Today we feature a guest post from Veritas Prep SAT instructor Courtney Tran. Courtney is a student at UC Berkeley, studying Political Economy and Rhetoric. In high school, she was named a National Merit Finalist and National AP Scholar, and she represented her district two years in a row in Public Forum Debate at the National Forensics League National Tournament. She was always active in local politics, including speaking against budget cuts in and closings of Oakland Public Libraries.
When I received my acceptance email from the University of California at Berkeley in February of last year, I didn’t even finish reading the letter before closing it and resuming my Tetris game. I was happy to have been accepted, but I had never seriously considered attending Cal; I had already fallen head over heels for the University of Southern California. After all, I had lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade. I was ready for a change of scene.
A couple of high scores later, I reopened and skimmed the letter, which noted that I had been invited to a scholarship interview. I attended later that month, figuring that I had no excuse for skipping out on a prestigious scholarship opportunity within jogging distance of my mother’s apartment. A few weeks later, however, I received notice that I had been awarded several scholarships that would enable me to attend Cal nearly free of charge.
Grudgingly, I accepted. In April, when some calculator-crunching of the financial aid packages from my college acceptance letters revealed that Berkeley was by far the most financially sensible of my options, I even more grudgingly submitted my deposit to the University of California. Don’t get me wrong—I was and still am extremely grateful for the generous financial support I received for my education. But I had grown up waiting for a chance to see what the world looked like beyond the Bay Area, and attending Cal felt like taking the easy road instead of following my dreams.
I moved into my dorm room a few short months later, lugging four duffel bags and outlining transfer application essays in my head. Despite my reluctance, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the diversity of my class and the enormous range of classes and activities available. Bit by bit, the school grew on me: the beautiful North Side architecture, the surprisingly tasty dining hall food (who knew?), and my peers’ enthusiasm for learning. I was delighted by the fact that, for the first time in my life, school was fast-paced and challenging: memorizing wasn’t enough anymore, and I often had to study late into the night in order to keep up with my classmates.
Before I knew it, I woke up every day excited to go to class. My dorm-mates became my second family, the exposure to new cultures and types of people broadened my perspectives, and I slowly grew to appreciate the convenience and comfort of living close to home. Even better, Cal’s alumni network and internship programs fed my interests in travel, politics, languages, and the field of public policy by helping me secure two winter break externships—one in Washington D.C., and one in San Jose—and a place in a summer program that will allow me to intern in the state capital for eight weeks. I got my wish after all.
It’s January now. I’ve just finished my first semester as a Golden Bear, as well as a few applications for study abroad programs. New classes start in two weeks. I’m writing this from beneath a bundle of fuzzy blankets on the couch in my mother’s apartment; and as comfy as it is here, I can’t wait to go back to school. I never did submit those transfer essays, because it didn’t take me long to realize that UC Berkeley, despite my initial reservations, was the perfect place for me. I wear my Golden Bear hoodie with pride.
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