Julia - University of Florida - Class of 2013
Hometown: Summit NJ
High School: Public
GPA: 4.32 (weighted)
Major: Environmental Science
Goal: Using the next four years to explore my options in life
Freshman Year Update
At first I felt lost. With 50,000 people walking around and something going on in every corner of campus, it was a little overwhelming. It seemed like everyone already had friends from home to hang out with. Luckily, I joined a sorority and have made many new friends. My first semester did not go well at first, however, thanks to my Greek social life. Now I balance my time so I get my work done and still enjoy the fun. I really can't picture myself anywhere else and wearing any other colors than orange and blue.
The most important advice I can give is to go to class. At a big university there are large classes where attendance doesn't count, so it is very easy to not go. Sign up for times that you are able to attend, and do attend. It sounds obvious, but it can make a huge difference in your grades.
Sophomore Year Update
This year I found myself in the all-too-common sophomore slump. I didn't socialize nearly as much as I did last year, as I had gotten over the initial craziness of being on my own and being able to do whatever I wanted to do. While buckling down and getting work done isn't a bad thing, I do feel that I missed out on some fun experiences. I am now working toward a happy medium. Last semester I worked extremely hard and managed to get a 4.0, putting me on the Dean's List. This semester I am looking to do the same, but also have more fun and take advantage of the hundreds of other opportunities at UF.
Junior Year Update
I don't like knowing that I only have one year left to experience anything and everything this university has to offer! I can now balance my school work, internships, and social calendar, so I can pursue almost any activity that appeals to me. For example, I am an accounting intern at a nonprofit, which links my environmental science major with my business minor. This summer I hope to intern in the D.C. area to gain experience with environmental policy.
To build my college list, I used various websites such as CollegeData to get ideas of some colleges I might like. I also visited different types of colleges and figured out which qualities in a college were important to me. I listened to the advice of my parents and my advisor to figure out a general list, and then I finalized it myself with the schools I knew I would be happy at.
My college list heads south of the (New Jersey) border
When I visited a few different types of colleges, I found out that I did not want a small rural school. I needed to be somewhere with a lot going on. I also wanted a school with a lot of school spirit since my high school lacked in that department. I originally didn't want a huge school, but over time I realized that I could handle the size and that I might like living in a larger place. Another big requirement for me was weather. I did not want to endure another freezing winter. So I went south with my schools. And since I did not want to be terribly far away from home, I stuck with the Southeast.
Joining the Gator Nation
After I eliminated my safeties (College of Charleston and American University) my two choices were University of Florida and University of Miami. The colleges had very different environments. University of Miami had a city vibe, but had a private campus feel as well. It was more upbeat, as the city of Miami has its fair share of clubs. There was also a beach vibe since it is only minutes from the beach. University of Florida had a much more classic feel. Brick buildings and pathways covered the campus. Everyone seemed much more relaxed and very friendly. All the students seemed genuinely involved in the school. I visited each school and imagined myself walking around each campus every day. I was intimidated by the huge University of Florida campus, but as I walked around it got smaller and smaller. I didn't feel lost at all. I just felt comfortable. So I picked University of Florida.
A few weeks later I was accepted off the waitlist at Emory. I was tempted. At Emory I could run track because it is a Division Three school. I've always loved track, but my times and distances were not at the level of the elite Gators. But Emory is a much smaller school, and school spirit there is not even comparable to University of Florida's. I just couldn't see myself anywhere else except the Gator Nation.
My ups and downs
I had the most difficulty with the short answers and the essays. Once I'd write one, I'd just want to be done. But we had to go over it again and again to make sure it was perfect. It was an exhausting experience. Asking as many people as possible to help go over my application and edit my essays really helped ease the stress. The more people I asked for help, the better my essays seemed to get. When I was done with them, I was happy with them. I knew they were well written.
What I learned
Don't stress too much. Start early on your applications. Work on them for a little bit every couple of days. Ask for help if you need it. There are plenty of people, including parents, teachers, and counselors—and maybe even some friends—who would be willing to read through your work and help you perfect it. Just do the best that you can with what you have. Wherever you go to school, you will be happy because you should only apply to schools that you could definitely see yourself attending.
The money factor
I received an out-of-state tuition reduction which helps. We are trying to switch residencies so the tuition for the following years will be even less.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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