Dear Past Self – Lina Sim (Brown University ’20)

Say hello to another one of our core committee member- Lina Sim! A rising sophomore at Brown University, Lina hopes to declare a double major in Computer Science and Economics. As freshman year comes to a close, there is much for Lina to reflect upon- from considering factors beside prestige when choosing schools to taking the time to be grateful, regardless of the situation. As she tells her past self about the Great Places she will go, she hopes that you believe that you will, too!

Dear past-self,

I see the time has come for you to apply to college! Time really flies, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s already been a year, the days of applying to college are still very fresh in my mind. But before you step in, here are some things I wish I knew before I started this whole process:

1.Take it easy! Yes, applying to colleges can be a stressful and harrowing experience. The American university application process, in particular, may seem rather convoluted at times. Terms like holistic admissions, standardized testing, personal essays, recommendation letters and financial aid will start to occupy every breathing moment. Sometimes, it may even feel like the everything you’ve done in the first 18 years of your life hangs on getting into college. It does NOT! In the grand scheme of things, college is but one of the many different milestones in your life. Hang in there, wherever in the world you’ll end up for the next four years, it will be okay. I promise!!

 
2. The numbers and stats are not the end-all. At times, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, the rankings, the acceptance rates, and the prestige. Applying to colleges isn’t a game of Pokemon GO where you try to “catch” them all (after all, you only get to attend ONE college). While the rankings do reveal the quality of an institution and its students to a certain extent, do keep in mind that there exists a myriad of high quality colleges that may not necessarily come with a prestigious name tag that can still give you a world-class educational experience. Furthermore, we all have different learning styles and preferences. Some people prefer large lectures over small seminars, while others thrive in a smaller setting. Throughout this process, don’t forget to evaluate your own learning preferences and think about the type of educational environment you’d like to spend your next four years in. It’s a lot more important than you think it is!

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

3. Don’t forget to say thank you! It’s college decisions day! Congratulations on the acceptance letter! Now before you run off to write that celebratory Facebook post, don’t forget to thank all the people who made this possible in the first place. Oftentimes, it takes a whole village to put a successful college application together. Applying to and attending a university in the US is an incredible privilege, one that you would’ve not been able to afford if not for the support of your parents, teachers and mentors. So on this especially exciting day, remember to thank all those who have made this dream possible in the first place.

Standing in front of the Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve with friends from all over the world!
Times Square!

4. OH, the places you’ll go! Your first year in the United States will take you on a pretty wild ride. You’ll be baffled at people greeting each other with a “How are you?”, wonder why the nickel (5 cents) is physically larger than a dime (10 cents) and struggle to convert Celsius into Fahrenheit and kilometers into miles. You’ll find that coding isn’t that scary after all, and that History (contrary to popular belief) can be incredibly interesting. You’ll realize that you didn’t take a single Chemistry class your entire first year, despite declaring that as your prospective major. You will travel across the entire country from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast by public transport with your best friend over winter break, because why not? You’ll visit cities you’ve only read in novels and watched on TV for the past eighteen years of your life, spend New Years on a train across the Midwest (not knowing when exactly to celebrate because you’re crossing over time zones) and meet people from all over the world. Oh, the wonders and thrills that lie ahead!

5. Things will get tough. Going to university with very incredibly smart and talented human beings can be very intellectually stimulating, but sometimes, it can make you feel rather incompetent. The sheer amount of talent that surrounds you day and night will make you question if the admission office made a huge mistake of letting you in. You’ll feel like you’re nothing compared to your peers and that you’ll never ever be up to par with everyone else. Nonetheless, as cliché as this sounds, you’ll soon begin to notice that you are not alone, and that there will always be great people who are ready to support you all the way.

 

Snow!

