Dear Past Self – Amanda (Wesleyan ’19)

As she gets prepped to leave for her first year in the land of the free, Amanda Yeoh (Wesleyan ‘19) reflects on some things she would have liked to have known while she was applying to university. Here’s the second edition of our “Dear Past Self” series.

Amanda Yeoh

Dear Amanda,

I generally don’t spend too much time wondering what my life would be like if I had known XYZ. But it wouldn’t have hurt to have known a couple of these things when I was in your position.

Getting into the college you want is all about preparation, preparation, preparation. The earlier you can begin, the better. Studying for the SATs in Standard 6 is pushing it… but note that you’ll be in a pool of applicants from the US who have prepped for college their entire (junior) high school lives. The point is, figure out what you want as soon as possible—and more importantly, what is financially realistic—then work towards your goals. Visit as many college booths as you can, even if you’re not considering attending a specific college, because you never know what you may be missing out on.

 You’ll want to look your best on paper. Be it from your extra-curricular activities to your academics, you should always challenge yourself into becoming better in what you’ve set out to do. Dedication to your chosen commitments is a huge plus point as well—it’s not enough to participate in activity just to boost your resume. While that is an understandable launching point, you must be able to demonstrate how significant your contributions have been. Don’t be lazy either. Take the most academically rigorous classes your pre-university can offer. US colleges hold your academics in high regard, in case you thought otherwise.

Speak to as many people as you can! Ask lots of questions about schools you’re interested in. It’s one of the many ways to determine which colleges “fit” you best. It’s important to get a sense of what a college’s culture is like because you want to spend four years flourishing in an environment that helps you maximize your potential. If you’re not into Greek life, you probably don’t want to attend a college whose Greek life is a huge part of the school’s culture… (The weather should be a factor too!!!!)

Always use your time wisely. Why not learn a new skill (via edX or MIT) during your holidays? Become an independent learner. You actually want to be an interesting individual—more than just “2200; Malaysian; President of Club XYZ”. Read voraciously—I cannot stress this enough—because it is through reading that you’ll develop your thoughts and opinions.

Above all, keep yourself motivated. To quote one of my favourite figures on Twitter, Goldman Sachs Elevator, “’Do what you love’ is great advice for making 30k a year.” Remember that at the end of the day, your education is one of the largest investments you’ll make in your lifetime, and you’ll want to maximize your returns.

Stay savvy.