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Posts Tagged Williams College

The Struggle of Sophomore Year

lysa-85My second year in college truly hit me about a month ago, when I realized that I had taken on way too many extracurricular activities, more science laboratory classes than I could handle, and that maybe a science major on a pre-med course track was not working out.

Many students start college out thinking that they will go through college and go on to become a doctor or a lawyer. Most pre-med students also assume that since they “love” science they will of course become a biology or chemistry major. I entered Williams College my freshman year, and thought I had it all figured out. I would complete all of the pre-med courses and major in biology. Afterall, I loved biology in high school. Then, I started college and biology no longer seemed to interest me. I found myself dreading each class and the four hour lab sessions I had to get through each week. But I kept on track for med school and I kept taking chemistry and biology together each semester up until I finished classes last week. However, one thing did change for me. I realized that while I may want to be a doctor in the future, I definitely do not want to major in science!

I used to think it was unacceptable to apply to medical school without a science major, but it’s not! Medical schools are looking for all different kinds of people with different backgrounds and majors! I have officially declared a major in psychology and couldn’t be happier. Child Development and Psychology studies are truly where my passion lies and now I can put all my energy into something I love, while still working towards medical school. I am also currently pursuing a double major in Women,Gender, & Sexuality Studies, which I never expected to interest me before coming to Williams! Therefore, I urge all of you as you decide on what classes you want to take next semester, to try out a class that you’ve always thought sounded cool, or maybe you know nothing about! Sometimes those classes are the ones that surprise you and truly make you realize what path you want to take.

Another important lesson I learned as a sophomore is that you simply can’t do it all. Sometimes we think we can take on the world on our shoulders and never stumble while trying to make it all work. I realized this past year that I just had way too much on my plate. I was on my college’s hip hop dance team, president of the Student Health Club and a member of student government.

I realized a semester too late that I really just needed to put all of my concentration into my studies and take a break from trying to juggle multiple extracurricular activities. It got to a point where I was dancing 10 hours a week, having to work my job 10 hours a week to make ends meet financially, and spending 10 hours a week in lab. Plus, I was still planning events through student government on the weekends! I finally realized that I didn’t have time to please other people through my dance performances or event planning if I didn’t even have time to make myself happy. I was slowly running myself into the ground and dragging my academic performance along with me. My grades slowly dropped and I didn’t know what to do. But I knew that I didn’t come to Williams to dance. I came to college to make a better life for myself and my family. If I could put only half the time I spent dancing into my school work or job, I would be able to help my family more financially and improve my grades.

Sometimes, even though you love to do something and it’s truly hard to give it up, you have to move on and place importance on what truly matters. I can dance for the rest of my life. I realized that I didn’t need a dance team to prove my abilities. But, you only get a chance at college ONCE. College is truly not easy. I have had many days where I’ve wondered, why me? What am I doing here? I have sat and cried in my room many times and tried desperately to find myself through all of the stress that college has placed on my life. But, I know that it will all be worth it in the end. I know what it’s like to feel alone in college. I’ve definitely felt that way often. But it’s important to realize that you are where you are for a reason. Someone chose you over 4 to 8 other students, because they had confidence in your ability to succeed.

Although, some days I may have felt alone, like I had the weight of my family back home depending on me to make something out of myself, that is truly what I also want for myself, and that makes even the worst days manageable! Stay strong and positive. At times sophomore year can be more trying than freshman year, because few people are there to hold your hand and there are much higher expectations set for you during your second year of college. But, just sit back and take a deep breath! You are almost half way through your college career!

You are not alone

lysa-85In the words of Opportunity Scholar blogger Lysa Vola, a sophomore at Williams College, the Opportunity Scholarships show students that “you are not alone.” Watch Lysa’s video blog as she reflects on how her Opportunity Scholarship made her college education a reality.

Be Unique…Be Daring…Go for that class you never thought you’d take..

lysa-85Hi guys! I know its been a while since I last posted. Sophomore year is bit more hectic than I thought it would be…or maybe that’s just because I am in Organic Chemistry and slowly drowning in all of my work for that class. But, on another note, I hope your year is going well and that you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Check out my video post! : )

A New Year…A New Beginning

lysa-85Hi Guys! So I hope you are all excited for your first year! I am finally posting my first video blog after being inspired by Jesse to do so, but bear with me on the quality of the video! Click here to view my new video blog!