 

6. Don’t take the small things for granted.  Try to take pleasure in the little things, and you’ll start to notice that they often make the biggest difference. The hustle and bustle of college life can often be overwhelming, to the extent of being claustrophobic at times. So try to appreciate the little things, and be amazed at how far it can take you. Try taking a different path to class and notice the cracks in the sidewalk, or sit outside when it’s warm and watch the people go by. Watch the leaves change color in the fall, listen to the birds chirping outside your window as you wake up, take a walk outside on the night of the first snowfall, and take in the smell of the earth after the first spring rain. Take a walk downtown (yes, a world exists beyond the campus gates). Talk to the dining hall ladies, you’ll never know how much you actually have in common (do this, seriously)! While these little things seem rather trivial and insignificant, you’d be surprised to find how magical these tiny moments can be. Try it! Just for a moment, leave your books, step outside, enjoy the sun/snow and simply appreciate you being here. 🙂

 

I’m incredibly excited for you as you begin this new chapter in life. It will be a journey that you will never forget. So congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! Now that you know what you need to know, I’d like to leave you with this, before you go. 🙂

Best regards,

Lina of 2017

Dear Past Self- Sonja English (Wesleyan University ’20)

Time, as Sonja has realised in retrospect, is truly a powerful thing; it is capable of teaching you, proving you wrong and making you take note of the things you have not realised before. In an honest letter to herself, Sonja recounts the beginning of her freshman year and reminds herself of life in the U.S.’ sweet, sweet surprises (which are often not in ways she imagined them to be.)

Dear Past Self,

At this point in time, you’re probably sitting in your single-room dorm thinking of who to share the next meal with. You don’t really know anyone very well, and frankly you don’t feel like you want to know them. They seem so different, unrelatable, even obnoxious. It seems like very few of them have something in common with you. Come mid-semester—a few months into college—you will find close friends. Not just friends of convenience, but people that you actually share a sense of humour and perspective with. Unbeknownst to you, you will befriend *white* people that are curious about where you come from and are adventurous to try the food that you cook. (You can cook!) By second semester, the cafeteria room will not be so daunting. Tables around you will have familiar faces, and there will be a group that you’ll actually want to sit with—as opposed to just sitting with them because you feel like you should. In time, you’ll also be comfortable with yourself. Comfortable enough to confidently sit by yourself—if you want to. Right now, I’m comfortable with where I am. My friends come from Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Chicago, Maryland, California, the Philippines, and more. If I want to watch Rupaul’s Drag Race in my room alone on Friday night I can, but just as well, I know that I can join my friends for beer & bad music that night, too.

My god, you will spend an immense amount of time in your room. So keep it neat and welcoming! Soft bed sheets are going to be the best investment you’ve made. Buying textbooks are going to be the worst (hint: download them, or find them in the library).

You’re going to discover that you’re not going to be a physicist, computer scientist, or economist. These academic challenges aren’t going to stop you from getting accepted by five job positions. You needed to know that these aren’t strong suits to discover your strengths. It will always come back to literature, writing, reading. Don’t forget your passions. These passions will propel you into a few jobs that will enable you to travel! The most wonderful surprise is knowing that you’ve saved up enough money to go to Cuba.

Breakfast with friends in Cuba

Things will fall into place: routine, friends, fitness, food. And the best past is, that you can boast of having read twelve Russian novels!

Take care,

Sonja

 

 

Dear Past Self – Dayana (University of Pennsylvania ’17)

Dayana Mustak reflects on the beginning of her undergraduate journey, overcoming challenges and finding her way.

