College Talk: Justin Park


Justin Park
Rice University
Biological Sciences, Asian Studies
“I originally attended the University of Southern California, but transferred because I wanted to escape the comfort of home and learn in a smaller, more intimate, and academic-driven institution. I am also the Layout Designer for The Rice Thresher, a weekly student-run newspaper I am responsible for designing the front page for. My hope is to become a physician who helps the underserved Asian American population in the U.S., and each day I am getting closer to that dream through high quality education at Rice, direct exposure to all aspects of medicine from the Texas Medical Center, and warm guidance from my awesome professors.”

1. Why did you pick the school that you currently attend?
I wanted to go to an undergraduate-focused, academic-driven, and small-sized institution.

2. How is the food?
We have ribs every other week and loads of guac. So yeah, I can’t complain.

3. It seems like I don’t have any extracurricular activities outside of school. I’m just in school clubs and volunteer at events offered by the clubs. Is there any way to find something meaningful to do outside of school? What did you guys do? Also, I didn’t get any awards and don’t know where to go to at least have an opportunity to earn an award (besides FBLA, TSA or any clubs like that) Do you guys have any suggestions?
Read Rose’s advice.

4. How do I deal with being away from my family?
FaceTime.

5. Do you think you underestimated yourself when you applied to schools?
No, I overestimated myself. I actually regret wasting money on applications to unrealistic dream schools when I could have invested more time in strengthening my apps to schools I actually had a decent chance at.

6. What is college like for you?
Freedom.

7. What’s the difference between a double major and a dual major? Which is better in your opinion?
Read Sarah’s advice.

Questions directed to Justin:

1. Is joining a student run paper going to take up the majority of my time? What can I expect?

Rice is different from most large-sized schools in that its student run paper, The Rice Thresher, is printed only once a week. I am also a designer, so my experience may be unique.

I dedicate all my Monday nights working on the paper, and yes, it is quite an investment on my time given that I usually end at around 1 AM. I don’t work on the paper at all on other days of the week, though. Most writers usually get assigned to a story, and they get an entire week to work on it.

It definitely won’t take up the majority of your time, because school newspapers very much understand that you are a student before you are a journalist. They acknowledge the fact that your academics take precedence over your participation in the paper. Don’t let your fear of time management deter you from joining. It is often where you meet friends from all different backgrounds.

2. Is it hard to transfer from one university to another? What is the process in transferring schools?

Hm, this is a tough question to answer, because so many factors come to play in college admissions, as you may all know. And I am the farthest thing from an expert.

Statistically speaking, yes, it is usually harder to get into a private school as a transfer than as a high school applicant. But it’s definitely not impossible, as long as you are strategic in your application process.
And to be honest, I would say the hardest part is accepting the cold hard truth that the choice you made was not the best decision. I was definitely in denial. I thought that I would love USC, because everyone told me that people end up loving wherever they choose for college. I quickly realized that USC was not my ideal place of education after a couple months of attending, and decided that I should at least try to transfer. I was extremely lucky to have been accepted into my dream school.

The other hard part is that you get less than one year, or two, to make yourself a strong candidate. In that one year, you need to build relationships with the right professors (or TAs, in my case), maintain a competitive GPA, and become involved in extracurricular that matter to you. The good part is that there are no standardized exams to study for.

The process is largely identical to what you go through as a high school senior, Common App and everything (again, I’m talking specifically about transferring to privates). Make sure you maintain a good GPA, and don’t slack off until graduation as high school transcripts are also submitted for review. And make sure you are clear on why you want to transfer to that particular school.

3. What is it like living somewhere so drastically different from DB? Was it difficult to adjust?

It’s not easy. I definitely had a hard time adjusting in Houston, because everything was so different from DB. I couldn’t stand the suffocating humidity, the lack of decent Korean restaurants, and the fact that there’s really nothing to do in Houston except maybe during the Rodeo season (yes, with cows and everything). People actually talk about guns here, “y’all” is embedded in their everyday speech, and some people call you weird for drinking coffee with blueberries when it’s actually just boba milk tea (true story). I never knew I had it so good in California.
But you quickly learn that just because they are different from what you’ve always perceived as good, it doesn’t mean that they are bad. Although I can’t say that I like Houston more, I now embrace everything that makes Houston so different from DB. Texan barbecue is to die for, Southern hospitality is so real that it makes you feel like you’re the meanest person in the world, and gas is so cheap that they might as well be free.

It is a unique experience to separate from home and start anew in an entirely foreign city, and I feel like not many take advantage of that opportunity at the fear of stepping outside of their comfort zone. I also had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have a home to go back to or a person to lean back on, but in exchange, I found myself a second home and whole new group of friends. As Creed from The Office once said, no matter where you end up, human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.