Dear Past Self – Lina Sim (Brown ’20)

Say hello to another one of our core committee member – Lina Sim! A rising sophomore at Brown University, Lina hopes to declare a double major in Computer Science and Economics. As freshman year comes to a close, there is much for Lina to reflect upon – from considering factors besides prestige when choosing schools to taking the time to be grateful, regardless of the situation. As she tells her past self about the Great Places she will go, she hopes that you believe that you will, too!

Dear past-self,

I see the time has come for you to apply to college! Time really flies, doesn’t it? I can’t believe it’s already been a year, the days of applying to college are still very fresh in my mind. But before you step in, here are some things I wish I knew before I started this whole process:

1.Take it easy! Yes, applying to colleges can be a stressful and harrowing experience. The American university application process, in particular, may seem rather convoluted at times. Terms like holistic admissions, standardized testing, personal essays, recommendation letters and financial aid will start to occupy every breathing moment. Sometimes, it may even feel like the everything you’ve done in the first 18 years of your life hangs on getting into college. It does NOT! In the grand scheme of things, college is but one of the many different milestones in your life. Hang in there, wherever in the world you’ll end up for the next four years, it will be okay. I promise!!

2. The numbers and stats are not the end-all. At times, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers, the rankings, the acceptance rates, and the prestige. Applying to colleges isn’t a game of Pokemon GO where you try to “catch” them all (after all, you only get to attend ONE college). While the rankings do reveal the quality of an institution and its students to a certain extent, do keep in mind that there exists a myriad of high quality colleges that may not necessarily come with a prestigious name tag that can still give you a world-class educational experience. Furthermore, we all have different learning styles and preferences. Some people prefer large lectures over small seminars, while others thrive in a smaller setting. Throughout this process, don’t forget to evaluate your own learning preferences and think about the type of educational environment you’d like to spend your next four years in. It’s a lot more important than you think it is!

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

3. Don’t forget to say thank you! It’s college decisions day! Congratulations on the acceptance letter! Now before you run off to write that celebratory Facebook post, don’t forget to thank all the people who made this possible in the first place. Oftentimes, it takes a whole village to put a successful college application together. Applying to and attending a university in the US is an incredible privilege, one that you would’ve not been able to afford if not for the support of your parents, teachers, and mentors. So on this especially exciting day, remember to thank all those who have made this dream possible in the first place.

Standing in front of the Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve with friends from all over the world!
Times Square!

4. OH, the places you’ll go! Your first year in the United States will take you on a pretty wild ride. You’ll be baffled at people greeting each other with a “How are you?”, wonder why the nickel (5 cents) is physically larger than a dime (10 cents), and struggle to convert Celsius into Fahrenheit and kilometers into miles. You’ll find that coding isn’t that scary after all, and that History (contrary to popular belief) can be incredibly interesting. You’ll realize that you didn’t take a single Chemistry class your entire first year, despite declaring that as your prospective major. You will travel across the entire country from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast by public transport with your best friend over winter break, because why not? You’ll visit cities you’ve only read in novels and watched on TV for the past eighteen years of your life, spend New Year’s on a train across the Midwest (not knowing when exactly to celebrate because you’re crossing over time zones) and meet people from all over the world. Oh, the wonders and thrills that lie ahead!

5. Things will get tough. Going to university with very incredibly smart and talented human beings can be very intellectually stimulating, but sometimes, it can make you feel rather incompetent. The sheer amount of talent that surrounds you day and night will make you question if the admission office made a huge mistake of letting you in. You’ll feel like you’re nothing compared to your peers and that you’ll never ever be up to par with everyone else. Nonetheless, as cliché as this sounds, you’ll soon begin to notice that you are not alone, and that there will always be great people who are ready to support you all the way.




6. Don’t take the small things for granted.  Try to take pleasure in the little things, and you’ll start to notice that they often make the biggest difference. The hustle and bustle of college life can often be overwhelming, to the extent of being claustrophobic at times. So try to appreciate the little things, and be amazed at how far it can take you. Try taking a different path to class and notice the cracks in the sidewalk, or sit outside when it’s warm and watch the people go by. Watch the leaves change color in the fall, listen to the birds chirping outside your window as you wake up, take a walk outside on the night of the first snowfall, and take in the smell of the earth after the first spring rain. Take a walk downtown (yes, a world exists beyond the campus gates). Talk to the dining hall ladies, you’ll never know how much you actually have in common (do this, seriously)! While these little things seem rather trivial and insignificant, you’d be surprised to find how magical these tiny moments can be. Try it! Just for a moment, leave your books, step outside, enjoy the sun/snow, and simply appreciate you being here. :)


I’m incredibly excited for you as you begin this new chapter in life. It will be a journey that you will never forget. So congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! Now that you know what you need to know, I’d like to leave you with this, before you go. :)

Best regards,

Lina of 2017