Once the culture shock of returning to the USA started to wear off and I started to finally relax at home, I began to feel the boredom set in. When I come home for semester breaks, I relish the time I get to spend on the couch reading or watching movies, but after a week I feel antsy and I need to get out of the house and do something productive. Luckily, shortly after I came home from Buenos Aires, one of my favorite teachers from high school asked if I would like to visit her at the new school she teaches at and sit-in on her AP US History class. She asked if I could talk to her students about taking AP classes, applying to college, and studying abroad, and then I could participate in one of their “seminar discussions” on the topic of US History they were currently learning about. I arrived at the classroom early to catch-up with my teacher and once the students were finally settled I spent a few minutes talking about APs and college applications.
I have done more than a few of these types of advice sessions with prospective college students and I remember receiving some of this same college advice when I was in high school. What I’ve learned from all this college chatter over the years is that the most important opinion is your own. I came to talk to the APUSH class from the perspective of someone who in high school was looking to get away and go to a small school on the East Coast. I knew, however, that many of the students in the room were dreaming of West Coast schools like Stanford or UCLA and had never heard of Worcester, Massachusetts. So, instead of pitching them my college experience I focused on relaying to them the lessons I learned from my own college application process.
Lesson #1: don’t apply to a school you wouldn’t want to actually attend. There is always the chance that your one safety school or “throw away” school is the only school you get accepted to.
Lesson #2: Visit, visit, visit. Reading about a school in a college brochure or hearing about it from a friend cannot compare to what you experience in person. You cannot underestimate the importance of the vibe you get when you walk on a campus for the first time.
Lesson #3: At the end of the application process, what’s most important is not the school you go to, but what you make of your experience there. As corny as it may sound, it’s what I have found to be true of my own experience and the experiences of my friends at other schools around the country.
I hope what I told the high school students was helpful in some way. I know they helped me by getting me out of the house for a day! It was fun to be back in the classroom for a few hours, but I am so glad to be in college now and even happier to be spending this year abroad. Who knew it would be a trip back to high school to help me appreciate what I’m experiencing in college?
Katie Riley '14