I hope to post video blogs more regularly throughout the year! So make sure to check ‘em out!

Eat, Sleep, Pack and Prepare

lysa-85Wow! I can’t believe that it’s already July! This summer seems to be passing by even faster than freshman year. I remember last summer and the anticipation I felt while anxiously awaiting the last week of summer and the first week of college.

This summer has been a bit different for me. Although I have been catching up on some much-needed rest and relaxation, I have also taken on an interning position at a pediatrics office, assisting a doctor twice a week and a job at a local store.

Last summer I didn’t have any of these things, and looking back on it, I wish I would have spent my summer much more wisely. I didn’t have a job last summer mostly because I wanted to enjoy my last summer home with my friends. Although I do not regret that decision, having a part-time job may have been helpful once school started due to the heavy expense of going to school out of state. Being out of state means that anytime you go home, you’re most likely having to get on a bus, train, car, or a plane, which can be very expensive! So my advice to any of you who are attending an out of state college far from you’re home, is to save up some money for travel. I also made the mistake of not booking my flights home far enough in advance which proved to be a very expensive mistake that I could’ve avoided. So trust me, summertime is NOT TOO EARLY to begin looking into purchasing flights home for thanksgiving, winter break, and maybe even spring break!

This summer would also be a great time to throw out all of that stuff you’ve been hoarding for years and start deciding what you can part with as you leave for college and what you can’t. DO NOT PACK LAST MINUTE AND DO NOT OVER PACK! I remember all the things I thought I would need for college. Then, when I got there, it turned out that no, I didn’t need to supply my own toilet paper and yes, I probably packed too much clothes and stuff to decorate my room than I actually needed. Just remember that you can always buy stuff that you need once you get to your school! I drove 21 hours to Williams in Massachusetts from South Florida, with way more stuff than I could ever need for my first year, and when I got to campus I realized how much I could’ve left at home and bought new at a nearby Walmart. Plus, my dad might’ve been much happier if all the things I had crammed into the back of our car wasn’t blocking his view as he drove up the east coast.

I know that many of you probably have no clue about what you’re going to need to bring with you. I know I was a little lost and stressed with what to bring and what not to bring. So if you have any questions on what you’re going to need don’t be afraid to ask me or any of the other bloggers. I personally wish I would’ve asked someone beforehand!

So you may be asking yourself, what else can you do this summer to get ready for college? Besides saving up some money and starting to pack and prepare, you can give yourself a well deserved break! After all, that’s what the summertime is for and you’ve clearly earned it! You’ve successfully completed high school, gotten accepted into college, and sorted out all of your financial aid. Now it’s time to relax…at least until you start getting a million emails from your college reminding you to set up your online account, sort through your financial aid plan, pick your housing, and most importantly what you’re  going to study!  So sit back, relax, eat some home cooked meals, pack up your things and prepare for an amazing first year away from home!

Looking Back

lysa-85It’s amazing how time flies. Looking back on this past year, I remember how homesick I was at first, until I was truly able to find my place at Williams. This year has been full of discovering not only life as a college student, but who I truly am as an individual.

Although leaving Williams has been bittersweet, I’m excited for summer. I will be interning at two pediatric offices throughout the summer, and working for a local business. I am excited to return to Williams as a sophomore in the fall, and I’m ready start my second year off right, knowing what I know now about college. As this year comes to an end, I’ve reminisced about my own experiences and what truly made my freshman year unforgettable. I’d like to share my top 5 pieces of advice that have truly helped me along during my first year:

