My name is Julia Chang, and I am a first year at UC Berkeley. I graduated from Pinole Valley High School last June, and took the World Religions course at Vanderbilt University in the summer of 2011 as well as the Grand Strategies course at Yale University in 2012. Upon completion of my first semester at Cal, I wish to share a plethora of lessons I learned with you prospective college students and detail a few of the new experiences that college has introduced me to.
Though I am sure you are aware that collegiate academics differ greatly from those of high school, it is a point that I cannot disregard when discussing what you ought to expect after you graduate high school and enter into this faster-paced, more challenging academic world. Keep in mind that, to a large extent, you will be in charge of your education – not your parents, professors, TAs, or tutors. It will be your responsibility to complete your work on time, ask for help when needed, and push yourself to greater heights. You may find that quite often, midterm and final exams will determine the majority of the grade you receive. Thus, there are fewer opportunities to “boost” your grade in college as opposed to high school, where daily homework, quizzes, and extra credit comprise a greater portion of your grade. None of the classes that I took last semester offered extra credit, and I do not know of any that do. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to perform to the best of your ability on exams. This requires focus and effort. I found myself studying more than I ever had before in preparation for my exams, spending countless hours in the libraries pouring over notes and practicing problems. You will learn that what you put into your schoolwork – studying, reviewing, asking questions – is what you will get out of the class – knowledge, personal growth, and, of course, a letter grade.
In addition to balancing your course load, you might be interested in joining a campus organization or club that serves one of your interests. In high school, I took handfuls of AP classes and led a handful of clubs. In college, it becomes increasingly difficult to spread yourself thin so much. The academics are arguably much more challenging and time-consuming, as are extracurricular activities. I joined the American Red Cross at Cal last semester, which works with the larger Bay Area chapter to provide disaster preparedness/relief, community outreach, education, and so on, to the campus and greater community. I am serving as an intern this upcoming semester and will be a Youth Services Coordinator later this fall. Joining a student group is a fun and engaging way for you to become more involved on your campus. In addition, you will have the opportunity to meet fellow students who share a common interest with you. College can seem like a big place in comparison to high school, and it may seem like an easy place to get lost in the crowd. I encourage you to be open and immerse yourself in the rich extracurricular life that your college has to offer because there, you will be surrounded by a smaller community of students with whom you may establish great friendships and share memorable college experiences with.
College is a time in your life where your greatest and primary responsibility is to learn. I have learned so much in just one semester at Cal – not only about the material presented in the lecture halls and classrooms but about myself as well. The next four years or so of your life will be your opportunity to grow academically and personally, so take advantage of what your college offers you. Do not be afraid to take a random class that you have a slight interest in or join the student organization where you can have fun or do something impactful with. Opportunities lie everywhere – you just need to seek them out and seize them.
I wish you all the best of luck with all that you choose to do wherever you choose to go.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you might have regarding Cal, college in general, or anything of that nature. I would be more than happy to help.