Monday, January 7, 2013

From ILC Alum Alex Elms

Greetings current ILCers! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Alex Elms. I attended Pinole Valley High and I am currently a proud freshman Quaker at the University of Pennsylvania.
My first semester at Penn was certainly a whirlwind.  My courses were General Chemistry, Intro to Mechanics (which included a lab component), Calculus I, and Beginning Japanese. If you have an interest in mechanical engineering (my current major), this is probably what your first semester is going to look like (minus the Japanese). Despite these being general requirement classes, they were quite challenging. This will likely be a significant shock to you as you enter college; things may not always come as easily to you as they did back in high school. With this in mind, I must advise that you choose your classes wisely. When you’re selecting courses, don’t bite off more than you can chew. I ran into this problem early in the semester. Foreign language, especially a non-romance language, takes A LOT of time out of your schedule, and sometimes it’s time that you can’t sacrifice because of other coursework. I soon found out that I couldn’t devote enough time to Japanese, as I needed to in order to keep up with the class, so I had to drop the course. If you find yourself in a similar situation, just remember that it is better to perform well in your classes and drop one course, as opposed to keeping a class you can’t allot enough time to and having it affect your other courses as well.
I held off on joining extracurriculars for my first semester at Penn. I decided it would be more beneficial for me to get the hang of my day-to-day lifestyle and my work schedule before giving myself a number of commitments to adhere to. However, I strongly encourage you to research organizations or clubs that you may be interested in so that you already have an idea for the future. For instance, I am considering joining student organizations such as student journalism or the debate team next fall semester. If you don’t find a club that suits you, or you have an interest that isn’t being represented, don’t be afraid to start something yourself.
You’ve probably heard this a lot already from just about every college admissions rep, student alumnus, and teacher already, but you should really keep an open mind about where you’re going during and after college. During my senior year of high school, I was convinced that I was going to be an engineer; I loved math and science in high school, so it seems like a good fit, right? After my first semester, I’m rethinking my major. I realized that the engineering track wasn’t quite what I had imagined it would be and that it really isn’t the right fit for me. If you find yourself thinking something similar, no matter what your initial major is, I recommend you talk to (most importantly) your advisor, parents, or close friends; really, anyone who you trust and knows you. It can be quite a stressful conflict if you realize that you might not know what you’re doing after all but keep it to yourself. Keep your lines of communication open to ensure you don’t have any unneeded stress.
I hope what I’ve shared is helpful to you college-bound scholars. You’ve got quite the adventure ahead of you. Prepare yourself as much as possible while you’re still in high school, stay focused, and be thankful that you have the Ivy League Connection to help you start in the right direction. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at any time and I’ll be happy to help.
Best of luck everyone!
Alex Elms
University of Pennsylvania
Class of '16

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