Kira - Swarthmore College - Class of 2013
Hometown: Montclair NJ
High School: Public
GPA: 4.6 / 5.0 (weighted)
Goal: Take advantage of all opportunities
Freshman Year Update
This year has been fantastic so far. I love the freedom and options that come with being in college and meeting people who are passionate about so many things, inside and outside of the classroom. Fall semester was hectic at first, but I learned to balance a college-level workload while building a core group of friends.
I am surrounded by people who seem to already know what they want to do, but my struggle has been deciding on a major. I've found that I enjoy classes in a variety of departments. I appreciate how easy it is to find someone to discuss a particular class or major with. Even at a small school like Swarthmore there is a huge range of interests.
Sophomore Year Update
Sophomore year is great, but it certainly hasn't been easy. On top of regular classwork, there are many things to manage such as deciding on a major, studying abroad, summer internships, and a campus job.
I realize, however, that I have to take advantage of every opportunity, because college only lasts four years. I no longer do schoolwork just because it is assigned; I finally feel that my coursework enriches my understanding.
Sometimes I wish I attended a university with a larger student body, because there would be more course and major options. I considered majoring in public health, but that would require creating a special major and attending classes at another school, such as U-Penn. That said, visiting friends at their colleges around the country has made me realize that I am in the right place.
Junior Year Update
This year, I was hit with the feeling of claustrophobia that comes with attending such a small school. But I would choose Swarthmore all over again. Because Swarthmore is such a small and tight-knit community, I have been able to connect with alumni who have exposed me to different career options and to life after college in general. Last summer I interned with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia as a result of alumni connections and a generous grant from Swarthmore. I feel that the school and its network is looking out for me and giving me skills and tools that I can use to build my future.
Senior Year Update
As graduation nears, I'm feeling more appreciative of what I've gained at Swarthmore. I'm still taking classes outside of my major and developing new academic interests in Greek mythology, gender studies, and Arab literature. I began playing on the Ultimate Frisbee team and making pottery. Both have been great outlets and introduced me to people I never would have met. I'm also an RA this year, and so I am working on my leadership skills. My academic and career focus will shift to public health after graduation. Although my selection of courses in health and medicine was limited, I feel prepared to enter the health field and eventually attend graduate school.
I found that the best way to get a real feel for a school is to visit the campus, talk to students and professors, go to the dining hall and student center, stay overnight, and find out what everyone does on the weekends. If you don't see yourself being happy there, don't bother applying. Getting an acceptance should not suddenly change your mind.
Building a solid college list
I knew I wanted a college where I could see my family at short notice. I did not want classes with hundreds of students. I did want a great liberal arts program that exposed students to lots of majors and helped them to choose one. Once I started visiting schools, cost became another consideration. My parents really pushed me to learn about every school's financial aid policies and find out from other students what their financial aid packages were.
I picked out 12 schools, including safety schools, in-state public universities, and a bunch of selective liberal arts colleges. My dad helped me identify where my credentials fell in the range of students that had been admitted to each school I considered. This helped me pick colleges that were good academic fits.
Personal attention makes a difference
Williams was the first school that I heard from. I checked the decision online surrounded by friends and was really disappointed to get waitlisted. Once I got my acceptances, however, I soon removed myself from the waiting list. I did not want to take a spot from someone who had put all of their hope into Williams. Next I ruled out another top choice, Middlebury, because it was a five-hour drive from home. Rutgers made the most sense. It was close by, affordable, and I knew plenty of people so I wouldn't feel isolated.
I almost skipped Swarthmore's accepted students' overnight because I wanted my decision to be over. But I had promised a friend I would go. By the end of the day, I was nearly sure I would choose Swarthmore. Not only was the campus beautiful, but I instantly felt I matched the students better than those in my high school. I realized that I wouldn't be happy in Rutgers' urban setting and lecture-style classes.
My Swarthmore representative helped me seal the decision. He stayed on the phone with me for nearly 20 minutes discussing my financial aid options. Then he said he knew how much I wanted to attend Swarthmore and how I would go through a grieving process if I could not go. He was right. I realized that if I would grieve over not attending a certain school, it should be the school I go to. I sent in my decision to Swarthmore the next day.
My ups and downs
I considered myself a good writer, but I had trouble writing about myself without seeming self-loathing, sarcastic, or boastful. It took me right up to each application deadline to get the essays done. I was only happy with a handful of them.
The most satisfying thing was realizing that all my hard work through the four years of high school was all for something. I found a place where I could prove that I was independent, intelligent, and able to do whatever I put my mind to.
What I learned
The interaction I had with students really affected how I viewed a school. At some, the students snickered at the prospective students on tours. At others, students invited me to hang out in the student center or to attend comedy performances to help me get a good feel for what campus life was really like.
The money factor
It will be difficult for my family to pay for a school as expensive as Swarthmore. My college fund has decreased in value significantly during the downturn. Swarthmore reevaluated my financial aid package, however, and gave me a larger scholarship. I will take out federal Stafford loans each year and get an on-campus job. The rest will be covered by loans, work-study, and my family. We hope that the financial forecast will look up in the coming years so that paying for my education will get a little bit easier.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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