Renata - Brown University - Class of 2010

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I wanted to be somewhere that would force me outside of my comfort zone. I had many friends going to Howard. But I had to choose what I wanted and not go along with others.

When I was doing my applications, my mother was in the hospital. I felt like quitting the whole thing! But my mother's strength in the midst of hardships has helped me in all my struggles, including this one. In my essays, I wrote about how my mother and my grandmother have inspired me to become a passionate and hardworking student.

Hometown: Chicago IL

High School: Public

GPA: 3.93 / 5.0 (weighted)

ACT: 27

Major: International Relations

Goal: Learn more about myself and my interests



Brown UniversityAttending
Howard UniversityAccepted
Northwestern UniversityAccepted
New York UniversityAccepted
Claremont McKenna CollegeAccepted
Carnegie Mellon UniversityAccepted
Spelman CollegeAccepted
Fisk UniversityAccepted
Occidental CollegeAccepted
Cornell UniversityAccepted
Johns Hopkins UniversityAccepted
Freshman Year Update

My first semester at Brown was pretty difficult. I felt like I lacked a support system. Nonetheless, I made it through. I did very well in my classes, attaining a 4.0 GPA. I've come to view college as an opportunity to pursue true passions—and high school as preparation for this pursuit. This semester has been new and exciting. I've decided to write for the Brown University Critical Review, a journal that analyses courses to facilitate course selection. I am involved in the African Students Association and tutor a young Somalian refugee. If I were to give any advice, I would tell students to take a risk—to choose a school that forces them out of their comfort zone, enabling them to develop with a diverse understanding of life.

Junior Year Update

I began the school year a bit stressed. I needed to fulfill requirements, conduct a competitive internship hunt, and figure out my life goals. With the help of academic advisors, I found a sense of direction. I am thinking about adding French Studies as my second concentration.

I also helped revive Brown's Black Student Union. Here, I gained valuable relationships, and I am happy I devoted my time to it.

Second semester I studied political sciences in Paris. I was highly independent there. I had to manage my finances and live as an adult. There was no college advisor to help me with the grueling curriculum. I encourage students to spend time out of the country. I feel more mature and more apt to deal with the hump ahead of me called senior year!

Applying outside my comfort zone

For a long time, my ideal college was Howard University, a prestigious historically black university. Many people told me it was an excellent school and that I would fit in there. But I didn't want to just fit in. I wanted to be somewhere that would force me outside of my comfort zone.

I picked a group of colleges that matched my interests in international relations and performing arts and language. I also knew that I didn't want to be in Illinois nor in the Midwest. I was drawn to the East. I found interesting colleges on websites, in brochures, or from recommendations from current students or recent grads.

Too many acceptances?

I thought being denied by schools would be a way to narrow down my choices. Unfortunately (and fortunately!), I was accepted to all 11 schools to which I applied. When I got over my shock, I narrowed my college choices to two schools: Howard and Brown. Northwestern was tempting academically. But I really wanted to leave Illinois. NYU was intriguing too, but I wanted more of a campus-centered life. Frankly, I was not as serious about the other colleges on my list.

During April, I visited Howard and Brown. I loved both schools but felt Brown was a better fit. My visit there was more serious. Brown held academics fairs and a career panel. They showcased different campus organizations I might join. I liked everything about the school—students, facilities, atmosphere, course availability, extracurricular activities, food, even Brown's surrounding city, Providence. Brown has an open curriculum, in which you can freely take courses you have an interest in. I knew I would be able to challenge myself. The financial aid package was very generous, so Brown was within my reach.

My ups and downs

I felt totally taxed doing my apps. On top of dealing with my mother's situation, I had many projects for my International Baccalaureate program. Filling out scholarship applications was distracting too. After two acceptances, however, I calmed down.

I spent hours trying to write a personal statement (especially in 500 words) that would capture my creativity as well as my passion for education, performing arts, and language. I got caught up in trying to impress admissions officers. A counselor from the Collegiate Scholars Program at the University of Chicago gave me a blueprint for writing down my qualities. She had me set deadlines, and then she called on those dates. I did not want to disappoint her. She was a big help.

I had many friends going to Howard. They were upset when I chose Brown. But I had to choose what I wanted and not go along with others.

What I learned

It was important to have people around to support me. Sometimes I get a little dramatic when I am stressed. My grandmother and my friends really encouraged me and told me that I would make it through.

I applied to too many schools on a whim. I had a fee waiver, so it was easy. I knew in my heart the schools I was interested in. I feel ashamed, honestly. Applying to schools you don't want is unfair to applicants who want those schools.

The money factor

Surprisingly, money was not a huge factor in my decision. I was confident that I would go to college without depleting the few financial resources my mom had. A lot of the schools I applied to awarded me generous financial aid packages. I also applied for numerous scholarships and got one. I only have to pay a few thousand a year for my college education.

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