Gateway Guru

College Planning Advice

This is quite an exciting and stressful time for high school seniors. Between finishing the last months of high school, students need to make big decisions about the future and can be overwhelmed with how to make this transition. We wanted to provide some insights from current UCSB seniors and current graduates. One of Gateway’s own tutors, Mayra, answered some questions about her experiences. She is double majoring in Sociology and Latin American Studies.

Q: What advice do you have for high school seniors who are struggling to choose which school to attend?

If you are having a hard time deciding between two of your top schools consider the following factors. First, look into the major you are planning to pursue and whether or not the department/program meets your expectations. In addition, compare the financial aid award package and decide which school is offering you more financial aid. The location and school environment are also important. This will be your home for the next four years. If you are one of those people whose mood is greatly affected by the rainy weather, for example, then maybe choose a school where you’ll be more content and motivated to succeed.

Q: Are there any scholarships seniors can apply for?

Yes! If you are a senior in good academic standing consider applying to the Gates Millennium Scholarship. It may sound super scary and intimidating to know that only 1000 students nationwide are able to obtain it. However, it is worth the try considering the benefits. Three students of my graduating class (2013) were able to receive the scholarship and they are now attending UCSB and UCLA without having to worry about money. The Dell Scholars Program is also very similar.

There are countless of local scholarships in your area. Do some research and make note of deadlines. Have an idea of how many letters of recommendation you will need in addition to other important documents. Most importantly, be confident and don't doubt yourself.

Q: What made you choose UCSB? What were you looking for when selecting the school for you?

When I was in 8th grade my teacher showed us a brochure that had a beautiful image of UCSB. I immediately fell in love with the campus and the beautiful ocean scenery we have. At that moment I had no idea about the rigorous process one must go through in order to get accepted into one of the top UC’s.

Fast forward to senior year of high school. I found out I got into UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Barbara. Needless to say, I did not have a hard time choosing UCSB over the other schools. My heart and mind were always here. I was reassured about my decision when I found out UCSB has one of the best Sociology programs in the nation. Also, it was far enough from home. I wanted to get away from my parents, not because I don’t like being with them, but because I knew that I needed to step out of my comfort zone. As a woman of color, growing up in a patriarchal atmosphere can be very limiting in terms of personal development. One is expected to marry at a young age and give up our dreams of becoming college graduates. I realized being close to home would not allow me to obtain the independence I needed. I followed my heart and I know for a fact that attending UCSB has been the best decision I’ve made.

Q: How did visiting campuses impact your decision?

I did not have the opportunity to visit any college campus before making my decision. The only time I was able to visit a campus was in 9th grade with my AVID class when we visited USC.

Q: Any last advice?

I would say to choose a college based on what you want and not on what your parents or friends want for you. Aside from being the perfect opportunity for social and economic upward mobility, college is where you discover yourself. It is an experience for you to live, not for your parents or peers. Choose a major that truly interests you and that you're passionate about! What you study in college does not necessarily reflect the career or job you will have after you graduate. It is possible to major in Feminist Studies and later pursue a career in the law field or be in the film industry. Lastly, learn how to take advantage of all the resources provided to you. Be resourceful!