Plus, if worse comes to worse, you can always begin at one school and transfer to another after two years or reapply to your Dream School’s graduate program.

Secondly, do not take on more debt than you can handle. At an undergraduate level, it is not smart to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans every year. If it is between going to your second choice (or even third, fourth, or fifth choice) school and leaving college with $150,000 in loans that you are expected to start paying off immediately, then try and make the more rational financial decision. Moreover, be careful to note which loans are subsidized and which are unsubsidized, because the building interest could amount to additional expenses. Even though I was accepted into my first choice school, Wellesley, I knew that it was a poor financial decision to turn down a full ride scholarship to W&L to go almost $100,000 into debt by the age of 22. Remember that you are just becoming an adult, and you do not want that financial pressure hanging over your head.

I hope that these tips cover both the mental and emotional aspect of deciding on which college to attend, and also the financial realities. Ultimately, the college experience will be WHAT YOU MAKE IT, not just the name of the school or the price of tuition. I know that wherever you go to school, you will do wonderfully! Good luck!

Want $8,000? — Apply for the Opportunity Scholarship

CSOlogo-85High school seniors, could you use $2,000 to help pay for your freshman year of college? Or better yet, could you use $2,000 every year for the next four years to put toward your college expenses? If so, keep reading…

Class of 2011, YOU’VE DONE IT! You’re almost to graduation and you are ready to move onto the big leagues: COLLEGE! Woot, Woot! You received your college acceptance letters, selected the college you want to attend, are sending in your housing deposit and receiving your financial aid package. So now you can just chill out during the summer!

Well, not yet. Before you begin your chill session, make sure you apply for the CSO Opportunity Scholarship–a $2,000, four-year renewable scholarship awarded to first-generation, low-income, and/or minority high school seniors (class of 2011; entering the college class of 2015) enrolling at a CSO College Partner. If you win, you’ll also be given the opportunity to share your college journey and offer advice to younger students on how to make it to college on this blog!

Complete the application here.

Make sure your application is completed and submitted by the deadline, May 27th. And again, congratulations on making it college!

Putting a Face on Success

abigail-85Winter terms at Dartmouth (8-9 weeks) are said to be the worst time to be on campus and by week 6, I was drained and wanted nothing more than to leave. Many of my friends went to Miami or Cancun for two weeks, but I knew I had to see my family and surround myself with their positive, cheerful energy.

While I was home, my high school counselor and English teacher invited me to speak to their students about campus life, schoolwork, traveling, extracurricular activities, old and new friendships, my future plans, and everything in between. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into but because I am forever grateful to both of them, I obliged. They told me that I would talk to a group of sophomores in the morning but oddly enough, that was not the case.

Instead of staying for an hour, I ended up staying the whole day at Sparks High. After the first group of students, one group after another came in and asked me to talk to them, and so it went on until the dismissal bell rang. Questions came at me from left and right, questions that I had never asked myself. One student asked me if I always knew that I would attend college, another student asked me what would I have done had I not enrolled at Dartmouth, and another student asked me if I believed that she or any of her classmates could one day be in my position.

It took me a few minutes to answer these questions and I figured that the students’ probably realized that I was not prepared with notes (like I should have). But afterwards, my teacher told me that many of the students said that they loved talking to me and wondered if I could stay a bit longer to discuss their individual college plans. She told me that while I may have been nervous, the students didn’t catch any of it because “success needs a face.”

Some first-generation college students leave their homes with dreams to “make it big” and regularly going back to their hometown may not fit in the lifestyle they have imagined for myself. It is a pity that those people will never realize that they could “make it big” by making a big impact on budding first-generation college students. There is an incredible amount of talent and potential in schools that are constantly labeled as “failing” and, if you have had the opportunity to attend college, it is crucial that you go back to them and show them that a college degree is possible.

Remember your roots, remember your responsibility.

Open Doors Are Always Nice.

irvin-85It has been a while since I felt sure of what I wanted to do. I wanted to become an engineer coming into Dartmouth but after a rough relationship with physics, I decided to close that door and open a new one. After talking to my Dean and to upperclassmen, the best advice that they gave me was to pursue something that you truly felt passionate about. They told me that there is a difference between what you like to study and learn (in my case, math, physics, literature, history, chemistry) and what you truly feel passionate about (in this case, literature and advocating for my Latino brothers and sisters). It was then that I realized that what I had been doing before had been what I liked, not what I truly loved.

My spring break community service trip took me to Immokalee, Florida. A place that very few people have ever heard of but that is one of the most important farming towns in the United States. Being there, feeling the weight of poverty that falls on the shoulders of my brothers, more than 90 percent of the town is Hispanic, I felt the need to advocate for those that have no voice for they live in the shadows of this great nation. Poverty, environmental issues, immigration issues, low wages, rough working conditions, factors of oppression just seemed to pile on and on. Yet, as they piled, they sparked up a passion with in me.  A passion that I would like to believe had been dormant until that moment. I realized what I would love to do. I found what I was truly passionate about. With that realization, I came back to campus, with a different mindset and a sense of assurance, knowing that I had found what I wanted to do for the next four years.

For the seniors reading this, I know that you guys have your acceptance letters and the giant task of deciding where to attend. A word of advice. Leave your opportunities open. Choose a school that gives you plenty of options when it comes to academic fields. I am thankful that Dartmouth is not just an engineering school. Otherwise, I would have not been too happy taking classes that I no longer liked. A lot of people change their interests after they get to college. Keep this in mind. Make sure that you always have a plan B because life never goes as we think it it will. Keep your door opens because you never know if the door that you are aiming for will close.

Back to the Drawing Board

darius-85It’s almost funny how a couple of months can completely change the course of a life.

I know it seems like a lifetime since I last posted, and so much has happened since then! As it turns out, I couldn’t afford to stay at Marymount Manhattan College for another semester so I had to leave. I am currently living in Ohio with my dad. Talk about culture shock! In only five months I became so absorbed into New York City that I never would have imagined leaving. In that short time, I became a New Yorker. “What makes someone a New Yorker?” Great question! I guess it’s different for everyone, but I became one after having my wallet stolen, watching the sunrise over the Queensboro bridge , getting hit by a taxi, and finally, giving a group of tourists directions to Penn Station from Central Park. It’s a combination of good and bad experiences and being able to say at the end of the day “Here’s to my New York” that makes someone a New Yorker. That’s what made it so hard to leave. I had fallen in love with the city. It was a part of me, and I couldn’t imagine life without it.

Yet here I am. In a small town in Ohio, trying not to die of boredom. However, if I learned anything out of all this, it’s to keep on pushing. Life is going to throw you every curveball that it has, and each time it gets harder and harder. But don’t ever give up. A year and a half ago I never would have thought that someone like me would get to live out my dreams, if only for one semester. No matter how high above you your dreams and ambitions are, they’re never truly out of reach. You just have to try harder. I’m looking for work, applying for schools and keeping my head up. I’m going back to New York. I’m not quite sure when, but I am not going to give up trying. I’ve come way too far to give up that easily.

Until next time guyz!!