April 10, 2020
Selam selam everyone! Since rolling decisions’ results are "rolling" in, this week’s post will be about waitlists and gap years! If you’ve applied to a bunch of colleges before, chances are you’ve been waitlisted to a couple of them. Being waitlisted for a college means you’ve been put on a list of applicants whom a school might or might not offer admission to. Now if this happens don’t be bummed at all since there are certain things you can do to increase your chances of getting off the waitlist. You can raise your grades, you can take part in an extracurriculars or internships, and participate in other aspects of the college application. Then you can write a letter to the school’s dean of admissions to talk about the new things you have done since your initial application. Also, it’s important to inform the school that you’re eager to join the college even if you’re on the waitlist since there’s this hidden thinking that you might have went to another school during regular decisions.
On the other hand, some of you may have decided to take a gap year after graduating to focus on your applications, not getting the colleges you wanted, financial reasons, life crisis, corona virus, etc. If so, there are a couple of things we want you to be aware of. First is to be intentional with your gap year. Some of you might be taking this time to focus on aspects of your application you felt could be better. This may be test results, your common app, college essay, supplement essays, extracurriculars, etc. If your common app and essay were your weaker points, more time can be extremely beneficial since you can use it to have as many people offer you feedback and you yourself can workshop it more using the internet/books. With testing, you can take more practice tests to improve and stabilize your results (take caution however that improvement in testing is mostly dependent on you learning from your mistakes rather than simply taking more tests so make sure you’re taking the time to really understand and strengthen your weaknesses). Also take this time to do further research on the schools you want to go to and what they look for in their applicants and applications so you can further distinguish yourself amongst the applicant pool.
Second, while you’re doing all the above, please make sure to not view your gap year as a setback as it can easily just be a headstart. Getting into college abroad is the beginning while doing well once you’re there requires more effort. If you are fortunate enough to have gotten into college in Ethiopia, have the means to take classes or simply have access to books or online materials, take full advantage of them especially if they align with your career goals. For instance, you may want to be an economics major and had the chance to get into AAU's Commerce, take full advantage of your year in Commerce. Or if you have some books just self-study. You may end up going abroad for school later, but you’ll be learning content similar to what you’ve studied in your gap year which means not only can you breathe easier in classes but you can study ahead in the coursework or use that time to focus on extracurriculars, friends, hobbies and/or personal projects. Also, securing opportunities abroad is still somewhat based on luck so the future will remain uncertain. Therefore, doing the above strengthens yourself for opportunities within Ethiopia as well as abroad. So again, be intentional with your gap year as quite a bunch of us have done the same and tried to make good use of it to better our applications and ourselves. Thanks for reading and please take care of yourselves in the coming months!
The Author is a graduate of Columbia's class of 2020 and is now working at IBM as a Software Engineer.
April 8, 2019
So, you’ve gotten your acceptance letters, and maybe by this point, you’ve already decided which school you’re going to commit to. (If you haven’t that’s perfectly fine too; take a look at last week’s tip for some advice.) Now what? If you’re going to college for the Fall 2019 semester, you still have a few months between now and then. To some of you, this might either seem like a really long wait or it might seem too close for comfort. Both reactions are completely understandable and very valid. But while dealing with those emotions and coming to terms with them, there are some steps you have to take between now and then to make sure your transition is as smooth as possible. First and foremost, if you’re still a senior in high school, you still have that to finish. Remember, just because you’ve gotten an acceptance doesn’t mean your admission is guaranteed. Most schools still ask for a final transcript and do look it over. So, a major drop in grades or a possible disciplinary action could affect your school’s decision. You’ve made it this far and even though senioritis is very real, don’t risk your future by completely disregarding school for the last few months. You’ve worked too hard for that. You also have your final national examinations, and though it might seem irrelevant to some at this point. It’s still important that you try your best. Your school might or might not ask for those grades (depending on where you applied) and even if they didn’t, it’s the culmination of all your education up to this point so a good grade wouldn’t hurt. It’d also make you and your parents proud. And one thing that you might take into consideration is that just in case something happens between now and enrollment, you still want to make sure you do well. In the hopefully unlikely chance that everything doesn’t work out, you can still enroll in top universities back home. And one more thing, as to your last few months in high school. Have fun!! Hang out with your friends, converse with your classmates and faculty. Make the most out of your last few months. They can be very bittersweet so make sure you make some memories. As unbelievable as it might seem, you’re going to miss some of it.