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Dear past self,

At this point, you are petrified but so eager to learn. If what I remember about you is correct, you’re excited to soak up knowledge and run with it, but you’re also just scared that you don’t have what it takes. Well, I have to say that I’m you, three years later, and I’m still incompetent in Excel, still unsure about how to give a good presentation, still unsure of how the stock market works and still clueless about Plato. I’m sorry. But here’s what you will get from Penn…

It will hit you straight away that everyone around you is smart and driven. During orientation, all freshmen will be asked to write about an assigned reading and some people around you will raise their hands and ask for more paper. You will end up awkwardly making stuff up in your best efforts to make up a modest paragraph. That will be the first of many times you feel you fall short. I don’t want to scare you but there will be more. Professors and TAs will ask questions in class and your classmates’ hands will dart up confidently, even though you feel like you didn’t even understand the question. Some people will take six classes and you will be hustling with your four. Trust me though, you will steadily learn that sure, everyone around you is insanely brilliant, hardworking and even accomplished, but each and every one of you took a different road to get there. I know that you’re scared you won’t measure up, but you don’t always have to. You will learn that your starting line is your own and your experiences are incomparable.

The truth is, your finish line might be days, months or years behind someone else’s starting line and so college will be a hustle on most days. You will be assigned six-paged essays and people will tell you, “that’s totally fine” and that you “can definitely do it” and you will stare back, mouth agape in disbelief and confusion. You will be expected to turn in MATLAB codes for classes despite having never used the program before. You will spend days writing your first cover letter and resume. You will sit in bed at night and worry that what is expected of you is always leaps and bounds ahead of what you can do. You will worry that you are an impostor. But somehow, either through copious amounts of caffeine or sheer divine intervention (though, most likely both) you will hand in the paper, the code, the cover letter. You will make it through semester after semester, exhausted but unscathed. There will be so many oh-shit-what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-myself-into situations, and you will learn that you somehow always make your way out of them. You will learn that you always learn to find a way.

Because you have the capacity to learn, you will slowly start taking risks. You don’t have to do everything—6 classes, 5 clubs, go to the gym and fall asleep by midnight—perfectly right away, but eventually you will raise your hand in class and eventually you will manage a board of 7 people, eventually you will raise thousands of dollars for events and charities. If it seems far away from where you are now, well, good. Because you will learn to take pleasure in having a long way to go.

You won’t do it all alone, though. You will inevitably worry your way through the chaos and hurry of New Student Orientation. People will exchange phone numbers with each other and with you absent-mindedly, and people will haphazardly add each other on Facebook for a while… but that will all slow down and if you keep going out there, keep saying “hi, I’m Dayana” then by the end of all that chaos you will find yourself with friendships more rewarding than you’ve ever known. This is a college cliché—as cliché as lying down on green grass doing work on a Macbook—but lucky for you it will be true. It will be difficult to make friends initially, and you will compare it to making friends in school where you were all chucked into the same classroom and so friendships were always more effortless and convenient… but you will learn that your best relationships are ahead of you and they involve ordering pizza at 2 a.m., making snow angels on a snow day, eating burgers on the rooftop of Fresh Grocer, having a shoulder to cry on when you get your first C and feeling endlessly supported and inspired and grateful.

Yeah I guess it kinda sucks that I still have no idea what “VLOOKUP” is on Excel but you can Google that when you have to use it. The things you will learn are skills beyond what a textbook can teach you. The things you will learn are a lifetime’s endeavour. You’re learning how to learn. I know you’re eager to learn things you can use at work, things you can put on your resume, and I also know you’re scared. I’m here to say that your thirst for knowledge, your capacity for information will never be fulfilled and you will find at every corner that there will always be more you could have learned. But you will be better at feeling scared, you will feel more comfortable with not knowing everything and you will be more equipped to figure things out as you go.

I’m so excited for you.

Sincerely,
Future Dayana

Dear Past Self – Yan Jie (Case Western Reserve ’18)

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Yan Jie (Case Western Reserve University ’18) looks back on the twists and turns in his unique journey to where he is now, finding that things weren’t really so bad after all.

 

Dear former self,

A month after SPM ended, you enrolled in the Cambridge A-Levels program at Taylor’s College Subang Jaya. Life was great for three months until the release of SPM results. It was really disappointing because you were that close to obtaining the bursary award from the MOE. You tried for other scholarships, stayed positive and crossed your fingers. Some companies rejected you in the process, but you were lucky to secure an offer from Petronas. However, the line “Country of study: USA” on the offer letter kept you thinking for quite some time. To accept or not to accept, that was the challenge.

