What college to go to?

I have no idea what college I’m going to. I mean I have another year to think about it but like I don’t even have a dream school. And tuition fees are just going up and up with a lot of schools charging 70-80,000 dollars a year. Everywhere is so expensive and its harder to get in to places. I dunno maybe I’m overthinking all this but I really have no idea where I wanna go. There’s so many cool places with awesome programs, but not all of them have good scholarships. My mom tells me I shouldn’t worry about the money side of things but we can’t pay for 80,000 a year without student loans and FRICK student loans. The wage and finance system is rigged against the working class and I am the working class. But I guess I’ll figure it out when I get to it.

Ending a chapter

Five more weeks. Only five more weeks and one of the biggest chapters of my life will come to an end. I came to America 3 years ago, planning on only staying for half a year. And now here I am, three years later. These have been the best three years of my life. I will miss this place more than I can explain. All the memories and people. It is hard leaving it behind. But I know that I will always be connected to this place and to the people. I know I will return, and I have made friendships for life here. 

Even though I am very sad to leave, I am also excited to see what the future will hold. I have so many plans and trips coming up that I can hardly wait for. I am taking a gap year in which I will be in a different country every month doing my wildlife photography. I am going on a 1-month backpacking trip in Montana and I have so many more plans, and then college. I couldn’t be happier with my college decision. I will be attending Montana State University. The location is absolutely beautiful, they have amazing programs, and their outdoor program is everything I was looking for in a college. The Yellowstone ecosystem is just 30 minutes away from campus and there are awesome ski resorts nearby.

I am incredibly sad to leave Highschool but I will never forget the people and memories I have made here. Thank you for the best three years of my life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montana_State_University

Deciding

As colleges acceptances come to a close, I am left with a mere thirty days to decide where I want to spend the next four years.

Based on circumstances I can’t remember, I have narrowed it down to two colleges. One of prestige, and one of comfort.

Now I must decide, do I go to a school the size of a small town with a bumper sticker name, or a smaller school a step up from high school? As I gravitate towards the larger school, another big one comes in to play.

The final college decision letter. What was originally my top choice (though now I’m unsure) will now be competing with my new, other top choice.

There are two outcomes to this situation. Either they reject me and I’m disappointed, though my decision is made easier. Or I am accepted, and I now must choose.

I can’t decide which is harder. Though subconsciously, I know which choice is right.

Image Credit: UCLA Newsroom

Celebrating College

As if this time of year doesn’t hold enough college admission angst, I decided this past weekend to tackle Netflix’s newly released docudrama: Varsity Blues, The College Admission Scandal.

Because I had followed every twist and turn of that case since it erupted two years ago, I figured it would provide a little light distraction as I graded AP World History essays and Humanities reading journals.

I was wrong. In fact, I got NO grading done as I once again descended into the depths of the largest college admission scheme ever prosecuted by the federal government.

Through reenactments and interviews with those involved, the docudrama vividly recounted the lengths to which wealthy and influential parents went to secure spots for their children in some of the nation’s most-selective colleges and universities.

Some paid millions of dollars to buy the help of those who could game the system when it came to admissions to schools including Yale, Stanford, Harvard, USC and many others.

Fifty people – including parents, test administrators and college coaches – were charged in the scheme, which involved hiring people to falsify SAT results, wrongfully secure accommodations for standardized testing and pay off coaches to fraudulently recruit students for sports at which they had no college-level expertise.

At the center of the scandal was a for-profit college consultant who parents paid to bribe coaches and college administrators, establishing a “side door” by which the super rich could push their children to the head of the college admission line.

As college counselor, none of this information was new to me. But I was particularly struck at the end of the docudrama as a group of admissions officials, test administrators and others layered context onto the chaos that too often surrounds the college admissions process, especially when it comes to the scramble to gain access to the nation’s so-called top-tier schools.

“What are we doing to these kids by pounding them into the ground with Top 25 (colleges in America), Top 10, Top 5, because ultimately where you do go to school has little or no affect on what will happen to you in the future,” admonished Barbara Kalmus, an independent education consultant featured in the film.