  1. Get to know your roommate and others in your residence hall. The people you live with, most of whom are going through similar experiences and emotions, are your main safety net — not only this year, but for all your years. You may change roommates after the first semester or you may stay roommates for all four years — just take the time to get to know your fellow first-year students. I didn’t do this at first, and it made adjusting that much harder for me.
  2. Find the ideal place for you to study. It may be your dorm room or someone where no one can find you in the library, but find a place that works best for you to get your work actually done. It is important to avoid all potential distractions, such as rooms with televisions in them, your roommates, and anywhere facebook and email can be accessed (from my own experiences).
  3. Get Organized. In high school, the teachers tend to lead you through all the homework and due dates. In college, the professors post the assignments (often for the entire semester) and expect you to be prepared. Buy an organizer, a PDA, a big wall calendar — whatever it takes for you to know when assignments are due. I distinctly remember two occasions when I was running across campus to turn in an assignment that was late, which was not a good experience. You cannot procrastinate in college, because eventually you will just have too much work and reading to catch up on that you will have to sacrifice certain assignments for others, which is not a good option!
  4. Go to class. Obvious, right? Maybe, but sleeping in and skipping that 8 am class will be tempting at times. Avoid the temptation. Besides learning the material by attending classes, you’ll also receive vital information from the professors about what to expect on tests, changes in due dates, etc. I even had a professor give me extra credit once for those who attended class; go figure!
  5. Get involved on campus. A big problem for a lot of new students is a combination of homesickness and a feeling of not quite belonging. To avoid this, consider joining some groups, but be careful not to go overboard. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to your school in the long run!

MOST IMPORTANTLY, make sure that you are truly in the right place. Some colleges just aren’t for everyone. Maybe you didn’t realize it before, but you do now. That’s okay! Don’t spend four years of your life miserable because you’re too nervous to do anything about it! It’s your life!

The most intense 3 hours of my life.

khadijah-85Hurry bus! Please hurry!!

March 31st was the craziest time for me. I elected to get my admissions decisions from Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Williams, and Harvard by email, because truthfully, I didn’t want to wait for mail. Although I got into a lot of schools previously, including Dartmouth and several other amazing liberal arts colleges, these were the schools that would guarantee me full aid all four years, so I was excited and anxious, because they were the most competitive and selective in the country. Because I was in west coast time, I had to wait until 2pm (5pm Eastern time) for admissions decisions for all except Stanford. And for some dumb reason, that day was an early day at school. I didn’t want to wait at school for three hours, so I took the long bus home. I couldn’t stay still. “I find out where I get into today!”  I say to some people I see on the bus often. I try to read, but I can’t. Finally, an hour later, I get near a computer. 12:32 pm. Seriously?! I pace. I pace some more. I worry. I check for Stanford. No. I deflate. I cry. So impersonal! I get a yes from Williams! I feel a bit better. I have to call for Princeton and Yale, because I forgot my online password, and it was very upsetting talking to the Princeton staff. “You know, I can give you your password, but how about I tell you now, so you don’t have to wait.” Ok. “I’m sorry….” Thanks! Bye! And I quickly hang up. By now I’m so nervous. I’m anxious. I’m shaking. This is so important to me. Not just going to college, but saving my life, and soon my family’s. Securing my future. No from Stanford, Princeton, Yale. Yes from Columbia and Williams, but how can I get into three top schools in a row- let alone the most prestigious? Harvard’s up there. I got two interviews. I know they don’t know about whether I’m worth the risk. I’m homeless. I missed a lot of school. Can I handle the change? The work load? The people? I hope I convinced them. I hope my not traditionally-stellar scores will be considered under the lens of where I came from. I hope my optimism is enough to convince them I’ll be ok, I can and will handle the challenges. I hope all the help and recommendations from South Central Scholars, my school, and mentors, are enough.  By now, I’m feeling VERY insecure. I can’t take this.

At exactly 2:01 (5:01pm eastern time), I refresh Gmail. In very generic type- Harvard College: Your Admissions Decision.

“I can’t open this!” I yell to Trisha London, co-founder of South Central Scholars, and Randy Winston, the director of SCS. I was in Trisha’s office, where she and her husband, founder James London, work, and Randy Winston was comforting me. “Open it.” They say. I click. It loads. Sloooooooowly.

“…We are delighted-”

I stop there!! I can’t read anymore! I scream! I shout! I GOT INTO HARVARD! I GOT INTO HARVARD! I GOT INTO HARVARD! WHO CARES ABOUT STANFORD, PRINCETON, OR YALE? I GOT INTO HARVARD! I play the melodic classical music video given to admits. It seems so Harvard-y.

Then, I call my mom. I tell her the news. She was staying at a shelter in downtown at the time.

