Umbar - Cornell University - Class of 2013
Hometown: Leesburg FL
High School: Public
GPA: 4.0 / 4.6 (weighted)
Major: Psychology (formerly biology)
Goal: A career in medicine, aiding those in need around the world
Freshman Year Update
Freshman year has, so far, been quite a ride. I've been challenged academically more than ever before. I have had to change some of my habits and work my hardest. Some classes are great, some are not so great. I have met many people from all over the world, though, and learned much from all of my new experiences.
In order for one to get the most out of college, getting involved in activities outside of school work is key. But be proactive because nothing is going to come searching for you. Whether it is becoming a part of something that you are passionate about, or something that simply interests you, find something that you can enjoy.
Sophomore Year Update
Some of my classes have inspired me and given me new passions and interests, while others have been frustrating. Some have led me to question whether medical school is the right choice for me. Being a premed means having to devote much of your time to studying because of the importance medical schools place on grades. So of course balancing social life and academics is a challenge, especially at Cornell where premed classes are large and highly competitive. I still wonder how my college experience would have turned out if I had not applied for an early decision and had the option of choosing among many schools. College is what you make of it, though, and I am learning to accept the challenges, work my hardest, and keep a positive attitude.
Junior Year Update
Junior year you start to really think about your future and what you need to do to accomplish your goals. So find what you love to study and the rest will fall into place. Ever since I switched my major from biology to psychology, I have become a happier and more successful student. You also have to know when to put the work aside and take care of yourself, emotionally and physically. I am still thinking of medical school, but I would like more experiences to validate that goal. I am in no rush to get into my career!
Senior Year Update
I am making my last year as memorable as possible by spending time with friends, exploring Ithaca's gorges, parks, and restaurants, and attending campus events that I didn't make time for earlier. My advice is to seek out and make use of the opportunities your college affords. Getting involved with Cornell's Public Service Center was one of the best decisions I made—I was able to go on service trips that changed my perspective and future goals. I now know that I want to make service work my profession. I am still considering medicine but also thinking about clinical psychology. I plan to work in the non-profit sector while trying to figure out what I want to do.
Researching colleges began as a daunting process. Unfortunately, financial difficulties prevented visits to schools in the Northeast, where the majority of the schools on my list were located. However, I was able to visit the campuses of the colleges that interested me in my home state. From these visits and the invaluable Internet, I was able to learn exactly what I wanted in a school and how I imagined my dream setting to look and feel.
Finding the perfect college—on paper
Each college had to offer generous financial aid packages. Each college had to be well known for its academics. I valued this because I wanted to attend a school that would challenge me and everything I knew. I wanted to learn beyond the realm of my major. And finally, I looked for colleges that provided generous resources to help students enter into their fields of work immediately upon graduation.So where exactly was my ideal college? After spending much of my childhood in New York City, I always dreamt of going to college there. I believed Columbia University was the place for me—and it was the school my family designated as "perfect." Once my own college research began, however, I began to question my real interest in this dream.
My idea of perfection evolves
After moving to a small, rural town in Florida I realized the urban city life was the exact opposite of what I wanted. I wanted the natural beauty, isolation, and tight-knit community of a rural town. I also wanted small classes where more attention could be focused on the student. After stumbling across accounts of the breathtaking beauty of Ithaca, I knew that its college, Cornell University, could potentially be "it." Cornell has about 13,000 undergraduates, but they are divided among seven colleges and about 75 percent of the classes have less than 30 students.
With the deadline for early decision approaching, I made a drastic decision: to showcase my genuine love for Cornell by applying for an early decision. I was afraid that I would be rejected, so I created a rejection plan: apply regular decision to five other schools. To my astonishment, I was accepted! Words can hardly describe the moment. My recent visit to Cornell confirmed my feelings for the school; it went above and beyond my expectations!
My ups and downs
The most challenging aspect of the application experience was getting through it alone. Though my family, friends, and counselor supported me throughout my process, I still felt I had to learn the ins and outs of the application process on my own. Neither of my parents attended college and therefore had little advice to offer in that area.
The greatest satisfaction was knowing that my admission to Cornell was the product of my own hard work, diligence, and perseverance. I was truly proud of myself once it was over. And of course, being done with high school forever was a close second.
What I learned
Allow yourself to learn more about what you truly want in a school. Give yourself ample time to look up schools and not just ones with big names, but as many as you can. Schools you thought would be perfect for you often really aren't. Trust yourself and do what is right for you. After all, you are the one who will be learning and living in that college.
Do not get bogged down by students' reviews of the school—every school has students who love it and students who hate it. You have to find the school that is right for you, one that is a good "fit." What that means is determined solely by you and not by opinions and rankings.
I found it helpful to have a notebook solely dedicated to the college application process. I made lots of lists, wrote rough drafts of essays, wrote down questions to ask during my interview, and compared schools and scholarships. Also, utilize the Internet and its vast resources! CollegeData was one of the best sites I stumbled across, along with others. The amount of information you can gain online is unlimited.
I had the preconceived notion, along with many other striving high school seniors, that being the perfect applicant is the key to getting in. But being who you are and loving who you are may actually be the key to getting into your "dream school." It is worth it to find a school that selects you among thousands of others because they want the kind of person you are.
Most important, have confidence in your ability and your potential. Never underestimate yourself! Embrace the challenge of applying to college as one you could learn and grow from.
The money factor
Cornell fully satisfied my financial needs. My educational costs are covered by my financial aid package, scholarships, and loans.
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