Next, make sure you’ve submitted everything for your applications. Some schools might ask for further documents for financial aid or ask you for documentation regarding vaccines and medical records. The earlier you get those out of the way, the more time you have to enjoy your summer.
And make sure to get started on arranging for your visa documents as early as possible. If you’re going to be on a student visa, make sure you’ve submitted everything that you need for your I-20 and get started on your visa application. There are multiple forms to fill out and most likely an interview to go through before getting that final stamp on your passport. Prep for your interview and make sure you have everything ready and you’ll be fine. Again, the sooner you get this out of the way, the less you have to worry about.
And buy your plane tickets. The earlier you buy them, the cheaper they are. But remember to check your school’s housing policies. Some schools only allow you to move into the dorms at a certain date and if you’re going to your school directly from your home country, this is something that you have to put into consideration.
And if your school offers any pre-orientation programs for international students, take advantage of that. Very important information is often given during these orientations that are especially tailored for international students. It also allows you to interact with students from other countries which is a great bonding experience. But if this is not available, check if there are any other programs available for first years that you can apply to that you might be interested in. This might let you move into your dorm a few days before the rest of the students. The university’s website also often contains important information about what you might be required to do either before or after arrival on campus. And you can also ask students that you know who’ve spent a year or more abroad for any tips/advice that they might be able to offer you. This is especially helpful if you know someone who is attending the university that you plan to enroll in. If you need any help with contacts at the school you’re going to, you can reach out to us and if we know anyone, we’ll try our best to connect you.
And finally, it’s your last summer! Relax! Eat (Trust me you’ll miss your home cuisine; It might even be a good idea to stock up on some snacks or if you can cook, some ingredients so that when you crave food from home, you can make some here. Just make sure you have access to a kitchen or somewhere that you can cook). And Sleep!! (The truth is: transitioning into a new country and a new academic system isn’t always very smooth. So, you might have some nights where you have to cut down on sleep in order to finish a homework or study for a test so save up on as much sleep as you can before your summer’s over.) And from personal experience, enjoy the weather!!! (Depending on what country or state you go to, the weather might not be as nice as back home. If you’re going to a state that has long winters or is very cold, you’re going to miss the warmth of the sun so get your tan on! And enjoy it while it lasts!) . Enjoy all the time you have with your family and friends. It might be a little while before you see them again so make sure to make the most of your time together.
After all this, all you have left to do is pack and get ready for your Freshman year!!!!!
The Author is a rising junior at Columbia University studying Political Science.
April 4, 2019
Trying to decide between two (or more) colleges is a good problem to have. It means you have options, and you probably have a couple of good ones. If you’re excited by more than one of the possibilities within your reach, if you have to decide between two colleges, making your final decision can be difficult. In fact, the days leading up to May 1,Decision Day, may be filled with dread, second-guessing, and nervousness. This week we picked up some tricks for students who find themselves in this situation.
The first and most important thing you would want to do is to compare your financial aid packages. in fact, it’s so important that it may make the decision for you. While comparing packages keep your eye out for your total family contribution. That’s the amount you’ll have to pay out of pocket.The bottom line is that if School A is offering to meet 100% of your financial need and School B is only meeting a small part of it, it’s usually a good idea to steer yourself toward School A. A college’s commitment to meeting most or all of their students’ financial need also means a commitment to serving a student body that is socioeconomically diverse.
Next you should get in touch with your prospective department. If you have already developed a specific academic interest, compare the departments of the two schools. If your potential major is in the sciences, look at the labs, research opportunities, and faculty. If your interests lie in the humanities, what are the department’s resources like? Get in touch with the professors of that specific department or even students you might know. Make a list of questions before you email, but be sure to ask that student about his or her personal experiences, too.
you’re likely making a decision not just about where you want to study but also where you want to live. So, unless both schools you love are located in the same neighborhood, look at the big picture. Sure, you’ll want to see what their campuses are like, but take time to investigate the towns in which they are located, too. Is the neighborhood walkable? What’s the crime rate? Are the living expenses affordable in that location? You’ll likely live in this town for four years, so be sure you can make the most of its location.
