I hope you are back into gear, refreshed from break and various holiday celebrations. To those suffering from the snow & cold of this year's winter (I look out the window now to find the snow furiously piling up on the already high pile of snow) I hope you are keeping warm and cozy. I've been out of touch for so long and I apologise. If I can remember correctly about last semester, it was a mad rush to get things done, finish term papers and revise essays before my flight back to Korea for the break, so I never had a chance to wrap up fall semester. After I got back I spent the next three weeks in bed recovering from a mystery sickness (I aptly named it "post first-semester-of-college syndrome") and then visiting relatives around the country. And of course, eating lots and lots of good home food. Honestly, after a month of being spoiled by my parents I almost didn't want to come back. :-)
But here I am at Amherst, most of the time walking around very dazed because of my lingering jetlag, very glad to see missed faces, slightly less glad to see the five feet snow mounds--I had never thought I would see snow piled up to my height outside of a ski field--and really happy and scared about my course selections. I basically got everything I wanted, which I'm stoked about. I am signed up for another intro English course called Film & Writing, an English seminar with visiting writer Amity Gaige called Unreliabilities, Photography I and a venture into a new language, French I. I am also going to start drum lessons as well as continuing with jazz voice lessons, which will be a blast. I guess my subjects just written out like this won't seem too intimidating at all.The courses I have chosen all require a lot of extra work outside the class so I am a little scared of the logistics of this...but I am up for the challenge anyway (yeah, yeah, I'm only a freshman so I have time to take crazy risks :p ) and will love everything that I am to learn in the four classes that I have this semester.
The second part of my posting is the first series of 'A Tidbit About College Admissions', entries I will devote to prospective Amherst students and people interested in college admissions in general. This is a very subjective but well-meaning column coming from a college freshman who went through these worries, choices and decisions only a year ago. So I hope it helps people in guiding themselves to the college of their fit and choice.
A TIDBIT ABOUT COLLEGE ADMISSIONS #1
I received an email a few weeks back asking me about transferring to Amherst. To sum up the email, this student thought that Amherst was her absolute perfect school, yet she thought that her grades and scores were too low so she was planning to attend a local community college. She was worried that she wouldn't have a good chance of transferring into Amherst in her sophomore year if she went to a less well known college such as the community college of her choice. She also mentioned that the community college did not have a letter grade system but supplied written evaluations by teachers. She wanted to know if this unusual grading system would hinder her from attending Amherst. Below is the answer that I sent her; I think these replies, especially the first part, could be helpful to not only prospective transfer students but any high school senior applying to colleges.
1) There's no such thing as a "perfect" school. For anyone. There might be good fits or bad fits, but really, no one school is going to satisfy a hundred per cent of your needs. What I'm trying to say is, (ironically, coming from an Amherst student), don't limit your option to Amherst only. Look far and broad. Be realistic and practical. Think long and hard about not only the education itself, but the environment, the surroundings, the food, the living conditions (I must admit Amherst has an awesome residential life system) and such. To be honest, no one knows how a school is going to be like until s/he gets there and experiences it for himself/herself. As for me, I was not a 100% sure I would enjoy Amherst, as I was for the most part of my life a city girl and was looking for a bigger college to attend. But when I got here, I found that I really enjoyed how intimate and personalised the interactions between professors and students were and the resources the school gave me to do what I wanted to do. I also found out that I quite liked the small town setting. Amherst has a very small "town centre", but it is packed with all the goodness you will need. See, the impression I have of Amherst stems from my own individual preferences, personality and experience, and cannot simply apply to all cases. Someone might have the opposite experience, and be dissatisfied with the learning environment and the quiet surroundings. Because you don't know what you're going to get until you actually get there, you are essentially taking a chance with whatever college you are choosing to attend. So why not be more adventurous and have many options in mind instead of being grounded in thinking that Amherst is the "perfect school"?
2) The second question is a little difficult to answer, especially because I am not an expert at this. If you want more information I suggest you contact the admissions office, but I will nevertheless give you my five cents. I really don't think the school's reputation matters. Transfers are often for students who realise partway through their education that they want something more challenging and more vigorous, and end up looking for different schools to suit their needs. The transfer students I have met at Amherst have all been from community colleges coincidentally. I think the key in admissions or transfer admissions is not the name brand of the school itself, but how you utilised what you had and made the most of the resources provided to you. So I wouldn't worry too much about that if I were you.
3) This again, I suggest you ask the admissions office. I don't think this would matter too much either, as universities and colleges are known for being flexible with different grading systems from different schools. I don't know about your particular college, but I have friends at Deep Springs, a two-year college which, along with very special admission standards and curriculum, gives no grades. I have seen graduates of DS to get into top colleges after their two years of DS education without transcripts with letter grades.
I hope these very belated answers would help you somewhat in decisions that will come in the spring. Good luck with everything and have fun w senior year!