College Talk with Alumni


1. Why did you pick the school that you currently attend?
Justin: I wanted to go to an undergraduate-focused, academic-driven, and small-sized institution.
Claire: I wanted a new experience and thought that this was the perfect opportunity to live on the east coast. I don’t think this is the best way to choose your school. I highly recommend visiting beforehand.
Sarah: I picked the school because firstly, the English department – which was my intended major – was very strong and overall the school had a lot of resources. I also loved the fact that it was in the middle of a fairly major city which gives me the opportunity to do a lot both socially and professionally. Lastly, Penn is known as the “Social Ivy League” and its students are known to have a very “work hard-play hard” mentality which fits me perfectly.
Rose: It was the furthest from home.
Joy: Debating between UCLA, Duke University, and UC Berkeley, I was advised by many to make a pros/cons list. In the end, UC Berkeley had the most pros of all, (See more)

2. How is the food?
Justin: We have ribs every other week and loads of guac. So yeah, I can’t complain.
Claire: The food is okay. I can’t complain—I think I have grown used to it. There are great restaurants in the surrounding area though. You can find anything from cafes to food carts.
Sarah: Dining halls suck, but there are a lot of cool places to eat in the city from hipster cafes to upscale restaurants. There isn’t a lot of good Asian food though in the area T.T.
Rose: UC Davis dorm food is pretty decent. Like anything you might have on a regular basis, it will get old. It is not the food though, it is our nature. The food here specifically is nicely varied: I’ve been able to anything from vegan, vegetarian, Asian, Italian, Thai, Indian, to steak nights and other theme nights of food. I must add: the Otis Spunkmeyer cookies at late night are very, very dangerous.
Joy: The dining food here…. in all honesty, isn’t the best in comparison to places like UCLA. (I don’t know, maybe they’re trying to discourage obesity) However, there is a pro to this— you won’t get the dreaded #freshman15. Also, remember you aren’t just limited to dining hall food. (See more)

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? 🙂 I writing a senior profile for something else and seeing that I don’t have much to write about myself.. Please help out this worried junior!
Justin: Read Rose’s advice.
Claire: Personally, many of my awards were, in fact, from FBLA or TSA. My outside activities consisted of playing sports and music. I found that my most meaningful experience was working in a lab during the summer because it offered me the most insight into my prospective field of interest.
Sarah: If you’re really worried about it, finding internship opportunities to develop professionally or volunteer opportunities to develop personally are great.  I wouldn’t worry too much though.  If you are really involved in school opportunities, there’s still many chances to really make a meaningful impact.
Rose: I think your issue is where your focus is. “meaningful” to who? “awards” for what? By the simple fact that you are a human being, you’ve got more layers and depth than we probably need and most of it just gives us subconscious angst but worst case scenario, you’re not in tune with it all. You’ve got to know yourself. (See more)
Joy: Internship or any sort of work experience is a great way to gain more exposure to different fields. The most important thing, however, is to participate in things that you’re interested in.

4. How do I deal with being away from my family?
Justin: FaceTime.
Claire: Being away from my family actually brought me a lot closer to them. I think that no matter how busy you are in school, you need to schedule some time to call your family. (See more)
Sarah: It is hard in the beginning. But, it gets easier and easier each semester away. Calling and texting is a great way to stay in touch. The two things that helped me the most though, is really committing to the college experience by finding activities I was passionate about and finding a solid group of friends who become my second family.
Rose: You start focusing on you. You realize that you’ve spent 18 years in the nest of people who will love you unconditionally. To be in such an environment for longer can be detrimental to a person’s growth. (See more)
Joy:  Being away from family is definitely not easy, but constant communication can definitely help. Be it through text, Facebook, or Skype, there are infinite ways to keep in touch with friends and family back home. In the beginning, it’ll be difficult. (See more)

5. Do you think you underestimated yourself when you applied to schools?
Justin: 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.
Claire: I didn’t really underestimate myself. However, I did find it extremely difficult to express my life story in 200 word prompts.
Sarah: Definitely, but I don’t regret doing so. It made being rejected much easier and being accepted all the more happier.
Rose: I don’t think I gave the application process that much gravity. I knew college is what I wanted and I knew, as much as I could without the actual experience anyway, that I was on the verge of a potentially life-changing catalyst. Myself and my applications were merely the protocol. Going into it all, my gut told me this college admissions process is hit or miss. It’s a system that does its best to sort the right students into the right places but it can be wrong and and it can be right. Its really out of my hands so I didn’t bother myself about it.
Joy: I definitely did. By not expecting too much, you prepare yourself for the unexpected. During the college admissions time, getting into universities felt like a huge deal. But looking back on it now, college is what you make out it. It doesn’t matter if you end up attending an Ivy League school or a community college, you can be successful either way based on how you make the most out of your educational experience.

