Fun Fact about Sandy: She loves dancing around to her iPod Shuffle as she walks the dog early in the morning
High-School Senior Wisdom
April 17, 2006
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"—that seems to describe the general reactions of my senior friends to the college application process. On one hand, they were excited and proud to finally be going off to college, but on the other, they couldn't help feeling overwhelmed by it.
According to them, the hardest part of the application is finding the perfect person (or people) to write recommendation letters. Apparently, talking to your teachers is a good thing! Not only is it a little stressful to prepare all your paperwork, but, to make it easier for your teachers, you have to go the extra mile... and that does take a toll. Another important thing to remember, they lectured, is to ask parents for help. Normally if we, as teenagers, have problems we go to our friends, but for something that requires that neat and professional touch, parents seem the way to go.
My senior friends also list essays as another difficult part of the test. They warn, "Save enough time to complete all your essays!" The worst thing to be stuck with (next to no recommendation letters or poor ones because you've rushed your teachers) is a bad essay. I learned that's because if you're attempting to get into a competitive college, high grades are expected to warrant consideration (and there will be several hundreds of people just as brilliant as you). The real winner will have an awe-inspiring essay that sets them apart from the crowd.
Senior year is a huge time for change and even the smallest detail could make or break your college application. The key component to remember, I've realized, is time; make sure to have plenty of it!
Dreaming About Summer
March 15, 2006
All I know is that this summer will be memorable. I recently selected my classes for my upcoming senior year: AP Literature, AP Government, AP Environmental Science, Trigonometry, and Photography with early dismissal. For a while, I had doubts about early dismissal because I worried that it'd appear lazy in my transcripts. Most of my friends seemed to think so, and they encouraged me to look for a job and take work experience instead. I cannot work during weekdays because I still have clubs/leadership my senior year. My family has already made clear that I should work during the weekends to help pay for expenses, so early dismissal will at least give me a few extra hours during the week for homework or 'me time'.
So where does that leave summer? It seems everyone has an opinion about what I should do my junior summer—study for the SAT's or get a job are the basic choices. Getting a job this summer would be helpful for next year because I'll already have one and can switch to working weekends, yet the new mall being built nearby (a gold-mine for a teenager looking for a job) won't be completed for some time. I'm completing all my tests this year as a junior (I'm booked for consecutive testing starting April 1st), so other than the bundle of summer assignments given at school (and reading), I have no plans.
For a while now I have been wondering whether or not I should begin to visit the elderly at a retirement home. I have completed a fair amount of service already with my local library, however the retirement home means more to me than hours—a friend who works there recently informed me about an elderly couple who come from my homeland, Peru. They speak some English, some Spanish, but primarily the Indian language 'Quechua'. My family has not spoken the language for many generations and few beside natives speak it today, even in Peru.
Although I'm still not 100% sure about my future career, I know I would like to work with the natives of Peru to help protect their culture and continue their growth through education. My dream schools (Stanford and UCLA) are some of the few schools in the United States that offer Quechua as a language, but I would love to speak to this couple and learn about what they know. I feel confident that I will learn a lot this summer from the homework assignments given at school, but I feel that I could learn so much more from the retirement home; not only from the elderly Peruvian couple, but from the other people there as well. With this in mind, I can't wait for summer to arrive.
Money, Money, Money
February 17, 2006
My parents have always told me that I could go to any college I wanted to, regardless of price and costs. Therefore, I never thought much about the expenses for college. I know a few people who first look at the price tag of a college before considering it. At the time, it seemed unnecessary for me to do so. This year, I truly learned that, regardless of what my parents have told me, I need to pay attention to the cost of college.
My brother, who graduated from Cal State Fullerton a while ago, has explained to me just how competitive college campuses are now. He also told me how it's becoming more and more expensive every year. Textbooks, classes, boarding, and especially programs like study aboard are drowning a lot of students in debt. His solution was to take any 'required' courses (such as language arts and mathematics) at a junior college to save money and then transfer to a four-year-college.