Added Daniel Golden, author of The Price of Admission, a powerful book on how big money buys big access to top schools: “Forget about USC, go someplace else. You can get a great education almost any place if you want it. The parents in this case didn’t believe that.”

This time of year, those words are particularly meaningful.

As of the end of the week, barreling toward the end of this unprecedented school year, our 21 seniors had racked up 103 college acceptances.

Some of those areto the very same top-tier schools that were the focus of so much attention in the docudrama. But many more are to colleges and universities that don’t make any national Top 25 list, but which our students are eager to explore and perhaps attend.

So yes, Johns Hopkins and UCLA and NYU (all top 30 colleges on U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of best national universities) make this year’s list of OVS college acceptances.

But so does Montana State University, a majestic campus in Bozeman where one of our seniors plans to study photography. And Pepperdine University, where one of our seniors is looking at film studies while another is considering business school. And Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where one of our seniors wants to pursue environmental studies and journalism.

As always, our goal remains to help students find and gain access to their “right fit” colleges and universities, those schools that that are going to fuel their ambitions, sharpen their talents and shape them into the adults they were meant to become.

It’s both easy and crazy making to run to the rankings and compare our acceptance list against those at other schools, keeping a keen eye on those colleges the outside world considers prestigious.

But that does our students a disservice, and it cheapens the curriculum and values that we at Ojai Valley School work so hard to promote.

At OVS, we provide a challenging academic curriculum designed to prepare students for college. But that preparation also includes teaching students to climb a rock face and ride a horse and belt out a solo in the school musical. It involves pushing students to get out of their comfort zones, to contribute to and become part of something larger than themselves, to expand their perspectives and see where and how they fit into the larger world.

In that way, college preparation never stops as OVS.

This week, as many of our seniors enjoyed a gentle rafting trip down Utah’s San Juan River, our sophomores took the PSAT while most of our juniors sat for the first time for the SAT. The juniors also are in the midst of working through the college counseling curriculum, preparing to take on the application process next year.

There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in this country, and the students will spend a lot of time figuring out which of those will fit best with their talents, interests and passions.

But in so many ways, those choices are simply an extension of a philosophy they’ve been living as OVS students. It’s quite a journey, and I’m lucky enough to be along for the ride.

Reams Full Of Dreams

It really just begins as a question:

Who do you want to be?

There’s no answer yet,

just confusing clues,

and time.

At some point the rough outline, the shadow, the future is visible: 

now just a gossamer dream, 

but focusing with time, condensing…

I pour myself into the process.

I’m buying what they’re selling,

buying a future,

buying a me.

They’re selling dreams, outlines, frames for faces,

65 bucks a pop!

Expensive. But this boardwalk is a long one.

I pick places.

Leaves?

Seasons?

Words etched in stone?

Wood?

Steel?

All the while working, working.

Pressure to be better,

be happy,

be me,

pressure to do more,

to be more,

and all the while working. Guilty

because I know I could work harder,

and be happier.

Do more.

I could cover more ground,

jump through more gilded hoops,

be better,

do more,

be me-er.

Ideas stuck on frail words

clamouring to speak out

above the clamor.

Distilling self

into neat columns,

busy with intricacy.

From a fermenting mess:

fine spirit.

Then I wait,

as a man in Massachusetts thumbs through reams of dreams.

from istock.com

Persistent.

People always try to change in certain ways they want, and despite the people who actually achieve it, most of the people fail to do so.

This trivial factor would eventually categorize us in society. Of course there are other factors that might’ve affected the result, but based on the fact that we started from zero, people who strive tend to prosper, which is common knowledge.

We know this fact so well that there are so many films, speeches, books, and etc.

However, a lot of people fail to do so, because we do not change that easily.

Habits are really hard to change, because a habit is a pattern of our life that we’ve been doing constantly.

Some people have habits that would help them achieve their goals, and some have habits that would distract them from their goals.

In order to start a routine for your goal, you need to be persistent for good amount of time and remove all the factors that would distract you from doing so.

Persistency is crucial for you to change, which is an ability that I did not really acquire. However, I will try my best to do so.

