May 1st: But What If I Make the Wrong Decision? Some Advice From a Graduating Senior
A little bit of an intro: I get pretty my-way-of-being honest here, so please take whatever I say with a grain of Himalayan pink salt! (If you haven’t had it, you should. It’s just really good salt #highbloodpressureonedaywhat). If you have any questions or concerns, email me at email@example.com. Even though I am graduating, I WILL be checking my email, so send that email :). Also I REALLY hope I don’t sound pretentious when talking about the full scholarship thing because basically I was really lucky and my mother made me do lots of random work with math and SAT stuff and all glory goes to her (If you need context, check out the Subtle Curry Traits & Subtle Asian Traits Facebook group because it is my LIFE in no uncertain terms. Also, the Subtle Mixed Traits & Subtle Halfie Traits are my life but in HD)
Hello, all the dear prospective students!
I hope that everyone’s doing well. As you all are coming into Vandy or other schools, congratulations on finishing high school! Some of y’all are in the middle of finals, some of y’all are done, and some of y’all were done a long time ago but are still doing work #senioritis.
I know that there are a lot of tough decisions to make, and so many factors. Some of you are making those decisions today – hello, all of you lovely people who are still feeling conflicted about the process.
Here’s a little advice (okay, a lot) if you’re still worried about making the wrong decision! I really hope that you aren’t if you’re reading this post, but if you are, that’s okay. Since I’ve answered about three emails in the past 48 hours about decisions, I thought I might write a post about it. As a graduating senior, maybe this can help:
0. I’m just going to be (actually) short about this: rank is like IQ. The rank of a school matters at the top and the bottom, like IQ. People with very high IQs tend to have more professional degrees, better job opportunities, etc., than people with very low IQs, but in the middle, it doesn’t matter. (This is not a slight against people with low IQs, it’s just what the data said. IQ, like any other characteristic, is just that – a characteristic – and not a good or bad thing, just a thing). IQ has been proven too many times not to be correlated to success. Very driven people, regardless of what university they go to, will do well and experience (hopefully, their own versions of) success. Please don’t get hung up on “Oh no, Vandy is 14 and somewhere else is 32 and will that affect my long-term [own version of] success?” I know that parents can get hung up on rank and everyone always likes to be at the top, but a little humility and common sense can go a long way. That’s all I’m saying. Okay, now I have more to say on related topics…
1. There are no wrong decisions, just outcomes that might be improved. Also, even though you might have a “feeling” that you were meant to be at some college, time tells so much better than a gut feeling when you step on campus. Time at a university gives you the space to explore opportunities at school that you will not hear about on the tour, meet professors who only have a few sentences about them in their bio online, and ferret out all the friends who know about more things that you can do. Time is the best tell for if you will like a university or not, and I have had SO many friends who thought they had “settled” when they first attended university who are now graduating and were able to find out what they wanted to pursue at the university they now love. And I’ve also had some other friends who did give it a try and then ended up transferring. And transferring is okay.
EX: Settling –> Now loving it: A friend who wasn’t admitted to Vandy, ended up going to a state school where she applied for a joint BS/MD program, was admitted, and now is attending the MD program in the fall. Another friend who wasn’t admitted to an Ivy, chose a BS/MD program (full scholarship + stipend + guaranteed admission to the top med school in the state) at a lesser known state university, was able to travel to Europe on the dime of the scholarship, and now is in her second year of that MD program at our most competitive state med school.
EX: Gave it a try –> Transferred: A few friends I know who transferred to Vandy from schools that they tried or attended because they weren’t admitted to Vandy the first time and/or didn’t like their first school for different reasons, who now love Vandy. I also have some friends who attended Vandy who ended up transferring to other schools because Vandy didn’t fit their vibe. Many people transfer for many reasons (family, mental health, difficult situations). Something also to keep in mind: students who transfer can sometimes be more driven to find a place at their new school because it might not be possible to transfer again, depending on year/major/cost/etc. Side note: one of my best friends is a transfer student! That has no bearing on anything, just that I’m glad that she transferred because I would have not met her otherwise.
2. If you’re between a full scholarship somewhere and an Ivy League/top-ranked school with no money, I can tell you that
a) as a full scholarship admit to Vandy with other acceptances, I could not have had more opportunities to explore math, music, pre-med, travel, and my faith than through the scholarship I was given. You might be like: but how do you know that you couldn’t have had more opportunities? Probably because I took a full course load most semesters, was able to found three organizations, studied everything from community health through my research to math in my major to violin for my minor and traveled to so many cities in the US and abroad. Ugh, that sounded pretentious. Just my attempt to give context if you haven’t read my blogs before! ;(
EX: If you click on my name, you can scroll through my posts! Enough said :).
b) Because I competed for full scholarships with other students and knew others from high school with other full scholarships, literally everyone I know with those scholarships or who were supported by some sort of other scholarship who is attending medical or graduate school are now going on to Ivy/top-ranked graduate programs and are so happy with their decisions not to go into debt to pay for their education. Many of the scholarships also came with travel and stipend opportunities that helped them explore their passions in deeper ways. My own stipend led me to travel to 10 countries to study palliative care, and the Honors Seminars I took as part of the Honors College here deepened my interests in community health, Italian film, biology, and so many other subjects.