6. What is college like for you?
Justin: Freedom.
Claire: College is stressful, exciting, fun, challenging, and scary. It allows me to discover what kind of learner I am and forces me to become more self-aware.
Sarah: I’ve definitely experienced more in my two years of college than I have in my entire life. I’ve matured; I’ve learned so much; and I really discovered who I was and what I believed in. College has so many chances for new experiences and it really changes your life and your perspective. (See more) 
Rose: It’s changed the course of my life that I could only myopically envision before college.
Joy: I love college very much; it has helped me mature as an individual and become more open-minded as a student. It’s definitely more academically stressing, but it’s a great period to discover yourself. (See more)

7. What’s the difference between a double major and a dual major? Which is better in your opinion?
Sarah: At Penn, there’s a double major and there’s a dual degree. A double major involves simply majoring in two fields in the same school so you would still only get one B.A. or B.S. but have two majors. A dual degree involves two majors in separate schools (like getting a degree in both the business school and engineering school). (See more)

8. How do you manage your time in college since you now have a flexible schedule?
Claire: In college, you really have to know what your priorities are. Many of my friends struggle with balancing their social and academic life (I am also guilty of this…I lean more towards my academic life). I think it is honestly a process of trial and error: find a schedule that works the best for YOU.
Sarah: I always set aside a few hours at the end of the day to relax and socialize. For the rest of my time, at the beginning of every day I make a to-do list of tasks to complete to keep myself accountable and to stay on top of all of my responsibilities.
Rose: Know what gets your gears going. Commit to all that.
Joy: Being busy makes me feel productive, so to-do’s list are an integral part of my everyday life here. Every day is different, but I allot certain days/times to certain things. For instance, on days in my schedule that are less class-heavy, I have my internship that I commute to in Oakland. On other days, I devote more time to catching up on schoolwork or preparing for future projects.

9. What were your thoughts on DB once you entered college?
Claire: Not enough diversity among the students at the school.
Sarah: While in high school, I thought it was dull and boring, I understand that it’s a great place to raise a family. I also took all of the amazing Asian food for granted Q.Q
Rose: That I was supremely blessed to have gone through DBHS’s AP Calc curriculum. That I was supremely blessed to have taken all the AP classes with all the great, caring teachers that I did. Thankful for all the opportunities. And thankful that I was OUT AND FAR FAR AWAY from the stifling, homogeneous bubble I found myself stuck in during my time there.
Joy: Many people say that coming from DB gives you an advantage over others. It is true in some situations, but no matter where you are, there will always be people smarter than you and people, well, not as much. College is a new playing field, so don’t expect it to be the same at high school.

10. Would you recommend the east coast or west coast?
Claire: West coast, best coast.
Sarah:I love the West Coast and I fully intend to return after college. It is by far superior in my opinion. But, I love the out-of-state experience and would fully recommend it. I feel that going out of state has forced me to grow up more and has really given me to opportunity to be my own person. It’s an amazing experience and I would say that if you have the opportunity, go as far away from home as possible because as difficult as it is, it is such a rewarding experience.
Rose: I don’t think I could recommend anything without knowing who you were. For the sake of the questions, I will say west, only because the weather on the east scares me. But I would like to be there some time in the future too. … do your research on what you like and what there is..
Joy: Personally, I can picture myself staying on the west coast in the Bay area. Having been in NorCal for almost a year now, I’ve really enjoyed the cultured vibe as well as the inquisitive people I’ve met. I think it’s the perfect balance between leisure and work/ food and climate.

Want more? View individual questions directed toward: JustinClaire, Sarah, Rose, Joy