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    Albany High School seniors reflect on college application experience

    Ian Allen, a senior at Albany High School, will be attending Columbia University in the fall. Several hundred students will soon graduate from the school and go to various colleges across the country. Photo by Linda (Linjun) Fan.

    Madeleine Miller-Bottome, another senior of the school, talked to Ian and several other students on their college application experiences and wrote the following story.

    What seems to be the most prevalent piece of advice thrown about to students venturing into the college application and decision process is “Don’t stress about it too much. It will work out. ” Maybe it was just me, because probably, I did stress about college too much, and did not trust that it was going to work out. Now sitting somewhat comfortably in a position that allows for some retrospection, I was curious to hear how my peers found the experience.

    ***
    Ian Allen will be attending the Fu School of Engineering as an applied physics major at Columbia University in the fall. The role of his parents in the college process and decision was “pretty much nothing,” but he explained that what has largely contributed to his success as a student has been the fact that he “honestly really enjoys learning about all this stuff.”

    Ian’s passion and skill at science was cultivated after joining the Science Bowl team during his freshman year.

    “I think that was the number one thing that helped me out. It sparked a huge interest in science for me and it made me think that [science] would be something that I would want to spend my life doing,” he said.

    He did the intensive study required for Science Bowl participants, took community classes, even did an internship at the Berkeley Lab, but he never did the activites with college in mind.

    “I was more after learning about the stuff and being able to compete,” Ian said.

    His advice for underclassmen approaching the application season, “Don’t stress out about it too much.”

    ***

    Jose Reyes Cuerto will be attending UC Berkeley next spring with a $32, 000 scholarship.

    “It’s such huge relief,” he says about the scholarship. “My dad always told me, ‘ I don’t care what I have to do, you go to whatever college you want to, don’t worry about cost.’ But now that I got the scholarship, and now that he has four years he won’t have to pay tuition, he can build the hospital he’s always wanted to build for his community.”

    The dreams that his father, who lives in Mexico, had for Jose were a big influence on his college aspirations.

    “From the beginning, my father was always ‘These are the universities that are the best, and I want you to apply, because I want you to be the best.'”

    But his Dad’s dreams were never a pressure for Jose, ” I think it’s more what I grew up with. He always told me, ‘If you don’t get in, it doesn’t matter, we’ll always have a second option.”

    With his parents in Mexico, Jose was responsible for all the application materials, including the financial aid forms, “That I found pretty hard.”

    “I did things I enjoyed more than to get into college. Something my parents always told me, that it’s better to be happy and do what you want to do instead of looking forward to something that might not even happen. My parents always taught me to be involved.”

    So Jose participated in clubs like Model U.N., Amnesty International, and the Latino Student Union. Once he began taking AP classes, school was challenging, but he enjoyed his classes.

    “I always work harder in things I enjoy doing,” he said.
    .
    The best advice Jose could pass on from this college process is not to procrastinate. “That was a big thing. But also, don’ t think about it too much, don’t let college be your only focus. “

    ***
    Raha Mirabdal plans to enroll in Diablo Valley College for two years and then transfer to UC Davis.

    “At first I didn’t want to go to DVC at all, because the reputation is really bad, not just for DVC, but for community college in general. But for me, it’s an easier path, it’s just simpler.”

    It was her parents who in effect encouraged Raha to enroll at DVC, inspired by family friends who had had successful college and career experiences after attending community college.

    Raha says she dreads when people ask her what her plans are for next year, “I have to tell them I’m going to DVC and I feel like I have to explain myself, my plan, they can’t just accept it.”

    She excelled in Biology, took AP English and passed the exam. “I kind of just did whatever I thought was right for me, it wasn’t for college, it was for myself. “

    The interest she cultivated in her Biology class she said has lead her to want to pursue a science major at Davis to someday be an oncologist. She plans on volunteering at the Children’s Hospital this year to reach this goal.

    “If I was at a UC from the start, I think I’d be really stressed out figuring out a whole new place, new everything, but at DVC I can ease myself into it, and be able to do all the work and volunteering I need to get where I want to go.”

    “If you work hard at what you want, even if you haven’t done perfectly in high school, you can always start fresh. Just go for it right there and then, ” she said.

    What’s my advice? In all honesty, I would suggest taking a cue from Ian, Jose, and Raha. Live in the present. Do the activities you like, take the classes that interest you, and chances are you’ll do better in them.

    One of the most important things I’ve learned from this whole journey is that there really doesn’t seem to be a wrong way to go. Whether your plans are to go to a UC, an Ivy League, or community college, trust this: Don’t stress about it too much. It will work out.

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