You had ongoing talks with your parents as you busily weighed the pros and cons of the offer. Truth be told, something deep in your heart was cringing at the thought of accepting the offer, for you were convinced that it was possible to apply for UK scholarships after the completion of your A-Levels. The verdict was decided in three days: Uncle Sam beckoned. It was surely one of the hardest decisions in your brief existence of 18 years, as there were so many factors to consider besides the scholarship itself. You told yourself that it would be a game changer. You had little, possibly zero, insight on what the future had in store for you.

Petronas then sent you to INTEC Education College for the American Degree Foundation Program (ADFP) prior to attending university. From this point onwards, you will garner a decent idea of how the American education system operates – assignments, papers, presentations, quizzes and tests. While you may be busy coping with the weekly assignments, you will have to prepare for admission exams and initiate the college application processes. The personal statements will leave you pondering about life, how you arrived at that stage in life and, ultimately, your future. “Show, don’t just tell,” will become one of the phrases that constantly ring inside your mind while you craft and edit your essays. You will be extremely grateful for all the kind souls and lovely individuals who will proofread your essays and provide constructive feedbacks. Without them, your admission essays would have been a total wreck.

Moving forward, the unique experiences in the USA will broaden your horizons and toughen your character. Talk about walking in the frigid weather of -40 degrees Celsius in spite of frostbite warnings, cheering with the Cavalier’s home crowd during NBA games at the Q, carrying Nerf guns around campus during Humans versus Zombies week and spending your Thanksgiving with your American buddy plus family. You will learn to appreciate how the vibrant campus and the unique college ecosystem weaves fascinating memories into your rigorous and demanding academic schedule. College will be so much more than just papers, research and exams. You will grit and grind, but still enjoy every single moment of it. Definitely.

Looking back upon the journey that I have taken to arrive at where I currently stand today, I’m sure the pathway that you have now chosen will be a pleasant trip, albeit one laden with surprises. The American education system has heightened my consciousness regarding the importance of holistic personal development and continuous team efforts to achieve success – I’m sure the American education will enrich your character too. Try to follow where your heart leads (if possible) because at the end of the day everything is still about you and your goals. Learn to love life, and life will love you too.

Yours truly,

Yan Jie

 

Dear Past Self — Chern Wei (Cornell ’16)

Chern Wei cheers on those daunted by the college application process, reminding them of their ultimate goal and the wonderful people supporting them.

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Dear former self,

You will soon be swarmed with numerous tasks on your plate – studying for your SATs and finals, chasing after recommendation letters, translating one document after another from Malay into English, completing various forms, and devoting countless hours to attempted self-reflection. To accommodate for this pandemonium, there will be waking up at odd hours. There will be stress and sleepless nights. There will also be many startling split seconds, like when you are hit hard with the realization of potentially having missed an important deadline.

Let me get this straight: the path down college applications will not be an easy one to traverse. Expect your composure to be shaken regularly. Expect minor setbacks. You will feel like a recluse and will often believe that no one understands what you are going through. You will succumb to so much negativity, and you will want to give up on many, many occasions.

Don’t.

You will remember college applications being a painstakingly tiring process – but that will not be all you remember of the turbulent weeks to come. When you reflect upon this seemingly bitter point in life, you will also remember the overwhelming amount of unwavering support and love from your family members, who may not fully understand what you are stacked against, yet will continue to remain behind your back at any cost. You will remember the comfort you find in friends, in both those you’ve grown up with and those you’ve recently met, when you exchange stories of struggles with them on Facebook. You will remember the teachers who willingly devoted their time to your cause, even when they had no obligation whatsoever to meet you outside school hours in Starbucks, or to respond to an email at two in the morning. You will absolutely remember how surprised you were when your response to some of the simplest essay prompts did not surface easily. What makes you happy? What matters most to you in life? What one word defines you? You will find yourself investing days and nights into answering these questions insightfully.

