Delacey Rodriguez is an alumna of John Muir High School, Class of 2015, who is currently a first year student at UCLA and a participant in CAP’s I Heart College alumni program. As a student who has recently been through the UC and Cal State application process, Delacey shares with us her experience with navigating the application process as a first generation student. She details the ways she made use of the resources available to her throughout her high school career, demonstrating the diverse, intentional resources and systems of support at Muir that caught the attention of the Achieve UC program.
Starting high school, I had literally no idea how difficult and how much work it would be to get to where I am right now. Starting freshman year in high school, I did not have one thought about college. I thought that since I was a freshman I did not have to think about college until my senior year and that what I did had no effect on my future plans. It was the end of my freshman year when I told myself that I was going to college. That year was when I joined the club Footsteps to College. It was thanks to this club and the people there, Mo Hyman and Lina Morin, that I made it this far and will go much further. This is when I knew that college is what I want to pursue in the future. Since I am the first person in my family to attend a university I barely had, if any, motivation or a person to look up to in the college area. This made it that much difficult since I had no one at home to ask for help with personal statements or applications.
Going to College Access Plan‘s after school program, and receiving assistance from my favorite teachers at John Muir High School, Eugene Mahmoud and Margaret Gillham, really made applying for college an easier task. In addition, one of my close friends, Francisco Merlos, (who also attends the University of California, Los Angeles) helped me with what to put in my personal statement and helped me stay on track with deadlines during the very frustrating time of college application season. Without all of this help I honestly do not know where I would be right now. They all pushed me to keep up and do my best during the process.
With all the components of the UC and CSU applications, it is easy to get stressed and overwhelmed. I started off by looking at schools that fit my chosen major, Marine Biology. For this reason my dream schools were the University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Santa Cruz. With an adequate GPA and many extracurricular activities, I had some hope, but I’ll admit it, my SAT and ACT scores were below average for most UC’s and this scared me. When it came to financial aid, I went to the College and Career Center and they helped me and made sure that I had my FAFSA done right, that it was complete, and on time. The part of the application that scared me the most was my personal statement. My weakest subject in school was English and I was the worst writer. I was so sure of this, and it scared me. Speaking about personal topics that made me uncomfortable, on top of that, made it ten times worse. With the help of Mrs. Gillham proofreading my essay, it really made my weak and boring writing into something more interesting. Another thing I did not know about was the Supplemental Questionnaire. This questionnaire includes two more essay prompts that the school might assign you to strengthen your chance of being admitted. I received one not knowing what it was at all and decided to do it anyway. Even though it was like making my personal statement all over again, except with different questions, I knew that this would only benefit my future and my chances of being accepted.
Having doubt in myself and what schools would want me, I applied to one “safe” school from my UC’s. With my Cal states, I applied to four just in case I did not get accepted to any UC’s. Even with that I got rejected from two of the four Cal states I applied to, Long Beach and San Diego. I thought UC Santa Cruz would be my safe school, but I was rejected from there and two other UC’s I applied to, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. During college acceptance season, I had never felt so sad in my life. After being rejected by some of the Cal states I applied to, it made it that much more nerve-racking about my UC’s. Since UCLA was the last one to be released for me, I thought that I was not going to get accepted from any of my UC’s since UCLA is such a hard school to be admitted into and the acceptance rate being 17% made my chances slim to none. Once I logged onto the website and saw “Congratulations!” I knew the denies I got meant nothing now. That upcoming fall I would be going to one of the top public universities in the world.
I am so glad that I did not end up going to my “dream school” because I think UCLA is my dream school. I could not imagine myself anywhere else. The environment here is so amazing and the school spirit is through the roof. The classes I’m taking may not all be my cup of tea, but I am learning more in ten weeks than I ever did in a high school class. The work is rigorous, but it is what you’d expect from an institution of such prestige. As long as you have time management skills it is easy to get assignments done. I also am a part of the UCLA Marching Band and Drumline, which is 7 hours of rehearsal a week and on top of that we have games on Saturdays adding another 4 hours. Being in the drumline helps me balance pleasure and academics, which are very much needed in college. I am so happy with where I am and would not want to be anywhere but where I am right now. For my future plans I also intend to join the Peace Corps after I finish my Bachelor’s Degree.