My hard work paid off — I got into three colleges! They are my safety schools (San Francisco State, Sonoma State, and Chico State), but it’s still nice to know that I am going to college. I am still waiting to hear back from the rest of the schools I applied to: San Diego State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, University of California (UC) Santa Barbara, UC Los Angeles, and UC Santa Cruz.
It’s a really exciting and nerve-racking time for me and my peers at Summit Prep in Redwood City, California. This time of year we are constantly checking our college portals for new information about our admission status. Just two weeks ago, Summit Prep had its Mid-Year Report Deadline, when seniors’ first-semester grades are reported. If colleges want to see these grades, they’ll request them on our portal, and then the school sends them.
It’s a common misconception that the first semester of senior year is the only part that matters; this is actually far from the truth. The second semester is all about figuring out how to match who you are with the perfect college. It’s about identifying what the most important aspects of a college experience are for you. It’s about figuring out how to pay for college through scholarships and loans. All of these decisions are often times just as stressful as actually applying to college. Lucky for me, Summit has provided lots of resources to ensure my classmates’ and my success.
What Matters Most In Picking a College
Last year in college readiness class, my teacher Ms. Bettencourt gave me the difficult task of ranking what the most and least important aspects of a college experience out of a list of 10 attributes. This challenged me to think deeply about my values and the kind of person I would like to become. Was location or size of school more important? Was the student to faculty ratio more important than how diverse the student body was? Was the average graduation rate more important than joining a sorority? This activity pushed me to reflect on who I am as a person and what I hold true to myself. I was surprised to see how much of a role the location of the college played in my decision, and this new discovery helped me narrow down my college list.
Summit Projects that Shaped My Identity
Attending Summit Prep for high school taught me a lot about not only school subjects, but also life skills. Through my experiences in Expeditions, college trips, and mentor check-ins with teachers, I have grown and matured in my ability to self-direct my learning and set goals for my future. Specifically, the projects that I was assigned in my core classes were unlike anything I experienced in grade school. I was assigned projects that shaped me as a person, rather than just checked a box for required curriculum.
One project that will stick with me is my Freshman Speech. Every freshman student chooses an issue that they care about and writes a persuasive speech about that topic, which they perform in front of the school. For the first time, I was able to choose what I wanted to learn. I remember getting really excited about this project and staying up late at night, perfecting my speech about why gay marriage should be legalized (this was in 2014).
How Summit Influenced My Peers
My freshman speech experience was empowering to me, and it got me excited about learning throughout the rest of high school. I wondered if my peers had similar experiences. I asked a few of my friends how Summit helped shape who they are as a person, and this is what they said:
“Summit has helped me gain experience in multiple fields that I am interested in through Expeditions that I have been able to take. Throughout my four years of Expeditions, I have been able to explore creative writing, video production, computer science, Holocaust studies, and an experience with a nonprofit through an internship. This extremely diverse set of classes that I have been able to dive deep into has given me a large range of interests and skill sets, which definitely helped me when applying for colleges! I have been able to write about multiple different experiences that I have had through the Expeditions program, experiences that have given me summer internships, new relationships with my teachers and classmates, and a broader, more diverse way of looking at the world around me.”
– Sophia Desmarais, Summit Prep
“When I️ first came to Summit, I️ had no clue what I️ wanted to do in the future. I️ didn’t understand what I wanted to do, but after spending just a few weeks at Summit, I️ had been given multiple opportunities to discover my true passions, including social justice. I️ had the resources to expand my knowledge of what is going on in the world and through that, I learned what I️ could to do to help the problem I️ was researching. Summit provided me with classes where I could work on projects relevant to my interests, and it is currently helping me pursue my future career choice in college.”
– Rasmia Shuman, Summit Prep
“At Summit I have gained a sense of independence and curiosity, specifically through Expeditions. I have discovered what I want to study in college because of the experiences I have had. During the college process, I easily knew what I wanted to study because I had experience with what I was passionate in. Expeditions has given me a pathway to follow my passions and lead me to something I could possibly be involved with for the rest of my life. During my four years at Summit, I have learned about who I am as a person and who I want to be in the future.”
– Liliana Gomez, Summit Prep
“Learning and growing at Summit has helped me develop and expand my sense of purpose by continuously intermixing the projects we did in class with current events and social justice issues. Doing this gave me a broader understanding of the world and my passions. I️ developed a strong connection to the refugee crisis and dug deep into that issue which I️ incorporated into many of my class projects. My newfound passion for this issue eventually led me to travel to Greece with my father to work with refugees, using the knowledge I️ had learned in class to connect with them.”
– Anna Becker, Summit Prep
What rings true in all of these insights about Summit? It is a place where students are able to choose the education path they want to follow. Self-directed learning helps students not only master core subjects but also grow as a person.
Next Steps Towards College
These next few months leading up to high school graduation will be challenging. It will be tricky to balance the relaxed nature of being a second-semester senior while remaining focused and motivated towards my college goals. But Summit is providing the resources and experiences to keep me motivated and excited to learn during this waiting period.
My mentor, Mr. Kelly, gave a presentation last week about the importance of applying for scholarships and what kinds of opportunities are out there for us. I learned that there is a middle-class scholarship for families like mine that don’t typically receive scholarships. While I wait to hear my admission status, I am researching scholarships based on my personal demographics, talents, and interests. One of the big ones that I am applying to right now at San Diego State is a scholarship that is specific to my potential major, Modern Jewish Studies.
Projects and content continue in class, as well. I am particularly looking forward to the senior political activism project. The project entails choosing a political issue that I care about, then creating a plan on how I will be able to create change regarding this issue. From there, I will take action. I am hoping to do a peace project with one of my best friends, Rasmia Shuman, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the middle east. It should be interesting to see what my other classmates choose as their issues, and I look forward to creating real change through this project.
Finally, I am building a foundation for my professional life through my Expeditions internship at the Summit Public Schools home office. I have already begun to build my professional network and documentation by creating a resumé and a LinkedIn profile. I’m currently working on designing my business cards so that I can start to develop my own personal brand and expand my horizons.
I have a lot to look forward to in the coming months. Inspired by the Holocaust studies Expedition class I took last year, I will be taking a trip to Poland to visit concentration camps in April. Accompanied by a Holocaust survivor who endured prejudice, anti-semitism, and concentration camps, I will see firsthand the effect that World War II had on the country from which my family originated.
All of these final high school experiences are building up to graduation, my final step before heading off to college and adulthood! I am thankful for Summit Prep for helping me learn more about who I am and the world around me, and I know that this knowledge will help me navigate my life in college and beyond.
This post is the third in a series about Talia’s journey to college acceptance.