Written by: Selina Liu
As a senior who has recently graduated and finished all her AP exams, I want to first congratulate my senior readers that have completed one of their wildest four years! Today’s article is a small recap on my high school years as an international student and some advice as a big sister!
Freshmen Year (9th grade)
Attending a small Catholic all-girls high school in Queens, NY, was probably one of the many things on my “never did I imagine to do” checklist. As I received the unexpected news from my parents and arriving in the US exactly a week before the orientation, the feelings are mixed with excitement, anxiety, and gratitude. I realized I am the first person in my family that has the chance to experience a new educational environment and pursue different possibilities of future career! If I have one word to describe my freshmen year, it would definitely be “unpredictable.” As a person who rarely did sports in middle school (junior high school), I tried out the cross country team in school and it was the best decision I made. I quickly involved in the sports team and became close with all the team members; as an international student who did not know anyone in the school, I felt the warmth of the team and it gradually gives me the courage to reach out to other people.
Advice for incoming Freshmen: Be open to views that may be unexpected from your personality and go wild with trying things out. Start a conversation with a teacher that you are close with, and get to know them as a FRIEND! Teachers and faculty members can sound intimidating, but trust me, they are humans and have feelings! Be friendly!
Sophomore Year (10th grade)
A year later, I was no longer a shy little international student. Instead, I started to branch out to other grades and exchange cultures. The workload did not increase drastically but the level of work did as I begin to challenge myself through taking honors classes. Regardless of language difficulties, I was lucky to have amazing teachers that were willing to support my sometimes-wild ideas, giving advice to my writings, or even provide me some ways to explore other opportunities. I also decided to start studying for SAT tests because of the national merit scholarship and started my college research. Although I did not specifically know what major I wanted, thinking back now I am grateful for putting in some time on researching for colleges and help me to navigate the factors of applying for colleges in the senior year and what other specific requirements colleges may need.
Advice for incoming Sophomore: Start to discover colleges as it will relieve a lot of stress later on. Also, remember to start narrowing down what clubs are you truly passionate about rather than what college admissions might want to see! If you want to, start studying for SAT tests towards the end of Sophomore Year and decide what kind of SAT subject tests and AP courses you want to take for Junior year. (optional)
Junior Year (11th grade)
Some say the sophomore year was their best year out of high school. Yet, I would beg to differ. Ah, the classic Junior Year! Please do not let rumors of overloaded work, insufficient sleep, and stress about advanced programs such as AP, IB, and A-Level get into your head! Getting a good grade on advanced programs and SAT tests is one of the many important pieces to college application; however, they do not define who you are, and it only represents part of the application. Looking back, I cannot imagine how I did it all without learning the importance of time management. Starting AP courses was intimidating for me in the first marking period as my grade might have hit rock bottom and I was filled with continuous school events, internship opportunities, run-throughs of mock SAT tests and analysis from the AP course, and weekly morning student council meetings. Learning it from the hard way, I decided to adapt to digital bullet journaling and google calendar to keep my life organized and my soul grounded. The frequent counselor advising sessions aid me in someone who recognizes what she wants to pursue in- STEAM and UX/UI. Moreover, I was ready to take the leadership responsibilities to the next level as I was granted with the positions of the theater producer, student body class president, mathematic honors society’s (Mu Alpha Theta) first junior secretary, the host to my first school TV series on mental health, and the team manager during track and field seasons. I was thankful for the trust that the directors and instructors have in me and the encouragement that motivates me to be more involved in the community.
Advice to incoming Junior: This is your moment to decide what you truly love! Go out for a leadership position and don’t have the imposter syndrome (I know that feeling, but I rather know I actually put effort into the process than letting go of an opportunity that may change your life!) Remember to take some time off as it may be stressful sometimes! Have a day (either Saturday or Sunday) each week to catch up on some shows or listening to some music while taking a walk to the town.
Senior Year (12th Grade)
As a recent graduate from high school, I can tell you that senior year went by like a flash. The constant brainstorming and drafting of application essays and finalizing my college selections can be overwhelming yet exciting as there is a new adventure ahead. Beware, senioritis does exist, and I fought it! So will you too! In fact, two of my favorite memories are the courses in dual enrollment for college credits and exciting fun events exclusively for the seniors. The waiting of acceptances can tear your heart, but the uniform chants of “seniors, seniors!” sounds more enlightening than it ever did. Becoming the first international student was a journey, especially this year when I made a choice to graduate early from school because of the pandemic. Yet, I want to confirm a fact to you that all past seniors have told me: “Senior Year flies, so are all periods of time.” Cherish it! Don’t have any regrets!
Advice to incoming seniors: Congratulations! You have made it this far! Please don’t push your application process to December! Start a little each day in summer, and if you can, GO for the early action process! Although not all schools have the choice for EA, the wait is shorter, you would at least know where you would be going, and you may have a priority to be set into some privileges such as scholarship, study abroad, honors program, or undergraduate research; nothing to lose, right? Also, when you receive emails from the administration, I want you to know that no matter what happens, you are still you, and I am proud of you. Your family, your friends, and the people who cared about you will still be around! Don’t let the decision get inside your head and follow your heart. If you can’t choose where you want to be in the next four years, think about how your conversations about college end; and if it tends in a specific one, you will know it!
I want to end on a quote that recently sparked on me: “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the little ‘extra’.” Put in a little more effort and appreciation each day, and you will see the grand success in having the best four years in your life!
Bonjour! My name is Selina Liu and I am an incoming engineering freshman in college! As a feminist, a STEM passionate researcher, and an international student that has came to the US since high school, I am excited to keep you updated with some of my life experiences in the US, political issues around the world, feminist projects, and some STEM-related facts! I am also extremely excited to collaborate with any passionate teens about any topics! In my free time, I love photography, skateboarding, graphic designing, and trying out more new things! See you in my updates each week!