I apologize for my late response. I spent the last week in the mountains with my family, so internet was hard to come by. However, better late than never.
After my first quarter at UCLA, I have discovered the most important element to success: accountability. Unlike high school, you are not amongst classes of 30 students where the teacher knows you whether or not you want it that way. In college, it is up to you to create a relationship with your professor by either going to office hours or warily raising your hand in vast lecture halls. In conjunction with this theme of accountability, time management is key. Luckily, I developed a great sense of time management in high school, so transitioning into college wasn't a challenge. College offers countless distractions to newly independent students, but it is up to that student to make sure that work and studying are completed before discovering their new environment. For myself, I make sure that my work is completed during the week so that I have the weekends to myself. Los Angeles is an amazingly diverse and large city, so I make it a priority to stay on top of my work in order to venture out on weekends.
Dorm life is one of the most different experiences in college. Instead of waking up to Mom or Dad cooking breakfast in the morning, you wake up in a bunk bed inside a very small room that has only the purposes of sleeping and studying. Instead of making a piece of toast to eat on the way to school, you go to dining halls or quick service eateries (which I think eat up a lot of time in the morning). Also, many students are accustomed to driving to school. No matter what college you go to, you'll be walking, so get used to the idea. With the alluring Freshmen 15 being nearly unavoidable, you'll be appreciative of this walking with time. Ultimately, I enjoy dorm life. I'm lucky to have very nice roommates and great people on my floor, with whom I've created great friendships. Dorming is important because the people you meet in your building tend to become your best friends throughout college.
One of the biggest differences between high school and college are finals. Unlike high school, your college grades depend on very few factors: midterms, a final and sometimes homework. With such heavy weight on each of these categories, it is no wonder why college is so stressful at times. When Finals Week did arrive, I found myself well-prepared because I put in the work throughout the quarter instead of cramming in the days before finals. If you stay on top of your work throughout the quarter, you'll avoid cramming loads of knowledge in at the last second. Instead of cramming, you will be reviewing information you already know.
I really enjoyed my courses this quarter. I mostly enjoyed them because they taught material that was a review for me. This helped me review information taught to me during high school and better understand and expand on those concepts. The courses can be rigorous due to competition among students, which is clearly present (especially in the math and sciences). Also, some classes have curves and grading scales that are intimidating. For example, my calculus this course this quarter had a grading policy that said that only half of the class would receive a grade higher than a C+. This is very intimidating to students who graduated high school with 4.5's! However, if you put in the work, you can continue to pull off good grades.
I hope that my experience this quarter will help current seniors. Because I am applying to engineering next quarter and want to assure that I have top grades, I cannot comment on extra-curriculars just yet. Maybe after Spring Quarter I will have a better commentary. If any students are interested in UCLA or have any general questions about college, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.