Eric - UC San Diego - Class of 2013
Hometown: Whippany NJ
High School: Public
GPA: 3.50 / 3.70 (weighted)
Major: Physiology and neuroscience
Goal: Attend medical school
Freshman Year Update
Classes at UCSD are competitive, as it feels like everyone is premed. However, with a steady and effective work ethic, A's are definitely possible. Time management is key. The hardest part is deciding whether to have fun on a weekend or to study. Next year I will be finished with my core curriculum so I can take interesting classes like mammalian physiology, metabolics, and genetics.
I encourage upcoming students to get involved on campus early and to reach out to try new things like traveling abroad to help the less fortunate, joining a sorority or fraternity, or simply finding a research opportunity. My recent trip to Honduras to set up mobile medical clinics reinforced my plans to pursue medicine and pushed me to work harder for the grades I need.
Sophomore Year Update
Freshman year ended with much uncertainty. I decided to explore transferring. I wanted a more preferable location (I'm a city person), a tighter student body, and a more nationally recognized school. In the end, however, I concluded that staying at UCSD was my best option as a premed student.
And I was right. Soon after starting the school year, I got into the major I wanted (physiology and neuroscience) and was offered a job in UCSD's Neuroscience Auditory Research Laboratory. Three months later, I was making significant contributions to experiments and helping to pioneer new techniques. I am part of the team. My name is included in research papers to be published within the next year. My mentor and I are planning for me to intern in the neuroscience laboratory at the University of Basel in Switzerland for the summer of 2012. There, I will be able to conduct research, shadow doctors at the hospital clinic, and travel Europe!
I plan to become a doctor, and a high undergraduate GPA is critical for acceptance into medical schools. So I looked for colleges where I could perform well academically. I also looked for colleges with strong science reputations that would carry weight in medical school admissions.
California, here I come
When I started my college list, two factors were influential. First of all, I wanted a new start on the West Coast. I wanted to make new connections, meet new people, have new weather, surf, and have a chance to say "That's hella cool!" Second, my high school academic record is in no way pristine. My grades took a toll when I switched schools twice in the middle of freshman year. I knew that my cumulative GPA was shot and that the Ivy League was out.
Next I decided I wanted a big school. A big school means many resources, a large variety of majors, and large classes. What? Large classes? I tend to learn better in bigger classes and believe the larger grading curves will favor me. Also, big schools offer a better chance at research opportunities and are usually at the forefront of technology.
I narrowed my list by picking schools that had medical schools and whose undergraduate curriculum was strong in the biological sciences. When I found out the University of California does not consider freshman-year grades when calculating an academic GPA, I was immediately filled with a sense of "belonging" to the UCs! I chose three UCs and filled the rest of my college list with safety and backup schools that matched my needs except for location. Many of the colleges on the list, such as UCLA and USC, were reaches for me. I was not surprised at their rejections.
A touch of cold feet
I was lucky to get into UC San Diego, the only California school that accepted me. My other choices were Boston University and Rutgers. My parents were adamantly against Boston University because they thought Rutgers was a better value and UCSD was more prestigious. Surprisingly, I had a tough time deciding between UCSD and Rutgers. I became quite concerned about the high out-of-state cost of a UC and had second thoughts about moving so far away from my parents. I procrastinated making my decision until my father reassured me. He said that choosing UCSD would be in my best interests and that he could cover the cost.
My ups and downs
At the start of the school year, I was not convinced that I would finish the college application process. I didn't know how to craft my essays to appeal to the admissions committee. Even when I was writing, I felt like I was running in a marathon staring down at the ground, not knowing where I was going and just waiting to see the finish line appear before my eyes. It was only at the end that I could see the grand result of my work. It was fulfilling to see the hard work pay off.
What I learned
Having friends already in college really helps out. I picked most of my colleges after talking to friends who were attending my colleges of interest. Instead of getting answers like "Oh I love it! It's so fun and I learn a lot!" I got answers that pointed out the good aspects and the bad aspects of those schools.
My grades and SATs improved significantly every year, and I think that helped my admission chances. This improvement demonstrated my academic potential more than my cumulative grades did. My extracurriculars were also pretty extensive. I was involved in volunteering, dancing, choreographing, choir, and community services.
The money factor
My parents have taken the burden and assured me that they will be able to pay for my four undergraduate years of tuition. However, they did tell me that I would have to pay for graduate school myself. My parents are now trying to figure out how to become residents of California to qualify for in-state tuition.
ROAD TO COLLEGE
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