EX: Some very amazing people I know in the situation above from Vandy (soon-to-be and current listed): Harvard Med + Stanford Med admit, Stanford Law student, Columbia Med student, PhD in Math at Northwestern, PhD in Comp Sci at Stanford, Northwestern Med admit + Northwestern Med second-year, PhD in Bioinformatics at Vandy, more than several med students at Vandy Med, PhD in Physics at Columbia, Master’s in Public Health at Columbia, PhD in Biology at Yale, two first-year students at Yale Nursing, a first-year nursing student at Duke.
EX: Some very amazing people I know in the situation above from an amazing scholarship program called the UTD McDermott Scholars (University of Texas at Dallas): just scroll through the Facebook of the UTD McDermott scholars. So many incoming PhD’s, MD’s, and people working at Amazon and other competitive companies.
3.If you are considering going into a large amount of debt versus a state school (even if you’re going into debt for Vandy!), consider that many state schools are amazing places with often more opportunities than private universities simply because they are so big. They might not have the same type of connections at “higher ranked” than at Vandy (although really, because they are so big, many do!), but those connections at “higher ranked” schools are often better explored in graduate school anyway. State schools are really great places – the only reason I didn’t go is because Vandy had the best opportunities in math, music, premed, and in a Catholic enter for price than the particular state schools I was thinking about, even though the two full scholarships at state schools I was applying to would have made it cheaper than Vandy (read: free versus paying for room and board). For me and my family, though, we were able to pay the equivalent of my high school tuition because of Vandy’s math program versus that of the other two schools, Vanderbilt’s School of Music, and the accessibility to premed opportunities in the med center. But that was us – every situation is different. Seriously. People can be like “Oh, state school,” in some kind of snobbish voice but no name is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt tracking you for the rest of your life. Debt can shape your post-grad plans, debt shapes how you live in college (Can you go out with your friends? Can you afford small trips? If you have a medical emergency that is not covered by insurance, will you be able to pay for it?)
4. With that said, if you make the decision to take out loans for the school that you will be attending/will be on work-study/need to earn money that financial aid doesn’t cover (Agh, that can be so frustrating!), then good for you for making the sacrifice for your education! It’s awesome that you are taking this step – college education is an incredibly valuable thing, and everyone’s steps towards achieving that bachelor’s degree are different. If you are looking at getting a job to pay for those loans or whatever financial aid doesn’t cover…
– Start looking at restaurants/retail/other places surrounding your campus and see if they might have fall job openings.
– Identify where the grocery store is – making food with your friends can be a lot cheaper (and more fun!) then going out to eat.
– Talk with your financial aid office about work-study opportunities. And once on campus, don’t be afraid to ask more about someone’s on-campus job – the on-campus jobs that I’ve had have been through friends I made who knew that there were openings that weren’t online!
– Look for online jobs – if you go to a Top 20 school, CollegeVine might be able to hire you to help out with college admissions! Things like being a Chegg tutor, CollegeVine consultant, or other college-related things, can be a really good and flexible way of earning a little more cash in addition to an on-campus job (some campuses have a limit on how much you can work – for Vanderbilt, it’s 19 hours a week).
– Library jobs, research assistant jobs – some do pay! – and other on-campus jobs can often be accessed through a website specifically for undergraduate on-campus jobs. For Vanderbilt, it’s called HireADore.
– Also, don’t be afraid to try to negotiate for more financial aid – many schools have large endowments that you can have access to if you just talk with a financial aid officer. That isn’t true for some situations and some schools, but I have had friends who received thousands more just because they asked.
5. Wherever you go, know that you will probably find many things to love about that place. Once the adrenaline of the process wears off (for a lot of you, that is probably now!), it can be so exciting to stalk the website of the school, find students who are currently there, Facebook friend/Instagram or Twitter follow/Snapchat add all the other admitted students, look at research opportunities and clubs, and start planning the most amazing dorm room ever. Have SO much fun and enjoy doing these things!!! If you’re nervous about college, just take a deep breath and know that about four or so years from now, you’ll be sitting on a couch somewhere, finished with everything, and feeling so weird about the whole thing (is this me? This is me).
6. If you have questions or want to talk – even if it’s May 1st, 2023 and you’re like “Is she even relevant?” go ahead and assume that I am and email me! I’ll be doing Teach for America for the next two years (June 2019-June 2021) and then probably a year more teaching after that, so I’ll be working in a high school to prospective students such as yourself!
Also, if you have advice or concerns or questions about something I said – also shoot me an email! firstname.lastname@example.org