PC: America’s future foundation

Year III

This is my last year in high school where my grades need to be A’s, where my extra curricular activities matter. This is my last year where cramming in PSAT prep will benefit me, and the last year where SAT prep is a dreaded ritual.

After this year, the hours on hours of work, sleepless nights,  cramming for texts, student leadership applications, struggles I faced, fun memories I had, volunteer activities, extra curriculars, and sports achievements will all be put on to a single document… The last three years of my life will be put on a document; an application.

By the end of this year I’m supposed to have a general idea of my life plan, my career, and my identity.

By the end of the year I’m supposed to have perfect SAT scores, ACT scores, and 5’s on AP tests.

By the end of the year I’m supposed to be a person who will stand out amongst millions of other applicants.

This is my last year to become who colleges want me to be while still trying to stay true to the person I want to be.

In less than 365 days, I will need a paper explaining who I am, what I want to do, what I stand for, what sets me apart, and why I belong at the college receiving the paper. All of who I am, all of why I’m special, and all of why I belong in 650 words.

A transcript and 650 words which will determine my future, career and where I will be for the next four to eight years.

A lot to think about… a lot to do, a lot at stake. Welcome to junior year.

Photo Credit: artsy.net

Thank You OVS

I’ve started this draft several times. I’ve written sentences and sentences only to change them, revise them, and, eventually, just completely eradicate them and end where I started: with nothing. Because every time I try to write about this, I can’t formulate the right words to say. Even though I’ve discovered at OVS that one of my biggest passions is writing, I’m speechless when I try to write about what these last four years meant to me.

When I came to OVS for the first time, I was an awkward freshman. I had no friends, no idea what I was doing, and no idea who I was or who I wanted to be.

The four years to follow threw me in for a loop of highs and lows in self development, friendships, and life. Now I have just a couple days until the craziest, most amazing four years of my life come to an end. Every year at this time, I had a strong desire for the days to end as quickly as possible so I could enjoy my summer break. This time, I’m scared for the inevitable last day of school to come. I’m holding on to every last second I can.

I’ve been to three graduations here. Every single one making me sadder than the rest, but there was always happiness in my heart when I’d hug my friends goodbye for the summer, especially because I knew I’d see them again. On May 31st, I’ll hug all my friends, but, when fall rolls around, I won’t see them again on the hill that’s been my second home for the past four years. We’ll all be scattered across the country taking on different cities and pursuing different passions. We won’t see each other at breakfast every morning or at the barn at the end of every day. We’ll see each other through FaceTime calls and at reunions during our holiday breaks. I’m bound to cry at graduation because of it all.

I’m happy we’re all going to colleges we want to go to and I know that these friends are the ones I’ll have for life. But the realization that this is our last week as high schoolers together is still sending a wave of shock over me that I’ve been drowning in the past couple weeks.

I’m horrified for what the future holds, but, at the same time, I feel so ready. Four years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be ready for college and eight years ago I didn’t have any faith that I would even be going to college. Now, I’m excited to walk into the unknown and I have OVS to thank for it all:

For being a school that’s given me the opportunity to branch out and try everything I could ever want to try. I didn’t have to stick to one niche. I got to be a risk-taking athlete, an unfiltered writer, a confident leader, and everything in between.

Photo Credit: ocsaledger.com

The equestrian program for giving me a horse I love more than myself. For giving me a place I’ve made my best friends.

The camping trips where I went running through the Yosemite forests at night time with no flashlight and rode the bull of the raft while river rafting on the Kern trip. For making me push my limits and having them turn out to be the most rewarding moments of my life. For making me realize I love camping even though I hate going days without showering.

For my AP Spanish class making me fall in love with the language all over again and decide to study abroad in Spain instead of France. Law/Gov class that furthered my excitement to move to D.C. to study politics and intern on Capitol Hill. Especially for my journalism class that provided a source of gossip, a place to rant, and an endless supply of snacks, but more importantly, it has given me an outlet to explore writing and inspire me to pursue it in college.

Thank you for everything. For the good, the bad, and everything in between. No words could say it all.

I’m not gonna lie and say this school is perfect. There’s so much I’ve complained about and so many things I would change. But if I’m going to be honest, it was perfect for me. It was the place I needed for the kind of person I was to become who I am today. I had no idea what my purpose was or what my passions were and, while I’m still on a road of self-discovery, OVS put me on the right path.