My sister, who will graduate Cal State Fullerton this year, has given me more hope. She admits that college will cost a lot—much more than my parents alone can handle—but that doesn't mean that I should hold back from going straight on to a four-year-college. There are some companies and businesses that will help a college student pay for their schooling so long as they work for them and maintain passing grades.
I imagine it's difficult to manage both work and school at the same time, but it would reduce my college debt and give me work experience. Some schools will not allow a student to work and study at the same time, however, there are usually opportunities to work off debts through work-study opportunities on campus (working in the student store/etc). Either way I am confident that college is in my future; all I can do right now is work and study hard.
January 23, 2006
One of the most integral parts of a college application is, as we all know, the extracurriculars. I remember many memorable conversations with my friends about the number of clubs we would join and be active in, but Iâ€™ve found that the most rewarding extracurricular activities are the ones that I do because I enjoy them not because they look good on my college resume.
Online communities like Myspace.com are a fast growing trend among teenagers, and I am no exception. Myspace.com was, however, the last place I'd think to find something that would change my life. A friend had posted a bulletin regarding something called 'Invisible Children', so I clicked and watched a music video with a song by the Black Eyed Peas. I was stunned when it finished. I've visited relatives in a developing country often so I thought I knew what the world was like, but the music video brought something utterly new to my attention.
Neither Uganda, Africa, or child soldiers had ever crossed my mind before. Immediately I logged on to www.invisiblechildren.com and gathered some information. The next day at an Amnesty Club meeting at school I shared what I had seen the other day. I showed the same music video and the response was quiet, but resolved; our club began work on raising money. I will admit that I began our Amnesty Club on a whim; I wanted to make a name for myself at my school and, when I learned what Amnesty was, I thought that I could accomplish a lot of good while doing it. Just like everything else on my college resume, however, Amnesty is turning out to be quite hefty work.
I never regret having started Amnesty, but I acknowledge that the paperwork, the people, and the events have definitely worn on my initial belief that starting a club would be mostly fun, not work. If I had done another sort of club, like Movie Club or Yoga Club, maybe things would be different. I would not be watching a documentary on children wielding machetes or staying late after school doing paperwork. Yet when I envision the results of our labor I can't see myself having done something else with my time. When I do write up my college resume, I will include 'Founder of Amnesty Club' on a straight black line. While the words may seem simple on paper, I will know how those words and my commitment to this cause have affected me.
December 15, 2005
When I took my first SAT II (Spanish with Listening), I was immediately intimidated by the HUGE line at the testing site. As we stood in line, people around me anxiously checked and checked and rechecked their equipment. I saw a boy making his way through the line, his face was anxious and intense. He came up to me and asked, urgently, "Do you have any spare batteries? Please?" Luckily, I did... in fact, I took an entire new package 'just in case.' My nervous feelings began to disappear as I handed a few to him, I felt that my preparation had at least worked a little!
When we all filed into our room, I was completely at ease—the test itself seemed to fly by so fast. As we walked out, we were instructed not to speak to anyone. That was a little strange, but it was a necessary precaution. All in all, my experience with the SAT II wasn't so horrible. It was the waiting period afterward that gave me some problem.
It was very difficult for me to wait for my score to arrive, but, in the meantime I did have several college brochures sent to me in the mail to keep me distracted! I'm very glad I checked the 'Allow Colleges to Contact Me' box on the test. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known about many of the colleges that contacted me, such as Whittier College, Hampshire College, and Lesley University. Whittier College impressed me with information about their beautiful campus and strong student life, while Lesley's emphasis on student-teacher interactions sounded appealing. Hampshire College's unique philosophy about a liberal arts education seemed really cool.
Plus, these colleges had information on me, such as the majors I wanted information on, and any interests I had out of school. As a result, most of the brochures made sure to emphasize the programs they thought would most appeal to me. And besides, it's always nice to receive something in the mail.
