Flor is an alumni of DSST: Cole High School and currently a Freshman at Claremont McKenna College in California. Even though she's busy wrapping up her first year of school, we we're lucky enough to be able to talk to her about the challenges and successes that she has encountered so far!
What surprised you the most about college?
The thing that surprised me most about college is the large amount of freedom and independence that we get as students. I am expected to hold myself accountable and balance my free time with work time. In other words, nobody is there to keep me accountable, rather I have to take it upon myself to work, complete assignments, show up to class, and study. Furthermore, given the large amount of freedom and independence that I get, I also have the opportunity to learn and do things outside of class that I love. For example, I get time to explore new places, try new things, hang out with friends, party, and just generally have fun.
What has been the biggest academic challenge you have encountered so far?
The biggest academic challenge that I have encountered so far is knowing who to reach out to when I have an academic problem, such as registering for classes, office hours, academic resources, etc. This was especially hard given that I am a first generation college student, so I had a bit of difficulty advocating for myself and navigating this academic aspect of college. It was a bit challenging for me to ask for academic help when I need it. For example, towards the beginning of the year I had difficulty asking for assignment extensions, raising my hand to ask a question in front of the whole class, going to office hours, and registering for classes. However, thankfully my school offers help for first-generation college students through a club called 1Gen, and I have a mentor who I can go to with questions about navigating college life. I have also learned that it is extremely important to take accountability for my actions, and that it is okay to struggle and ask for help. Another challenge that I encountered was learning just how much I am capable of doing. For example, last semester I had too much free time because I did not do much outside of academics. However, this semester did a bit too much, therefore I struggled a bit with time management in terms of balancing good grades, work, extracurriculars, and internships.
What has been the biggest social or personal challenge you have encountered so far?
Towards the beginning of the school year, I had a bit of difficulty making friends and meeting new people. This was because in high school I was definitely much more introverted and shy. However, I soon realized that everyone is going through the exact same thing, and everybody is looking to meet new people and make friends. It has also been a bit difficult attending a predominantly white and wealthy institution. In order to deal with the difficulties of navigating a predominantly white institution and making friends, I joined affinity groups and clubs on campus. These clubs foster a sense of inclusion and community that have helped me meet people who have been through similar experiences to me. Through clubs and organizations like these, I’ve met amazing people, and I’ve made many more friends than in high school. Furthermore, clubs like these have allowed me to have an inclusive, and welcoming community on campus.
What has been your favorite part of college so far?
My favorite part of college so far has been the independence, freedom, and meeting new people. I’ve met so many amazing people, and I’ve formed many friendships with people of different backgrounds and experiences. I also really enjoy the amount of freedom that I get in college. For example, I get to explore new places, see new things, party, socialize, and have fun. Another one of my favorite parts about college is the freedom to choose classes and learn about things that truly interest me. Although classes are much harder in college, classes are also much more enjoyable, interesting, and relatable.
What have you learned about yourself?
I have learned many things about myself in college. Most importantly, I have learned that I am an extremely resilient individual. In college, I’ve done things far outside of my comfort zone, and I’ve also pushed myself beyond my limits. Given this, I’ve grown a lot and I’ve also realized just how strong I am. I realized that I am capable of so much more than I thought.
In what ways do you feel DSST prepared you for college?
DSST really prepared me a lot in terms of time management and academic rigor. This helped me adapt to the fast-paced and rigorous academics of college fairly quickly. Furthermore, all of the teachers at DSST: Cole always pushed me to put forth my best effort and try my best with every task, which has truly helped me succeed and prosper in college.
Has your time in college so far changed your mind about what you want to do after graduation?
My time in college has made me completely change what I want to do after graduation. Before coming to college, I saw law school as my only way to give back to the immigrant community. However, after getting involved in many clubs, organizations, and internships on campus, I realized that there are endless opportunities and career paths that I can take. Although I am not sure exactly what I want to do after graduating, I have realized that law school is not something that I want to purse immediately after graduating.
Based on your experiences this year, what would be some advice for seniors graduating this year?
My advice to seniors graduating this year is that it is completely okay to not have everything figured out. Although you may feel the pressure to have everything figured out (major, career path, college, life goals etc.), it is important to recognize that all of these things take time. It may be a bit intimidating and discouraging when comparing your own journey to other people, however it is extremely important to recognize that everyone has different goals and everyone goes at their own pace, there is no “right way” of doing things. Another piece of advice for seniors is to follow your passions. College is a time to explore your passions and interests, so do things that you truly love and enjoy doing. Lastly, my number one piece of advice for seniors graduating college is to have fun-- college is a time to have fun, meet new people, make new friends, and explore new places. This is a wonderful time in your life, and you should enjoy it as much as you can!