In 2018, getting into your “dream school” is not as easy as it looks. Despite what High School Musical 3 might have to say, schools like UCLA and USC are continuing to surpass their stats every year, reaching new and astonishing numbers. With the college decisions for the senior class of 2018 pouring in, I was able to dive deeper into the subject matter and interview some intelligent young women, with bright futures ahead of them.
Just like any high school student, I love those college youtube videos. I know you know what videos I am talking about. Commonly titled, “2018 COLLEGE DECISION REACTIONS – IVY LEAGUE AND MORE!!!” The enthusiasm and gratitude the applicants radiate and hearing where they will be spending the next four years of their lives is inspiring and motivating for high school students, like me and probably you. But we cannot forget about the countless, tireless hours these students put into being the best version that an applicant can be.
My first interviewee was Joyce Ni, a senior from Diamond Bar High School, in Los Angeles, California. Joyce was one of 64 thousand applicants to USC this year. USC underwent a dramatic acceptance rate drop from last year to 2018, dropping three whole percents.
Ni described that “due to parental but also influence from my friend group (everyone was super motivated, so the competition pushed me in a good way). My dream school was UChicago, but after realizing I probably wouldn’t fit well there, I fell in love with USC (especially after visiting!).”
The only way she could describe her initial reaction to receiving, her USC packet in the mail was “AAAAAAAAA.” However, Ni was also waitlisted at UC Irvine and rejected from one of her top schools, UCLA. Considering UCI has not been known to be as selective like USC she elaborated on that matter saying, “I think [the] UCs accept students based more on grades and test scores, and since mine weren’t the best I probably wasn’t such a strong candidate. I think USC looks for the type of student who would really ‘fit’ at USC, and is really passionate about the school and my application showed that.”
All in all, she describes her UCLA rejection as “not that phased.” As far as Ni’s essays, she recounts them as being proud. Ni said it is “the reason I got into any schools. I feel like I really showed my personality through my writing and I don’t regret anything.” Ni does not know what she wants to do with her life yet, but after all, she is only 17 years-old. She describes life as a tumultuous journey, but that’s what makes it fun. Fight On Ni!
Karima Karkori is a senior at George Washington High School in San Francisco, California. Karkori is a scholar student with a passion for the performing arts, who is also no stranger to life’s adversities. When Karkori was a freshman, she started online school to help support her family. She described her home life during high school as “pretty hard.”
Karkori said, “as most can relate to, my family was far from perfect and we had a lot of issues. In my junior year I had to deal with the unexpected death of my father.” However, feel no pity, Karkori is a strong woman who proves her worth every day in and out of the classroom. She was awarded the prestigious Optimist Scholarship by UCLA and will be attending there for her classes in the fall.
To my surprise, Karkori revealed to me that UCI would not even put her on the waitlist along with USC. “I wish I had the answer to this because this seemed to be the case for many people at my school. I have friends with 4.0’s and 1300’s+ who got waitlisted at UC Santa Cruz, a school that used to be considered a safety. A rumor I’ve been hearing is that last year the UC’s overenrolled their freshman class so our class is suffering by being a lot harder with admissions. But things like this also just show what schools truly value,” Karkori said. “The scholarship I won at UCLA is the UCLA Optimist Scholarship and I believe I won it based off of my perseverance through my hardships, where as schools like Irvine or Davis may value other qualities more, and that could be a factor as to why I was accepted to LA and not others.”
When asked about how an academic and social life can fit together, Karkori said, “I think this year was very hit-or-miss with college applications. I am not the biggest fan of this process as well. I personally think it’s getting too competitive to the point where people aren’t enjoying their time in high school because we are all so focused on getting good grades and EC’s just so we can get into college later.”
Karkori is not alone with this point of view. Lucy Massam, from Greenwich High School in Greenwich, Connecticut, said, “I wish I didn’t compare myself so harshly to everyone around me. Freshman and sophomore year I was absolutely miserable because I felt no worth. I didn’t have a good group of friends supporting me and reminding me that school wasn’t everything. If I had come to the realization that everyone is on their own journey 4 years ago, I think I would have had a much more pleasant high school experience.”
Massam is another applicant who is not immune to life’s struggles. She suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and extreme testing anxiety. She said “the first ACT I took I got a 24 and couldn’t finish any section. I got denied extra time even though I have frequent panic attacks and suffer from ADD. A testing environment was one of the worst places for me. Before the ACT I would stay up every night the weeks leading up to it just freaking out at the fact that I would have to sit in that room for three and a half hours. I had to work all summer going into senior year to study for this one test.”
However Massam is a sterling example of perseverance considering she ended up with a 29. She could not be any more joyous about her acceptance from UC Santa Barbara. She describes the experience as elated beyond belief. “I was crying and couldn’t even come up with words. I first facetimed by best friend to tell her the news. She couldn’t tell whether I got rejected or accepted because I was crying so much. I wanted to find out alone, therefore, if I didn’t get it I would be able to grieve in my sorrows alone,” Massam said.
Massam describes the rejections that stung the most were from UCLA and USC. “I was so anxious all day, and finally at six, I checked my portal. Rejection. It wasn’t the type of pain that made you cry, it was this feeling of unworthiness. It was as if everyone else who got in was better than you, and this dream that you had been chasing for years was not going to happen. After a day everything goes back to normal. I was disappointed, but I knew that it wasn’t meant to be, even though that was very hard to accept,” Massam said. “The ultimate dream was to go to college in California. Coming from Connecticut, all I wanted was to have that west coast lifestyle. However, this dream seemed unachievable at times because most of the UC’s are extremely hard to get into. UC Santa Barbara was always the end goal.”
The college game seems to become harder and more illustrious each year, but that does not stop students from having dreams. Dreams that this vehicle we call college will one day help us get to the job we are meant to have. I wanted to say a special thank you to Joyce Ni, Karima Karkori, and Lucy Massam for contributing to this piece and making it possible. These are the ladies of the future.