Ashley - Mount Holyoke College - Class of 2012
Hometown: Steamboat Springs CO
High School: Public
GPA: 3.0 / 3.2 (weighted)
Major: Political Science and Religion
Goal: To have fun, learn, find out who I am, and make friends different than I am
Freshman Year Update
Things are actually much different (and much better) than expected. I am more than happy about my choice of school. I fit in here well, and I have found some really great people. I love my classes and the workload is challenging but manageable (albeit sometimes a little tough). Life outside of classes is very enjoyable and fun. For next year, I am hoping to join the Model UN team or rejoin the debate team, and I still plan to major in international relations. In terms of advice, I really can't say enough that students should visit campus before they decide where to go! Also, take opportunities to meet people and join activities on campus. Just don't forget to go off campus once in awhile!
Sophomore Year Update
This year has been absolutely crazy. I've never been busier, and I like it that way. I switched to a double major in political science and religion, so I have an intense class load. I am active in La Unidad, the organization for students of Latina/Hispanic heritage. I am helping to establish a working class student union to promote awareness of socioeconomic issues. I also have three work-study jobs, one of which is planning prospective student events. I'm currently applying to study abroad in Mexico next spring.
Taking care of my health and nailing down my academics has been the big theme of this semester. It's SO important to develop a routine, to get enough sleep, and to take care of your body. I have learned that if you do your best to manage the things in your life that you can control, everything else will fall into place.
Junior Year Update
Once you are past the first two years of college and the general education requirements, the real work begins. Once you reach this point in your education, your professors expect more from you. For me, this means research seminars and much more concentrated readings and writing. It's great to see that most of my past classes created a crucial foundation for my current studies. It is so important to save notes and essays from these classes and to be diligent in your schoolwork.
I am currently in Mexico, studying immigration, globalization, and politics. The mixture of living in a foreign country, gaining new independence, making friends, and having new experiences is so, so valuable. Taking a semester away from my home institution has been the best thing I could have done for myself.
Senior Year Update
This year has been . . . intense. It is my final year in college, and I am finishing up requirements, taking seminars, working, and trying to find a post-grad job. The only real frustrations I've encountered have been 1) a horrendous case of senioritis and 2) having to finish up general requirements. If you are about to enter college and you have gym classes and other general requirements, don't put them off!
As for the future, I am greatly passionate about immigration reform, immigrant rights, and social justice, and I don't see myself in any other field after my graduation.
I had my final list of colleges done by late summer, prior to beginning my senior year, but not because I was applying for early admission. I just wanted everything to be perfect. It did not exactly turn out that way, but it did have a nearly perfect ending.
Broken dreams—and unexpected salvation
I found 10 schools with everything I wanted: majors in international relations and language, family living within a few hours, no Greek societies, healthy lifestyle options, and ample financial aid. Women's colleges became very appealing, and one them—Smith College—became my top choice.
Waiting for decisions was agony, but even worse was a string of rejections, including one from Smith. I thought I could handle it. But each one felt like a tiny heartbreak. Why did they not like me? What more could I have done? Nothing prepares you for such rejection. I thought my stomach was going to fall out.
Then I got a call from Mount Holyoke, a college I almost skipped because I thought I was getting into Smith. They flew a group of us out for a visit. I fell in love with the campus. Not only did it have everything I wanted, but I felt right at home. I even felt a little sad that I had to go back to my old life and finish high school. Interestingly, when I did finally visit Smith, it felt completely wrong. It's so important to visit colleges before you make up your mind.
I was tempted by Agnes Scott, because I have family in Georgia. American University was the best school for my major. I turned them down because I did not visit, did not get great financial aid, and Mount Holyoke felt right.
Personalizing my application helped paint a full picture
I believe my essay and recommendations had a lot to do with getting admitted to Holyoke. They could explain the GPA roller coaster revealed in my academic record. Two of my favorite teachers wrote about what was going on in my life and could explain that I had always been a hard worker and a strong contributor in the classroom. A peer wrote a recommendation letter. She was honest about my ups and downs and pointed out a lot of things about my character.
I wrote in my essay about some very personal family issues that forced me to learn responsibility and how to care for myself. I was able to give a better picture of myself and show my skills as a communicator.
My ups and downs
My family and teachers were the most helpful, because they were willing to write wonderful recommendation letters, read and edit my essay, and pore over each application to make sure the details were all perfect. I think that without them, I wouldn't have been able to complete the applications.
My counselor was great. I was sick for a while and my grades got pretty low. She gave me an earful about it. Every time I saw her she would remind me of deadlines.
Several of the colleges I applied to did not alert me that they had received all of my materials. In one case, I had to resend my materials to make sure they were received, and then call the office several times.
What I learned
Ten schools was too many. I did not narrow my list down to those schools I would absolutely attend. I wasted time applying to some colleges completely out of my range, such as NYU and Princeton. I was not the type of student they were looking for.
Save money so you can visit campuses. Don't be afraid to ask for help. One college gave me a travel voucher as a credit toward travel to their campus.
The money factor
Mount Holyoke provided me with enough aid to attend, with very few loans. I won a scholarship that will pay for whatever costs are not covered by financial aid.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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