If your decision is this hard, it probably means you’ve received two wonderful offers. By all means, make an effort to visualize yourself at each, to explore the differences between the two schools, but the truth is, if you think both offers are amazing, they probably are. You’ll likely find happiness at either school. Go with your gut.
The Author is a rising Junior at Columbia University studying Computer Science and Psychology.
March 31, 2019
Hey guys, this week’s tip is on dealing with rejection and failure. It’s a bit long so please bear with us.
We’ve all failed at something at least once in our lives. And if you haven’t yet … you will. I personally have feared failure since I can remember, all the way back to kindergarten. I lived my entire life doing as much as I could to avoid failure. Why did I fear failure so much? Well I thought it confirmed all the worst things I thought about myself and exposed them to the world. I thought each failure would close a door until I was left with no options and no one to blame but myself. So you can imagine how terrible my college application experience was. I blamed myself for each rejection and was filled with regret. Maybe I should’ve spent more time on the essay, maybe I should’ve worked harder in high school, or maybe I should’ve read more books as a kid. Whatever reason I came up with, I thought it had ruined my life forever - I mean, how will I ever find the time to read all those books I should’ve read as a kid? I wish I could tell you I realized how silly this mentality was soon enough. But no, I took acceptances I got as indicating luck, you know … as much as rejections surely indicated incompetence, and went to college set on doing everything right and not giving myself anything to regret. I’m now in my junior year of college and I can tell you that that didn’t go so well. But after multiple sessions feeling sorry for myself and crying it out, I’ve learned lessons that I think are important for you guys to hear.
The best lesson I’ve learned is to NOT TAKE FAILURE OR REJECTION PERSONALLY. And this is especially important to keep in mind when you guys hear back from the colleges you applied to. As much hard work as it needs, getting in to a college also needs a fair amount of luck. Getting rejected from a college doesn’t mean the end of the world nor does it mean you are any less than your peers. The best thing you can do is take it for what it is - a story, a lesson, motivation. Roadblocks only make your final destination all the more sweeter.
Lesson 2 - Relax, have a little faith, everything is happening the way it should. It’s when you face these roadblocks that you are able to see the many paths you could take that lead you down an unexpected and beautiful journey. Imagine staying in Ethiopia … did you know that the location of the 2020 INTERNATIONAL Conference on Learning Representations(an artificial intelligence conference) is our very own Addis Ababa? Yeah guys, amazing things are happening in our country right now and not just in fields like Artificial Intelligence but numerous other fields as well. Staying in Ethiopia might actually open up more opportunities for you. Another option, if you can afford it, is community college. Community college is a great way to experience small classroom settings where you can get the attention that’ll allow you to prosper. And when the time comes you’ll be ready to transfer to the college of your choice. All I’m saying is, trust your struggles (I took this from a TED talk :-)).
This isn’t to say that you should give up on studying abroad, which brings me to lesson 3 - IT’S NOT TOO LATE. Take gap years for example, many of us don’t know who we are or what we want when we go to college and gap years are a great way to change that. And you know what happens when you know what you want … amazing things. Not only only will you be more effective and successful in achieving your goals moving forward, other people (aka admissions officers) will easily be able to see your passion and your application will stand out. How could it not with all those amazing things you could do when you have an entire year. Believe me, gap years are your chance to do something that’ll impress the hell out of admissions officers.
Last lesson (I’m sort of still learning) - DON’T GIVE VALUE TO EXTERNAL VALIDATION because if you do you’ll fear having to be without it. Did you by any chance feel a lot of pressure when I said you can do something very impressive during your gap year? Did you get scared of disappointing your loved ones or even total strangers despite the supposedly many options available to you? That’s how I would’ve felt. And the only thing I can say to that is that it’s only going to hold you back. Many of us procrastinate because we think of failure before we even begin. We wait until we feel everything is perfect and we have maximized our chances of success so that eventually we can get that sweet sweet pat on the back. It’s as if we want to be assured that we’ll succeed before we can take on a task. And unfortunately, this is never going to happen. Don’t be scared to fail … failing is wonderful. And your loved ones will be proud of you for having the courage to put yourself in a position where you could fail because those are the ventures that pay off. Did I mention you should be proud of yourself? Seriously, you’re taking it upon your self and giving your best effort to bettering yourself, and that is very commendable.
The Author is a graduate of Columbia's class of 2020 and is now working at Microsoft as a Software Engineer.