Justin - University of Georgia - Class of 2013
Hometown: Ball Ground GA
High School: Public
GPA: 3.70 / 3.80 (weighted)
Major: International affairs and history (formerly undeclared)
Goal: To explore knowledge and culture
Freshman Year Update
I just declared a dual major in history and international affairs. Starting out undeclared gave me time to hone in on what I truly love and can do well in. I used my classes not only to fulfill core requirements, but also to explore my interests. I think it helps to take it easy the first semester, see what you can handle, and then go from there.
I wasn't sure if I had made the right choice by picking UG, and unfortunately I'm still not sure if it was the best decision. I do know now, however, that it was at least a good decision.
Sophomore Year Update
The most difficult thing now is combining a nearly full-time job with full-time studies. (Moving off campus increased the need for cash tenfold.) I suppose if I could change something, it would be to work much, much less—being a student is a full-time job inside of itself!
Due to high demand, class options are slim for freshmen and sophomores, and I was forced into a political economy course. Despite cringing at its name, I have come to love it and actually declared political economy as one of my two international affairs focuses! I was also just accepted to an intensive writing program, which will allow me to have a writing minor. All in all, things look positive! I couldn't think of a better place to go than UG. I wonder how I could have been so hesitant about this university in the first place.
Junior Year Update
My studies are going very well. I'm nearly finished with my history and international affairs majors. My writing program has led me to read and write in directions I never would have imagined before. Graduate school now seems a lot closer than it should. I take the GRE in April, and I am applying for internships, including one with the Congressional Foreign Policy Committee. The future, while a little jarring, seems bright!
In the end, the economic crisis sabotaged some of my acceptances. My aid packages were less than I expected and one scholarship offer was actually reduced. Plus, my family is totally against any loans. I ended up choosing an in-state university. Overall, I am happy with my decision but I wish there could have been more—another acceptance or a bit more gift aid.
Why my college list grew rapidly
I toured at least 20 colleges, from safety backups to the Ivy League. I really did not know what I was looking for. If I liked a campus on my visit, I would apply. I chose some colleges in Georgia because of the HOPE scholarship available to state residents. Otherwise, I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to attend.
Nearly every weekend I would knock out yet another application essay and revisit another. I continued to bolster my SAT and ACT scores up until the end of fall semester senior year. Finally, in December, I was completely done. I honestly did not know what to do with all my newfound free time!
I was accepted to half of the schools I applied to. I ran into a problem, however. I need more money to make college affordable for me and my family. So I picked the two colleges giving me the most aid and flipped a coin. University of Georgia won. I still am not totally sure if I chose the right college.
Why I plan to not have a plan
I didn't really have any goals heading into high school and I suppose I'm going into college the same way—just to have fun and experience all I can. I never planned to become the vice president of my high school, or copy editor of the yearbook. It just fell into place as I strove to do my best. I hope the same thing will happen to me over the next four years. I plan on having fun and excelling in the classroom, and then everything else, along with my major, will hopefully materialize.
My ups and downs
The biggest disappointment was having to turn down some great schools due to financial concerns. Even though I got aid from those colleges and some private scholarships, the aid didn't even begin to make a difference in the tuition at those colleges. Perhaps in two years I'll apply to those schools as a transfer. Never lock yourself into a corner years in advance, I say.
The most challenging aspect of my college application experience was the many essays I was required to write. However, this experience was also satisfying. I met the challenge head-on and relished in it. I love to write and enjoy even the most tedious of topics.
What I learned
I found it best to tackle essays and other application requirements over an extended period of time for each school, even dedicating two or three Sundays to a particular school. That way, I was able to reassess my writing and tone to determine if I was answering all the questions, hitting all the key points, and keeping a positive vibe. If you blow it all out in a few hours you might make mistakes. You will never see those mistakes if you don't go back with a clear mind and double-check a week or so later.
The money factor
I received the Georgia HOPE scholarship and a couple of private scholarships, so at this point I do not believe I am actually paying anything for college!
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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