To call each attempt in doing so a success would be a blatant lie. You will countlessly end up with hundreds of words barely resonating with your conscience. Still, in spite of any discouragement, remember: never settle for less than your best. Continue embarking on that relentless journey of self-discovery, and you will eventually find the right narratives to share in your application.

For the times when your patience runs dangerously thin, recall that nothing desirable comes easy – definitely not the acceptance letter into your dream school. The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all. Persevere! If all else seems to dwindle and fail, recollect your past successes, both big ones and small ones, and the price you paid in seizing them. The sweat. The tears. The time. Harness the motivation from your past when the one for the future seems too far away. If you feel distress or disappointment creeping over you, regain yourself quickly. Never let those feelings overstay their welcome during this crucial period of time; they will be highly counterproductive to your efforts. Remember to stay as calm as possible. Remember to smile. Above all, remind yourself ceaselessly on how blessed you are to have this opportunity to begin with, and to be able to share it with the ones you love – be very, very thankful.

Know that I will always be rooting for you. Best of luck!

With warmest regards,
Chern Wei

Dear Past Self — Amanda (Tufts ’18)

Hindsight is, indeed, a wonderful thing, as Amanda (Tufts ’18) shows in this heartfelt letter of advice to her past self.

Amanda Ng
Dear Amanda,

It is Day 2 of Chinese New Year of your Form 4 year. You are on the computer in your Mom’s room — to escape the heat and the irresistible cookies — and have just discovered something that will change the rest of your life. “Financial aid for international students,” reads Harvard University’s website. For the very first time, the possibility of a path other than the public university in your state reveals itself.

You will very quickly learn about: the liberal arts approach; student activism; professors who have coffee with students; living somewhere where you get to wear a winter coat; pursuing an education completely in English … And you will fall in love. You will fall head-over-heels, stupidly in love with the idea of going to university in the U.S. — it’s something about lying on green lawns and reading books written by dead Greek men, right?

I’m writing to you, not to tell you how exactly things will unfold, or even that “everything will be okay” — because between where you are and where I am right now, there will be plenty of not-so-okay moments. Instead, I’d like to offer three simple pieces of advice — which, knowing how stubborn we are, you probably won’t accept so easily, but I can try:

One: Never apologise for your deep curiosity and “weird” questions. You were born with a fascination for all kinds of people, ideas and places. You are “itchy” to try everything. Try everything. Be that one kid who sticks her hand up and ask questions in class — but more than that, look up from your book and around at your classmates, and figure out what they’re interested in. Armed with a little bit of blur sotong recklessness, you will slowly collect an unlikely but precious set of experiences. Your “annoying questions” will one day turn into the ability to “ask the right question at the right time,” to make people uncomfortable and have real conversations. Never stop reaching out and being genuinely interested, and your life journey will astonish you, again and again.

Two: The time you have right now is just as important, if not more important, than the time you will get to spend in university. (Spoiler: Yes, you will go to university.) It is not where you are, but what you make of it. Remember that it’s not how much you do, but how meaningfully you live. Your family will not live forever. Your friends will move away. You will be displaced from city to city, over and over again. There will be many tough decisions and rough moments on your road ahead — stay open and keep listening to the perspectives around you, but most importantly, listen to your inner voice. It is already telling you things you will take years to figure out how to articulate and live out.

Three: Always, always be grateful — for your energy and personality, for the doors that will open, for the people who help and support you even though they have no good reason to believe in you. Thank them, again and again. Because you are and will continue to be ridiculously lucky and privileged. You have always had a mum who’s incredibly open, loving and supportive. And you will cross paths with: Teachers who care enough to deal with your shit in and out of classes; friends who are brutally honest because they care; a non-profit founder who will teach you to question why you really want to go to university, and craft your own definition of success; host families who will comfort you with home-cooked food and the wisdom of strong women; USAPPS, a community that you never thought you needed but eventually wouldn’t have made it without …

Dear Amanda,

You didn’t do much to deserve this, but your life will turn out to be astonishingly, overwhelmingly exciting, fulfilling and gratifying — soak it all in, because that’s all you can do. And never, ever forget to say “thank you” for all the people and pieces of your life, and use your privilege to pay it forward. College is but part of the journey, and what a beautiful journey it will be.

