La Jolla High senior tackles college choice

Roger Li takes a break from decision-making.  Photo: Courtesy
Roger Li takes a break from decision-making. Photo: Courtesy

By Roger Li

Editor’s note: Roger Li, a senior at La Jolla High who has interned at the Light for the past year, talks about the challenges of senior year in an intermittent series.

At a competitive school like La Jolla High, college means everything. Overachievers seek academic perfection while athletes train rigorously with dreams of recruitment. Weeknights are spent cramming for tests and writing essays. The prospect of college admissions unnerves even the most emotionally stable seniors.

I had always thought the college frenzy was petty. But as junior year approached, like the rest of my peers, my GPA and my standardized test scores began to weigh on my mind. Surprisingly, my parents had no requirements my college choice. Without the burden of limiting my college list, I started to research schools.

I knew what I wanted — an intellectual school on the East Coast with a strong international studies program. So many universities fit my initial criteria that I started looking at other measures. I went on, strolling through student reviews of the dating scene, the partying life, and food at the dining halls. For a boy who grew up on his mom’s Asian home cooking, dining hall food was very important.

At first, I was wary of applying to the hallowed Ivy League. From what I heard, applying to one of those universities was essentially a waste of $ 70 that could have been spent on food. I, the awkward budding social activist, would be competing against world champion flautists and Olympic athletes. To say I was intimidated would be an understatement.

Regardless, I was not even sure that Ivy League schools would give me a better education. I read about superstar professors who were more concerned with research than undergraduate teaching and the entitled elitism that those schools could breed among its students. I had to ask myself: Was I applying for status or academic merit?

Ultimately, I decided to take my chances. Top East Coast universities had their reputations for a reason. They attracted the world’s brightest and had unparalleled resources. I knew that I was applying for the right reasons with realistic expectations. Those schools aren’t right for everybody, but some of them were right for me.

At the end of a long month, I compiled a list of 13 schools. But I had yet to start the most arduous part of the application process: The personal statement.

Coming next: How Roger stared down that statement.



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