Join Date: May 2009
Location: South Florida
A College Confidential Reflection
Good evening, all. I'm sure that a few of you have seen my posts on the AP Tests Preparation forum, where I tend to spend most of my time on this website. In fact, that was the first part of this website that I'd ever seen. I stumbled upon this website in May of 2009 while looking for AP Biology review resources. At the time, I was a high school sophomore who had already began taking out-of-school classes (thanks to Florida Virtual School and dual enrollment with the local community college), and because one of my parents is an Ivy League alum, I knew that I was expected to aim for a top university. However, I didn't know much about how to get to that point; all I had was a love for learning.
Despite getting a 4 on AP Human Geography as a freshman, I quickly made use of the resources available on this website, and on June 29th, 2009, the AP Scores by Phone service told me that I had earned all fives on my four 2009 AP exams. This was to be repeated on July 1st, 2010 (seven fives and a three) and on June 30th, 2011 (ten fives and a four). College Confidential also helped guide me to a 2300 on the SAT and three 800s on the SAT subject tests. In short - I'm the stereotypical College Confidential overachiever.
Is an overachiever born or made? Allow me to retrogress for a minute - in middle school, I knew I was smart, but I was also lazy. I didn't understand math and I skated by with As and Bs. However, I also knew that high school was when grades really started to matter, and as alluded to previously, I had an innate love for learning. I just found other things more interesting to learn about than the Florida-mandated 8th grade science curriculum. So as I entered high school, I began to try. I began to study and give 110% effort on homework (always having to write a few more sentences than expected). This was not at all a ploy to become the universal teacher's pet; instead, it allowed me to be satisfied with my own work and learn as much as I could about a subject. Over four years, those two drives caused me to end up with straight As and a valedictorian speech at graduation, but I can honestly tell myself and the rest of the world that they were merely tertiary consequences of my passion to learn. In this light, it seems like an overachiever is born.
However, I cannot deny that College Confidential introduced me to both the idea of self-studying exams and the idea of becoming State AP Scholar - an award that, with 24 AP exams under my belt, I hope to receive in September. Neither of these things were necessary, suggesting that perhaps College Confidential did make me into an overachieving monster. Yet I'd confidently say that self-studying was rewarding in that it allowed me to broaden both my mind and work ethic significantly. If it helped me earn the State AP Scholar award, so be it; that itself was never a motivation but merely an end result. So retrospectively, I'd say that what one might coin as "overachieving" was really me just pursing something that I enjoyed and loved.
Overall, that's a lesson I learned from College Confidential, and it's a lesson I learned from my four years of high school. It's what I wrote part of my valedictorian speech about, and it's why I am a member of the University of Pennsylvania's Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology for the class of 2015. Both from reading advice threads on this website and from figuring out that learning was one of the things I loved to do, I realized that excelling at and then highlighting what you love is the best way to be successful in the cruel game of college admissions. It was because of this realization that I continued coaching Little League Baseball instead of quitting on account of it being a massive timesink; it was because of this realization that I joined the debate team; it was because of this realization that I made the time to continue composing music, which I eventually wrote my Common Application essay about; it was because of this realization that I started to give up all of my lunch periods to help anyone out who needed it with schoolwork or life. Those things, in addition to learning, made me genuinely happy throughout high school, and they were things that I was proud to put on my college applications and talk about in my interviews.
So my advice to all future college applicants who are reading this: do something you love, and make sure your prospective colleges know it. The astronomical SAT scores and continuous streak of AP fives help, but in the end, you'll want to differentiate yourself from everybody else, and the unique set of interests and activities that defines you is going to do that. Colleges love a person who is self-aware of both their strengths and their imperfections; show them why those make you the best possible candidate for their offer of admission.
Looking back, I can truthfully say that I had fun in high school. I made a wonderful and diverse group of friends, I created some really wonderful memories, and I did some things that I'll always be proud of. While I may have worked my butt off, I don't regret a minute of the studying I did. I don't regret a minute of the sleep that I lost by spending three hours at the Little League field on a school night, and I don't care about the makeup work I had to do because of debate tournaments. Time management played a factor, but in the end, I was loving every minute of what I was doing. If you can say the same about your time in high school (and throughout the rest of your life), you will be successful both in college admissions and in your overarching future.
Have a good night, everyone. I'll still be around to post on the AP Tests Preparation and University of Pennsylvania forums, and I'd be glad to answer any private or visitor messages left for me. But, as of 5 PM last night, when I found out my AP scores for the final time, my College Confidential glory days are over. It's been a great ride.