Life will be incredibly kind to you, so be sure you are to others, too.

 

With peace, love and respect,
Amanda

Dear Past Self — Affan (UC Irvine ’18)

Looking for some practical college application advice? Muhammad Affan (University of California Irvine 18’) has got you covered with this nifty little cheat sheet.

Affan

Dear past me,

The US application process is complicated, isn’t it? Well, don’t panic! Here is a cheat sheet I made for your reference.

SAT Prep
Everyone aims to get a perfect SAT score, but in reality it’s really difficult, especially for those who have certain limitations, such as time, since the exam itself is about 3 hours and covers subject matter such as grammar and math. My suggestion is to start early and do the SAT exercises with your friends. If you do it alone, you would only refer to the answer scheme and don’t necessarily understand your mistakes.

Post SAT
Once you’ve gotten your results, you may or may not be satisfied with it. Don’t be discouraged as you can register for another SAT exam. Be mindful of the SAT exam schedule so that you can organize your schedule ahead of time, especially when you are studying, say, in a Pre-University program.

Average SAT score
You’ve tried your best but still didn’t get a 2400 SAT score (LOL). Don’t get too frustrated about it! In the US, admission counselors look at your credentials holistically. They try to accommodate most of their applicants through many channels such as going through your academic performance, co-curricular activities, letters of recommendation, personal statement and prompt-based essays. These are the ways that you can utilize to impress them.

Which University?
There are many factors that can guide you on picking a university that fits you. Some people may decide to study at a university where most of their friends go to. I chose to be in somewhere different simply because I’ve always wanted to study in California. Besides that, a university’s ranking can be a factor, as certain students choose a university that has high rank. The weather can also be a factor, as some students prefer temperate places such as in the west coast (Oregon, California, Arizona), while some just want to have fun in the snow like in the east coast (Pennsylvania, New York). Essentially, just do some background research on their programs, tuition fees, and learning environment so that you can find a university that makes you feel at home.

I’m stuck. I can’t do this by myself. I really need someone to guide me.
If, let’s say, you are filing information on the university’s application form and find yourself confused, just shoot the university’s counsellors an email. Don’t get too intimidated with sending an email because counsellors are humans too and they want to help you as a prospective student. Besides asking counsellors, ask your peers or someone who has undergone the process of applying for advice. I’m pretty sure they’d be glad to help you. You know what they say, “malu bertanya sesat jalan.” 

Best,
Muhammad Affan Bin Othman
University of California Irvine 18’

Dear Past Self – Amanda (Wesleyan ’19)

As she gets prepped to leave for her first year in the land of the free, Amanda Yeoh (Wesleyan ‘19) reflects on some things she would have liked to have known while she was applying to university. Here’s the second edition of our “Dear Past Self” series.

Amanda Yeoh

Dear Amanda,

I generally don’t spend too much time wondering what my life would be like if I had known XYZ. But it wouldn’t have hurt to have known a couple of these things when I was in your position.

Getting into the college you want is all about preparation, preparation, preparation. The earlier you can begin, the better. Studying for the SATs in Standard 6 is pushing it… but note that you’ll be in a pool of applicants from the US who have prepped for college their entire (junior) high school lives. The point is, figure out what you want as soon as possible—and more importantly, what is financially realistic—then work towards your goals. Visit as many college booths as you can, even if you’re not considering attending a specific college, because you never know what you may be missing out on.

