After each Write Your Way Into College cohort, I connect with students to get feedback on their experience and what we might be able to do to make the course better. Here's what Lilia had to say:
Ben: Can you tell us a little about why you decided to join WYWIC?
Lilia: When the pandemic started I wasn't able to take the sat or act. It was a really stressful period and when I was researching schools I was thinking about how I could possibly brand myself to colleges so that they'd accept me? I wasn't totally sure, but I came to the conclusion that the best way that I could like explain to colleges why they should accept me is through writing.
So that's kind of why I started researching programs that could teach me how to write the best possible essay that I could. I found your emails helpful so I attended a webinar and then I found that really helpful so I decided to do the whole program.
Ben: What was the course like for you?
Lilia: Honestly, it really helped relieve some of my stress because it broke [the essay writing process] down into these manageable pieces so I felt like I was accomplishing something just by brainstorming and at each step I kind of had something to hold me accountable so I actually ended up finishing my essay earlier than I thought I would.
Ben: What did the program help with most?
Lilia: It definitely helped me the most with structure. I had an idea and when I wrote it, it was like 3000 words long. It was a ridiculously long info dump. There wasn't much directionality to it and there wasn't much structure in it. I was kind of was getting to the point, but I really wasn't getting there and the program really helped me with narrowing my focus on what I really cared about and what I really wanted to say and what I really wanted colleges to know.
Another one of the most important parts is that it also gave me accountability. I felt like I had to have certain sections finished by the time that office hours came around so that I could ask questions and therefore I was actually doing everything on time. It was really helpful [to have] all my questions answered and I asked some really long and complicated ones, so thank you!
Ben: If I remember correctly, you actually ended up writing 2 essays?
Lilia: So, the first essay that I wrote I ended up using it as a supplemental essay. It was about essentially the feelings and emotions that I got while finding an old dissertation in a professor's office who passed away and how I flipped through it and how it kind of inspired me as a researcher and wanting to do my own research.
My second topic was again playing on the emotional part [of me]. I had really bad anxiety about an exam and I was trying to get to this perfect score and i ended up watching My Neighbor Totoro, which is an anime film and it had like strong connections to my childhood and I linked the idea of wabi-sabi, this kind of philosophy of imperfection and how it kind of from this movie from watching it at this point in my life when I was highly stressed, kind of changed my perspective on how I view perfectionism and how I view myself and my grades.
While it is important to do good I understood that a perfect hundred isn't achievable and it's not even something really desired. It was more of a philosophical essay and I definitely went through that transition of like, you know, anxious overachiever to kind of concluding with philosophy at the end so I really liked the second essay more and that's what I went with.
Ben: Where you happy with the way your essay came out?
Lilia: I'm quite happy with how my essay came out and I'd say that the results from the schools were also pretty good. And other than like just the college essay I also found like a lot of the elements of the course really helped in all of my supplemental essays. For each prompt I picked which personality trait I'd want the college to know about me and then I would write from there and that's something that I picked up from the program.
Ben: That's awesome! Did the course help any other elements of your admissions process?
Lilia: It helped a lot with college interviews which was a really surprising thing I didn't expect, but it actually made me pay attention to personality traits of a school. I interviewed at eight schools and six of my interviewers out of these eight explicitly told me at some point in the interview that I'm a great fit for the school and this was because I kind of realized that each school has its own personality and I can figure out where my personality traits match with theirs and push forward those stories, those examples, those projects, and the interviewers picked up on this.
Ben: Can you tell us some of your results? Where did you decide to go?
Lilia: So, I got into some pretty good schools. I got into basically my top two schools which ended up being USC and Brandeis.
Brandeis actually gave me something that I never thought I would ever have and that's the ability to graduate college debt-free so that's why I ended up ultimately choosing Brandeis. I was so excited I never thought that the outcome of this would be that good.
Ben: If another student was on the fence about joining Write Your Way Into College, what would you tell them?
Go for it, because honestly it's such an intimidating task. At first I was like, oh okay I've written plenty of essays before for my classes like it's no big deal, but then when I started approaching it it was more like a creative writing piece and not a formal analytical piece so I really didn't know where I was coming from. I didn't want it to sound like a U.S. History paper or something like that. High schools don't really prepare you for the creative writing aspect of college admissions and I wasn't prepared for it and that's really why I found the class so helpful.
Ben: Well, I can tell you that it was a lot of fun to have you in class and we couldn't be more proud. Peter and I wish you best as you start the next chapter!