Where should I go to college? Student stories, NYU

September 23, 2015
New York University (Courtesy of Barry Solow via Flickr/Creative Commons)

New York University (Courtesy of Barry Solow via Flickr/Creative Commons)

Tae Young-woo is a computer science major at New York University (NYU).

Tae Young Woo is a computer science major at New York University (NYU).

Tae Young Woo is an undergraduate student at NYU and has worked at the school’s admissions office.

By Tae Young Woo

I am a third-year undergraduate student at New York University (NYU) studying computer science.

After attending a public high school in Southern California for my freshman year, I moved to a private boarding school in Connecticut for the remaining three years of high school. Although my high school had a supportive college counseling office that promptly submitted all required materials to the universities I applied to, I mostly conducted the college search process by myself.

I was not an outstanding student in a particular subject, but was rather more well-rounded. I knew that having high enough test scores, whether that be the SATs or the SAT Subject Tests, would get me into the competent applicant pool, so I did not spend too much time focusing or stressing on standardized tests after passing a certain threshold. My grades were high but not extraordinarily unique, and I focused on differentiating myself through my activities and my essays.

I was gratefully accepted into a number of schools I applied to, including universities in the United Kingdom and Scotland (a U.S. college may not always be the correct path for everyone!).

Perhaps the biggest reason I decided to attend NYU was its location, a signature factor for many students that are here today. New York City houses the most influential institutions of any industry, and being a student in the city provides access to these places unlike any other city in the world. Living in New York has allowed me to attend various events for both students and professionals, giving me an extensive network of people who are actively involved in many fields.

NYU is also famous for its numerous schools, including the Tisch School of the Arts, Stern School of Business, College of Arts and Science, Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and more. Surprisingly, it is quite easy to take courses from different schools that suit your interests.

As a College of Arts and Science (CAS) student myself, I have taken Stern business courses and Steinhardt arts courses without much restrictions.

I enrolled at NYU’s CAS as an International Relations major, assuming that my strong performances in AP Government classes and my interest in the news would translate into a definite college major. Aside from the fact that NYU’s International Relations major can only be selected after completing both the Politics and Economics major tracks with an honors-level GPA, I came to realize that the study of government policies and international powers wasn’t as interesting as I first thought it would be.

I thought I would be a perfect Journalism major student after joining a Freshman Seminar course on the First Amendment, but was soon discouraged when I found out that Journalism students had to have a second major in order to graduate. After months of unsuccessful exploration and a more clueless self, I decided to take a semester off from school.

During my time off, during what should have been my first semester of sophomore year, I was able to meet numerous people in the IT industry in Korea and realized my interests had always been in new technology and information. With this realization, accommodated by hours of discussions with those who became my personal mentors, I decided that having a computer science background was important to understanding the rapidly-changing IT industry and the technology used in everyday life.

Returning from my semester leave, I signed up for the first required computer science class and officially registered as a Computer Science major. Thankfully all of the other majors I had hoped to do—international relations, journalism, once politics, even sociology, and now computer science—were all within the College of Arts and Science, so I did not have to go through any internal transfer process. It was a very simple discussion with my advisor and the head of the department, which led to my major approval.

Many high school students may worry about what major to select for their application, but unless they are applying for a very specific field (i.e. dental school, film school, etc.), I would suggest selecting a major that can represent their strongest points of their high school coursework and extracurricular activities.

As a former student staff of NYU’s Undergraduate Admissions Office, I can firmly tell high school students to start taking care of their grades from the beginning of high school. My job at the office was to look at the transcripts of applicants and calculate the unweighted cumulative GPA starting from their very first grades in high school. Of course, all schools are different and some courses may be much more difficult than others (and the schools will provide explanations if they are), but it is important to not be carried away by a “higher” weighted GPA.

I believe the biggest differentiating factor for college applicants is their essay, and it is very important to draft essays that are fully unique to you as a person. Many times, students write very general essays emphasizing their leadership skills and their ability to overcome challenges, but these are topics anyone can write. A simple test I conduct on many high school students’ essays is: I receive a group of papers, delete their names, and read them. I should be able to know that the contents of the essays belong to the owner without having to read the name.

Finally, once the entire application process is done and you have a number of options to decide from: go visit! Sit in a class, stay overnight at a dorm, talk to current students and alumni, meet the faculty and advisors. College will be an incredible time of personal change, confusion, growth, frustrations, and more. A good college should be challenging while giving students many options to explore themselves, so don’t forget to look into potential opportunities to take courses unrelated to your major, ways to study in different cities and find places to make new friends.

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