And for that, I’ll forever be thankful.

My Future

I’m really confused about how my life is going to go in the future. I know what I want to, I’m just not sure how I’m going to do it.

My plan was to go either UCSB, Stanford, USC, or a college in Australia to study Marine Biology and/ or Environmental Science. I would then go to law school and become an environmental lawyer. At college, I would swim and play water polo.

Well, now I’m really in to running. I love triathlons too. I know I’m going to play sports in college, but which ones?

Recently I’ve been thinking about become a humane officer. It pains me to know that so many animals are suffering and abused. I want to dedicate my life to stopping the cruelty that takes place everyday.  I want to do this, but there are some issues.

A humane officer makes 32,000 dollars annually. I don’t have millions of dollars in family money, I don’t have a billion dollars in my bank account, and I want to stay in California. I’m afraid 32,000 dollars would not be enough to have a home, a car, and eventually kids.

So, my plan is now to stick with being an environmental lawyer. I still really want to be a humane officer though…

Again, on the topic of money, I realized that I’m not going to have enough money to go to any of the colleges I want to go to. I could go to junior college. It would save a lot of money and I can save up for my next two years at a university.

I also want to take a gap year and go to the Peace Corps…

Will I go straight to a four year school? I wonder where I’m going to live after college? What college am I going to go to? What law school will I go to? Will I still want to be a lawyer, or will my opinions change? What sports will I play? Will I have a boyfriend? Will I get married? Am I going to have kids? When will I retire? Will I become a humane officer?

I don’t know, honestly. But maybe in thirty years, I’ll come back to this post and reflect on everything I did or didn’t do.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Better in the End

I’ll admit, I over dramatize situations in the moment without thinking that the universe is working in ways I don’t understand. It’s one of my many flaws. I, also, realize that maybe the situations I’m crying about will be the ones I’m thankful for looking back at them.

Just two weeks ago, I had a different idea of where I wanted to go to college. When I found out I was waitlisted, I had a breakdown just thinking about it. Yesterday, I committed to a university on the other side of the country, a school completely different from the one I wanted to go to and, in some ways, better.

Last year, this university wasn’t even on my radar. When I was asked back in September if I wanted to consider applying to schools in Washington D.C., I laughed. I never even considered D.C., but I applied anyways, just for fun.

Photo Credit: toursofwashingtondc.com

And, by applying, I mean put the application in my Common Application account and completely forget about it. The questions were thought provoking and daunting and my top choice was a school that was supposed to be a safety school. So, I missed the deadline, and I didn’t care.

But, the universe does work in mysterious ways, because the following day, I got an email from the school saying they extended my deadline. Now, I wanted to apply.

It was funny, because right after I applied it quickly became one of my top choices, but I ignored it. I didn’t think I would get in. I didn’t want one of my top schools to be one I didn’t have a chance to get into.

I never thought I would get in. I already got denied and waitlisted from schools with easier acceptance rates and I was getting myself excited about other schools just in case the ones I actually wanted to go to denied me.

Then, last Thursday, I got an email saying decisions would be released at 2:00 pm. The next ten minutes were agonizing; ready to face another rejection letter and accept that I’d go to a school I only really wanted to go to for all the wrong reasons. Then, I opened the portal and clicked the decision. The first words I read were “Congratulations.” Congratulations for being denied? It had to be a mistake, but it wasn’t. I was accepted, I was so happy, and now I’m going to a school on the other side of the country, ready to take on new challenges, a new school, and a new city.

Two weeks ago I was devastated and when my family said something better would come my way, I didn’t believe them. But, they were right for what I want in life, to be immersed into a world of politics, journalism, and law. To have great internship opportunities, explore amazing cities, and study abroad. I couldn’t have ended up in a school better for me.

Those hours of crying were worth it, because if they were hours spent happy, my next four years would be completely different from how they’re going to turn out. I don’t know what will happen. Worst case scenario: I transfer. Best case scenario: I absolutely love the school and spend the next four years there, but one thing’s for sure now: things really do turn out better in the end.