What is Columbia like?
Columbia is a private university in the city of New York. The courses are rigorous and the students are quirky, stressed, and brilliant. There are so many opportunities available to you, but you have to take the initiative and seek them out. There won’t always be someone to hold your hand in college and in life, but especially at Columbia!
What is most misunderstood about Columbia?
I think there is a general misunderstanding about college in general that comes with growing up in the Bay Area. High schoolers especially become entrenched in this mindset that getting into college is the key to success in life, and that once they’ve gotten in to “the one,” they won’t have to work hard anymore.
What has been one of the greatest challenges in college, and what do you think high school students can do to best prepare themselves?
I think one of the greatest challenges I’ve met in college is with the Core, or more generally with humanities classes. I didn’t exactly have a perfect foundation with writing and literature in high school, and these weaknesses became magnified when half my schedule in college was composed of humanities classes. High school students can better prepare themselves by always taking the hardest English classes in school to challenge themselves, and doing a lot more outside of class, for example exposing themselves to different types of writing by doing a lot more reading on their own. Writing is something that one can become better at only through lots of practice, and is a skill that becomes invaluable in higher education.
How did you spend your time in high school?
I was involved with my school newspaper and was president of an honors club and the high school branch of Rotary (Interact) on campus. I also interned for several summers at a nonprofit organization dedicated to enforcing sustainable initiatives in companies in the Silicon Valley, and spent another summer at a paid internship at the largest residential solar company in the US, independently closing deals with homeowners on solar panel systems.
If you were to start high school all over again, what would you do differently?
If I were to start high school all over again I would focus more on schoolwork and take harder English classes. I’d also look into more academic-related extracurriculars. I would also have taken a different language.
What advice would you give prospective college students to help them prepare for college?
It is so important to be a good writer and have that skill under your belt before you go to college. Also, the people who are successful in college aren’t necessarily the same type of people who were hotshots in high school. College requires a different sort of independence and drive. High school students need to be on top of their schoolwork, but it’s also important to take a break sometimes to be social and be able to make connections with people. It’s good to be remembered and well-liked, and these are qualities you can’t learn in school. Get straight As, but still be an interesting person.
What kind of students do you think colleges are looking for? And why?
I think colleges are looking for students who do what they love and are good at it. It sounds really cliché, but students have to, or at least appear to, have a passion for something that sets them apart from other applicants. You don’t have to be a superstar at everything, but it definitely helps. Ideally, a student’s passion for something should tie together extracurriculars and academics.
Colleges are also looking for scholars. Students should be hungry for knowledge. They should be looking to grow and learn outside of school, which ultimately produces a more well-rounded person and generally a better student. Motivation should stem from the self, i.e., you shouldn’t be taking piano lessons because your mom tells you to; you should be taking them because you love piano.
Do you recommend any websites and resources that will help students get to know Columbia?
Lynbrook High School