Everyone knows the tension around college applications and decisions this time of year. Do I want to attend a big or a small college? Is this right for my application? According to Niche’s academic high school rankings, Kinkaid is the second highest ranked private school in Houston and number 48 nationwide, so there can be a lot of pressure about where students go and what they make of it when they get there. Students hear it all the time–throughout the hallways, in our classes, talking to our parents and dean—but what really happens after the applications have been sent in, the mortarboards have been thrown, and the dorms have been decorated? College freshmen Sarah Lasater at Rice University and Kaveh Badrei at Princeton University, helped us understand what college is really like after the notorious application and decision process.
Kaveh Badrei applied to many other schools in the Northeast. Lasater applied to over 10 schools, but chose Rice for its diverse culture, emphasized academics, and balance. She said “Independence is valued and voices are heard” in the college community.
Orienting your way around, befriending your roommates, and not getting lost on the way to classes can be difficult during the first couple of days in college. Rice, Princeton, and multiple other colleges have organized an “O-Week” or “Orientation Week” as a way to help students adapt and familiarize themselves with the college routine. “[Students learn] about all the different organizations and resources on campus. [They] learn crazy college and Rice traditions, have giant shaving cream fights, and pull pranks,” said Lasater. “It’s a lot like summer camp in that sense.” At Princeton, Badrei said how freshman have opportunities to meet other freshman at events like the Ice Cream Social and an outdoor music festival. Princeton students may also choose between a community service event or an outdoor adventure experience during orientation week.
During this time, students also meet student and college advisors, RA’s (resident assistants who help students with housing and dorms), and other students in their college. However, O-Week isn’t all fun and games. Students also pick their classes, sort out academic plans, and get prepared for the academic year ahead of them.
One of the most rigorous aspects of Kinkaid is its academics, so students may wonder how their hard work and dedication pay off in college, and if the grueling workload adequately prepares them for it. Badrei said, “you get to curate your schedule based on your own preference,” and students usually take 4-5 classes per semester. After two or three classes a day, Lasater usually is done by around 12 or one. You can usually find her studying, napping, hanging out with friends in the common room, or going to sports and club meetings after her classes. Unlike high school, homework rarely consists of “next-day” turn in assignments, and is usually just studying or finishing long term readings and problem sets. Although there is less class time, school work is almost always up to the students and independence is emphasized. On the other hand, professors, student teacher assistants (TA), and RA’s are always open resources regarding academics.
Student’s may have an advantage with going to college in a location they’re familiar with: you are more aware of things around campus and have less to adjust to. Already living in Houston, Lasater was pre-exposed to the city; however, Lasater said, “…I still feel like I’m a new place. I don’t feel too close or too far.” She also remarked how the new people and discovering new places around Houston with friends can make it feel like an entirely new city. Living with her sister in Houston during high school, Lasater was experienced with sharing a room; however, living with a roommate in college can be a whole different experience. Lasater and Badrei said they had to be more conscious about things like tidiness, turning off and on the lights, doing the laundry, etc. Although Badrei has never shared a room before, he said, “…the change has been very smooth…my roommate and I have become good friends already.” Lasater and Badrei also remarked how keeping in contact with their parents through FaceTime make it easy to deal with the distance.
Lasater explained how life on campus can be active and rather spontaneous. “Baker college is hosting a Christmas party…and has been blasting “Feliz Navidad” on loop from the windows all day,” Lasater said. Similarly, Badrei said he can always find on campus events like performing arts events or walk around Princeton town visiting shops and restaurants. Although academic work keeps them busy, there are always social events or hang out spots to discover on and off campus.
Regarding college applications, Badrei said to just be yourself (however cliché it may seem), and to stay true to your values and character. He also said freshman should take advantage of everything the opportunities and tools Kinkaid gives them to discover your own interests and passions. “it’s up to you to get involved and make the most of all that Kinkaid has in store for you,” he said.
Overall, leaving high school and situating yourself somewhere far from home with new people can be very intimidating. But with so many experiences and possibilities, both on and off campus, college is a thriving place filled with life and opportunity.