 You’ll want to look your best on paper. Be it from your extra-curricular activities to your academics, you should always challenge yourself into becoming better in what you’ve set out to do. Dedication to your chosen commitments is a huge plus point as well—it’s not enough to participate in activity just to boost your resume. While that is an understandable launching point, you must be able to demonstrate how significant your contributions have been. Don’t be lazy either. Take the most academically rigorous classes your pre-university can offer. US colleges hold your academics in high regard, in case you thought otherwise.

Speak to as many people as you can! Ask lots of questions about schools you’re interested in. It’s one of the many ways to determine which colleges “fit” you best. It’s important to get a sense of what a college’s culture is like because you want to spend four years flourishing in an environment that helps you maximize your potential. If you’re not into Greek life, you probably don’t want to attend a college whose Greek life is a huge part of the school’s culture… (The weather should be a factor too!!!!)

Always use your time wisely. Why not learn a new skill (via edX or MIT) during your holidays? Become an independent learner. You actually want to be an interesting individual—more than just “2200; Malaysian; President of Club XYZ”. Read voraciously—I cannot stress this enough—because it is through reading that you’ll develop your thoughts and opinions.

Above all, keep yourself motivated. To quote one of my favourite figures on Twitter, Goldman Sachs Elevator, “’Do what you love’ is great advice for making 30k a year.” Remember that at the end of the day, your education is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime, and you’ll want to maximize your returns.

Stay savvy.

Amanda

 

Dear Past Self – May May (UPenn ’17)

If our facilitators could give any advice to their former applicant selves, what would they say? In the first of our “Dear Past Self” series, May May Pau (University of Pennsylvania, ’17) reflects on all nighters, cherry blossom adventures and her journey so far in the U.S.. 

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As I look at my half-packed suitcase at the end of my sophomore year at Penn, there are still things that completely baffle me – how I applied and got in, how I have this beautiful apartment, how I survived two full years in this insane institution. There are still mornings where I wake up thinking that I deserve none of this – the now dead and dried up flowers from my show in March, the wall full of handwritten notes from people who love me more than I know how to describe, the super high quality printer paper they have in Wharton printers, admission to the school that one of my closest friends called his dream. Then, there are other days where I wonder how it is that there was ever a point in my life I considered giving up on all of it and giving college a pass.

People say, “You will not remember the all-nighters you pulled studying for that midterm”. That is untrue. You will have distinct memories of sitting in a GSR with Petra and Peter till 8AM one Sunday morning and the exceedingly long walk back from DRL with Miao after astronomy lab, as you will remember skipping Friday class to see cherry blossoms in DC, screaming your lungs out at Half Moon Bay, and nearly getting run over by cars driving in the bike lane in West Philly. You’ll have more “first”s than you could ever have imagined – first frat party, first hamantaschen, first Amazon shopping spree, first major academic disappointment since Moral Studies in Form 4; MLB game, hush puppies with melted butter, snowball fight, contra dance, Yogorino… In your first two years at college, you’ll get to do more than some people will in a lifetime. Things won’t always go as planned, but there will be people who let you have one candle on your birthday cake and people who wake you up in time for your 9AMs. You will live, and life will be so full – of surprises, of challenges, of insurmountable grace.

When things seem the bleakest and hopelessness clings onto your heart like paint on glass, remember these three things: First, you are more than what you are (or are not) on any piece of paper – a resume, a transcript, or even a rejection letter. You have much to say, much to give. Have faith that you are worth it, and don’t take chances away from yourself. Second, you couldn’t have made it anywhere near where you are if not for the people who have supported you all this way. It is a blessing to even be able to start on this journey, to know that college exists, to be in a position where applying is a possibility. Be grateful. Say thank you. Finally, a lot of things in life – the weather, success, failure, admission, rejection – are completely beyond your control. Just give it your all, and roll with it – things will be okay. You’ll be told that teardrops taste a little salty, but also a little sweet – there will be pain, no doubt, but there will also be immense joy. Don’t give up. It will be beautiful.

It will be so, so beautiful.

All my love,
May May