A Little 'Me' Time
November 15, 2005
I have unintentionally procrastinated once again. I've completed assignments that aren't due for a long time, and I've forgotten the assignments that are due the next class period. This is obviously from a lack of organization, but the reason I'm lacking it in the first place is simple... I'm tired.
I'm tired of stressing, working, even trying to do the things expected of me. I'm lucky to have tough teachers, but it doesn't always feel that way when I'm redoing papers multiple times just to get the concept "correct." It's hard to like a teacher when they're telling me that my work needs to "get up to par," but I have ways to deal. Every day, regardless of the necessary school work/etc, I have "Sandy Time." Yes, it's corny, but it works. I do whatever I want during "Sandy Time." It lasts for at least an hour, but normally I can fit in two or three "free" hours.
If I'm taking a break from homework (splitting up my "Sandy Time" into intervals), I go into an empty room in the house, blast a stereo with some kind of high-energy music, and lay on the floor. I stretch or I just lay, it doesn't really matter. Yoga and meditation, as strange as it sounds, are real life savers! I used to think it was a waste of time to just sit there meditating for an hour or so, but when you complete it, you feel so rejuvenated, it's a little scary. Sometimes I jump on my bed while karaoke-ing, anything to get my heart pumping.
I like creating stuff so, in between homework, I bust out the paint and start experimenting on old white t-shirts&mdashtrying designs, working on what looks cool and what looks like a second-grade art school project. It's actually pretty awesome, wearing something I've tweaked to represent me. Trying new hobbies saves me from ultimate boredom and homework exhaustion. I've sewn pillows, and now I'm upgrading to hats. It's difficult—right now it looks like an orange misshapen blob. Once I'm finished with a few essays, I think I'll see how I can get my jeans to match.
More Than Just a Student
October 17, 2005
When I was a little kid, I would tell people "My birthday's coming soon!" and they would ask me, "Oh really? When is it?" and I would say "October 15th," and we would probably be somewhere in August. I would get so excited that I would start counting down the days a month before the actual date. My mind was constantly thinking how fun it would be, and now, as we're getting dangerously close to the date, I don't really have time to concern myself with it.
I go to school five days out of the week. I want to make the best of those days. It's important to be an accomplished student (AP, honors), yadda yadda... but I know now that it's equally as important to be an accomplished person. By person, I mean the girl I am when I'm not in class—maybe the person talking to lonely seniors in nursing homes, or the girl organizing human rights rallies in her neighborhood, or maybe that person helping little kids glue crafts together in a volunteer center.
That is what matters to me—using my high-school years to learn about myself. I'm taking Creative Writing in place of an AP science, and my friends stare at me when I say I'm applying to Ivy Leagues. It used to bother me that I wasn't following the "guidelines to college", but I feel that I am just as competitive an applicant as my friends who have all AP/honors classes. Universities are places of learning, I often remind myself, and they want students who are smart, yeah, but who also have a drive to do more than study—students who will make an impact on society and will start by taking charge of the campus. It means initiative. It means excellence. It means more than just turning in homework and passing tests.
I'm not bashing AP courses, by the way. Taking advanced classes is awesome, but the bad part is that it's possible to go overboard. What I define as "overboard" is when you have so many AP's you lose your drive. You don't have time to join clubs, have fun, hang with friends, or do community service. In other words, you don't have time to be a person. You're just a student.
Still, stuff happens. Sometimes I get overwhelmed, and I start to hate school, maybe even hate life. When that happens, I stop whatever I'm doing and I leave. It isn't all that glorious, but it works. Sometimes it's impossible to get things done on time, so what? Life is unpredictable, I just got to learn to deal with what it brings me. I can still have a life, even if I'm making myself an "accomplished student." I can have my cake and eat it too! That reminds me, my birthday's coming up pretty soon.
I guess I better start counting down the days.