The relief, the happiness in her voice. Yes mom, you didn’t mess up. Our trials, our tribulations, the pain, it’s ok now. Because mom, your daughter, your daughter, got into Harvard.

The Waiting Game

lysa-85You’ve completed all of your applications; sent them all in months ago, read and re-read all of your essays and completed your SAT and/or ACT testing. You’ve gotten teachers to write numerous letters of recommendation for you, and you’ve tried your hardest to avoid the “senior slump” of spring semester and keep your grades afloat. You’ve already survived FAFSA, and are pretty sure where you want to go to college after visiting all of your choices. The only thing left now is THE WAITING GAME, of anxiety, anticipation, fear, and excitement. You’ve completed all of the above items to receive one single letter, of  hopefully above all… an ACCEPTANCE!

I know how you feel. I could hardly wait to receive my application responses back. I checked the mail almost every day after school in hope maybe one letter would arrive earlier; before the decision date. I checked my email 10 times a day and for months made sure everything had been received by each school due to paranoia. But, you know what, you’ve already worked so hard, and you’re already ahead of so many others by just having applied to college! You are going to be the first or one of the first people in your family to go to college! Now, if you only knew which one, right?

Now is a good time  to relax and consider how you are going to celebrate your first acceptance letter. I remember when I received mine. I’ll probably never forget that day. The first school I was accepted into was Wesleyan, followed by Emory a day later. The letters came early and I couldn’t believe it, when I got home and they were waiting for me on my bed. I opened them and was overjoyed that I had been accepted. I knew at that moment, I was definitely going to college – one of the best feelings in the world! I went out to dinner that night at my favorite restaurant and celebrated being accepted into college. However, you will have to decide for yourself how you’re going to celebrate. But, when you get that first letter, you’ll know that YOU’VE MADE IT , that ALL OF THAT HARD WORK HAS PAID OFF, and YOU ARE ONE STEP CLOSER TO YOUR FUTURE!  Best of luck to all of you. My best advice is to celebrate your acceptances and not dwell in that unfortunate letter of rejection that may also reach your mailbox, because I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Don’t be discouraged, and realize that your letter of ACCEPTANCE is on its way!

Don’t judge a College by its Cover

khadijah-85One of the most important things in the college process  is visiting the colleges. Even with all the research you have done, there’s just nothing like being there. Often, schools will pay to fly you out. Take advantage of this! The best way to know if you want to go to a school for four years, some of the most important and influential years in your life, is to go there. I learned so much about myself and what I wanted by seeing the colleges in action, so to speak. It’s not just about the academics- your college experience will also include outside the classroom.

My three top choices were in completely different areas. Williams is in the absolutely beautiful, secluded Williamstown, MA, Columbia is in the bustling, culture rich and vibrant, New York City, and Harvard is in the cute little charming town of Cambridge, MA, minutes away from the surrounding Boston area. Academics wise, I couldn’t go wrong. 

I loved that Williams was quiet and secluded, and I believed it would be a wonderful way for me to keep focused on my studies. However, when I visited, I realized spoiled by California’s effortless transportation system, I knew I’d get restless in the sleepy, tiny town of Williamstown. And I felt I wouldn’t get the cultural experience I craved in such a small environment.

That said, Columbia might seem like the obvious choice. It’s bustling with culture – with NYC, the United Nations, Brooklyn, thousands of cultural events, and the teeming nightlife just minutes away, no one would STAY on CAMPUS. It’d be a waste of NYC! And I knew I wanted the choice to stay on campus, that I wanted the college campus experience, and I knew I wouldn’t get that at Columbia. Ultimately, I didn’t choose Columbia because it was too busy and hectic.

Ultimately, I chose Harvard because I liked the “feel.” I liked all three colleges, but ultimately, Harvard felt right to me. I was able to see myself there for four years. I felt comfortable there. There isn’t a way to describe except that it seemed like the right place for me.

No matter how much you read and research about a college, no matter how much you think you know about it, visiting is the best way to know. There are some things you can’t measure in a college guide. I loved Williams and Columbia, but at  Harvard I felt right at the school and in the city.

Sometimes, a step onto a campus is all you need.