Posted by Wafa K. | Posted on November 10, 2010
When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.
-Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
For the next couple of weeks, all of the Hopkins Interactive bloggers will be writing on a common theme: our thoughts and reflections on the college application process. We’ve all been exactly where you are now and hope that sharing our experiences will help you through this momentous (but challenging!) time in your life.
Being a member of SAAB is almost like being a high school senior over and over again: we go through the process in the fall with the anxiety and stress of applying, have a lull while the counselors are reading and a burst of excitement come April when decisions are released. Most of my other friends have long forgotten what it feels like to wait for a decision from college, if you ask them the specifics of their application they’ll shrug, and they are more pre-occupied with planning for MCATs, GREs and LSATs then remembering their SAT scores. But, by the nature of working in Admissions, every detail remains a bit ingrained in our minds so that every year we can offer a new batch of high school seniors advice and answer their questions about this gnarling process.
I get to go through this process again with my baby sister who is applying to schools this year
So the question now becomes: how did I personally end up at Hopkins?
My family finds its origins in Algeria, a country in North Africa. I was born there and immigrated to the US when I was two, so both of my parents completed their education abroad and were thus unfamiliar with the American system. My older sister had already applied and was attending a university, but she was spending her junior year abroad in France during my senior year of high school so essentially, I was on my own.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have bit of a Type A personality and that manifested itself to an overwhelming degree in applying for colleges. I figured out everything myself, color coded my life and applied to schools. That isn’t to say I didn’t have any help; moreover, I had fantastic mentors in high school that read my essays for me and answered every question I could possibly think of. Furthermore, my parents were fantastic in their unwavering support and ability to deal with my frequent anxiety.
My parents are the greatest people ever. Not that I'm biased.
I got into all but one school that I applied to, but the inner turmoil that many students feel in choosing schools did not manifest itself in me. I had received the opportunity from two schools to complete their seven-year accelerated medical program, and was quite content with that direction. That is until I received an email from Hopkins. To be completely honest, I was not waiting for my Hopkins decision email at 5 pm. In fact, I did not even see the email until I woke up the next morning and opened my computer to check the soccer schedule for that day. I stumbled downstairs still half asleep and told my family “I think I just got into Hopkins.”
My mom and I at the April Open House my senior year.
Paulo Coelho, one of the few authors that both my mother and I adore, wrote in perhaps his most famous work that certain things are maktub. It is an Arabic word that is difficult even for a native speaker of both languages (i.e. me) to translate effectively into English. It could be interpreted as “it is written, it is part of destiny,” but even that does not do justice to the religious and culture implications of that word. But, it is perfect to describe how I ended up at this university. Hopkins was not a dream of mine, I did not visit the school when I was a junior and fell in love, I knew absolutely no one who attended, etc. But, it was maktub. Pieces fit together, and when we came home from a Open House, there was no discussion with my parents – it was merely assuming that I would be attending Hopkins. And the rest, as they say, is history.
At this point, I had no clue just how much time I would eventually spend in Mason.
I often feel like I stumbled onto good fortune and that the stars really did align so that I could attend Hopkins and I am grateful for it every second [except perhaps that seconds I spend studying Physics, but besides that]. If I could offer advice to students applying to college, I would implore you to let go of the cookie cut projection of a perfect high school senior that you may believe colleges want to see. When I interview students as an Admissions Representative, the ones that get me excited about the future of the student population at Hopkins are the ones that are comfortable in what they have done, the ones that can crack a joke, the ones that tell me “Buenos Aires, for a good steak” when I ask “If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?” or my favorite yet “I want to watch a match in the Camp Nou.”
When Liverpool wins, it feels almost as good as getting in college. No lie.
you just need to see this goal
When people say “be yourself,” it is not an idiom, it is not a cop-out, they are not trying to get you to stop asking questions. With all sincerity, be yourself. When you write an essay, write it about something that makes you smile as you type because passion is transmitted through the written word. Intellectual curiosity, doing something for the sake of gaining knowledge, skills and experiences – as opposed to doing it halfheartedly is easily discernible despite the term being quite intangible and difficult to explain. It doesn’t matter if you’re applying as a biophysics major, if photography makes you happy – write about photography.
The other piece of advice I would offer would be: organization should be your best friend forever during this process. But you actually have to follow through, making a chart with due dates and never looking at it again does not do much good to anyone and won’t actually help you get in your applications by those deadlines. In less than a year, you will be a college student and personally in charge of most aspects of your life and cementing organizational skills during this process can make that transition a bit less daunting (only a little bit mind you).
Also, don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. Ask your teachers, counselors, go online and find forums [like, I don't know, the wickedly awesome Hopkins Forums]. Do your research but if you can’t find an answer or if you want opinion, those are the options available to you [just a note of caution, don't ask about your chance to get into a school, nobody answers that question - ever].
Through it all, don’t lose sight of the big picture. Eventually it’ll all work out, the essays will get written, the recommendations will be sent, the applications will be read, decisions will be sent and you will end up in college. Give it your best and you might be surprised what is maktub for you.
The auditorium in Mason Hall has seats that are inscribed on the back with achievements of individuals affiliated with the university, when I visited the school for a banquet in my senior year I sat behind this seat, and if that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.