You made it. You’ve reached your senior year at University of California, Los Angeles. Let me remind you of the long and complicated path it took you to get here. I want you to remember the way life turned around for you.
You never dreamed of attending UCLA like your sister did, you dreamed of art school.
During your senior year in high school, you visited many art schools with the intention of studying music. Unfortunately, no matter how much those schools impressed you, they did not please your parents. Due to family pressure, you applied only to two universities, University of Southern California and California State University, Long Beach. Neither school admitted you and that was a blessing in disguise.
The mix of academic and social stress in high school made you fear entering university. You thought that if you entered university you would be stressed and eventually drop out.
You started by attending Santa Monica College because you felt unsure of where to go.
SMC attracted you because of its breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast. You wanted a refreshing start as far away from high school as possible, even though SMC was 23 miles from your house. Finally, you had found a place where you could continue your schooling with your parents’ approval.
Obtaining a driver’s license was another box for you to check. Your parents pressured you to get the license in order to attend SMC. Your willpower to attend community college led you to earn your license in six months.
SMC ultimately changed the game for you; it taught you professionalism, discipline and your passions.
Part of your rigorous routine included waking up at 5 a.m to drive to the library. At SMC, you finally had the opportunity to explore your interests by taking classes in art history, fashion, art theory and French. Thanks to SMC, you learned to love college. You wanted to take full advantage of building your professional career while at SMC, and so you volunteered at LA Fashion Week and small boutiques in Los Angeles and interned in a fashion industry at a warehouse in Downtown LA.
You attended SMC for three years and earned an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts. You felt ready to transfer but you did not know which school fit you best. Your professors recommended private universities to earn a degree in art history and French. You applied to twelve universities, including Loyola Marymount University, Whittier College and Columbia University. Unexpectedly, you faced the harsh reality of twelve rejection letters. You thought all your professors, friends and family would judge you. You even dealt with depression for a month.
Once you opened up about your situation to your friends, family and professors, you grew closer to everyone.
They understood your struggle and wanted to help you achieve your goals. This thought clouded your head: “I don’t want to waste my time. How will I spend my year before I reapply to universities?”
You decided to take more French classes at East Los Angeles Community College, and you began working in museums. You volunteered at MOCA, and you got yourself the Mellon Curatorial fellowship at LACMA.
One year later, your time to reapply as a transfer returned. You changed your strategy this time and applied to twenty public and private universities. You did intensive research and gave up reading for pleasure in order to immerse yourself in art history. This time, your life changed for the better in April 2018. You received seven acceptance letters, including a full ride scholarship to University of California, Berkeley. You chose UCLA because of the comfort of staying in LA and the opportunity for professional growth.
This journey led you to amazing people.
Your girlfriends— Jasmine, Ana-Laura and Saba— you met back in community college transferred with you to university and kept you motivated. That summer before your first quarter in university, you studied abroad in Paris for a month and did an intensive French course at the Institut Catholique de Paris. Your time in Paris helped you decide to minor in French.
When you entered UCLA, you couldn’t believe that this beautiful university had become a part of your world. For the next few years, the academics there shaped your experiences, conversations and purpose. Your ambition brought you to your first job as a development assistant at The Hammer Museum while balancing the rigor of university courses.
Now that you’re a senior, I want you to take full advantage of your last year at UCLA.
When you walk by the parking lot and see the students fencing, join them. Go enroll in a GRE class as you prepare for graduate school. Savor the memories of your last year in university.
When you find yourself at graduation, remember your courage. You did not give up on earning your degree. Proudly share your story and inspire others to trust themselves in pursuing their passions.