Advice from a girl who worked hard and got to choose between an Ivy League offer and a full scholarship

5 May

I remember bringing home my grade sheets when I was 12, and seeing the disappointment on my parents’ faces. They never explicitly said that they wanted me to achieve higher results, yet I could tell. They wouldn’t congratulate me, or smile and say ‘well done!’ I knew I wasn’t the best in my grade, and I knew I was only doing the bare minimum to pass. If someone had told me then that I would get into an Ivy League school and receive a full scholarship at USC, I would have thought it was a joke.

My counsellor at school would constantly tell me, “Next year, the grade sheets will be sent to college, so do your best.” I never replied, but that idea stuck in my head. I kept thinking, “I have to work harder next year.” I did.

I enrolled myself in the International Baccalaureate. I tried juggling my social, academic, and extracurricular life. I still knew that I had to get started on my standardized tests if I wanted to take them at the start of the first year of the IB, but I could never get myself to actually start. I’d tell myself, “Tomorrow I’ll start”, and that tomorrow never came. I would postpone it to next month, and I just saw time pass by. I wasn’t being lazy, really; I was just overwhelmed with academic work from school.

I finally started the process of preparing for the ACT. I spent two months studying for it with a tutor: no improvements. What I needed was someone who would explain to me the theory behind the test. I changed tutors, spent three months with him: still no improvement.

I started to get nervous, as the second year of the IB was starting, and I had just wasted five months. I finally chose ArborBridge, and we made the trick: I prioritized the ACT over the IB. I would wake up extremely early every Saturday and Sunday to have lessons and take a full practice test. I sacrificed going out with my friends, to study. I stayed up late trying to manage both courses.

Overall, it was a stressful period: I questioned myself constantly, and by the end I was just plain exhausted. I was trying to maintain a grade above 40 on the IB, whilst at the same time doing standardized tests.

By the end of the semester, I was physically exhausted, as I have always been a big believer in pushing myself beyond the limit of what is expected. However, I still had to apply to the universities and think about personal statements, alongside college supplements. I thought to myself, “I’ll push myself one last time.”

It was the Christmas holidays, and I remember sitting down during my vacation in NYC, and just having to write my essays, whilst my family was enjoying the city. I was focused though – I committed myself to the deadline, and I knew I had to keep it.

Two months later, I was coming home from an interview at Brown University, and I received a package from DHL. I thought a friend of mine had sent me something from the US. I opened it and found it was from the University of Southern California (USC), telling me I had got in, and that I was a Trustee (full scholarship) finalist.

One month later, the famous ‘Ivy day’ arrived – I was accepted at Dartmouth College, alongside officially receiving a full scholarship at USC.

Even if there is an element of luck during the application process, you simply have to give it your all, and this is the best advice I could give you. I am not asking you to pull all-nighters and give up on your friends – just do your best, because in the end (and this may seem cliché) it will be worth it. I say this from experience. Receiving the acceptance letters and wait-list letters was proof: I did it.

Sometimes you may doubt yourself, and wonder if it is truly worth it. It is. Dive in, head and heart, and submerge yourself during your high school years, as they will determine your college years.

As I am about to graduate and say goodbye to my friends, I look back and I can assure you, it will be worth it. One last piece of advice: cherish your experiences – they can’t be lived twice. Congratulations to the Class of 2017 – we did it!

A few tips:

1. Write your essays to the best of your abilities. They are a huge factor in your application process.

2. Start early on the standardized tests, and choose the one that suits you the most: ACT or SAT.

3. Get high grades in high school – they will strengthen your application.

4. If people tell you you’re studying too much, don’t listen. I heard it constantly, and in the end things worked out. Do what is best for YOU and not them.

5. Talk to older people who already got in to college and ask for their help. Trust me, they will help you.

6. When choosing universities, don’t go purely by ranking.

7. Be proactive and do what you’re passionate about during the summer. Don’t just binge-watch Netflix. Choose an activity that suits you, and you can write about it.

8. Get involved with outside-the-box activities – they will set you apart from other applicants.

By Marina Rauter

Marina studied at St Paul’s School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. She will start college on a full scholarship at the University of Southern California in Fall 2017. In 2016, she attended the Knowledge@Wharton High School Global Young Leaders Academy at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.


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