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Javier Barrera, a first-generation college student, weighs in on the value of mentorship and guidance during the college application process.

28 Aug, 2020
Javier Barrera

Picture Source: Unsplash

“One of the biggest challenges for me was just knowing how to prepare and having general guidance on what to do. I am the first in my family to attend college so I didn't have anyone close to talk to about college and how to navigate campus or how classes would be structured.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

My name is Javier. I am from the United States and I have been here my entire life. I currently attend California State University, Northridge and I have been going there for 4 years. I am a Computer Science student and I hope to graduate in May of 2021. Currently, I am busy learning as much as I can in my internship here at omviser as well as continuing learning on my own time. I am really enjoying my time here and I hope to be able to continue learning and contributing to the team.

Hobbies: I like to go on long hikes and cook many different kinds of recipes to try. I also like going to the gym.

What factors motivated you to choose the US over all the other countries that people consider for higher studies?

I chose to stay in the US because I have always been here so it would be better for me to continue my studies here. I also commute to campus every day so I do not have to live in a dorm at school which would help me save money. There are several different programs and organizations that would help me achieve my goals here in the US which also factored into me staying here.

How did you begin your college application?

I first began my college application by researching the different UC and CSU campuses that were available. I went into their websites and learned about the different programs they offered. I looked around their campus on a virtual tour if available and learned about the cost of attending. I also investigated learning about FAFSA and seeing the different options that I could take that will help me afford to attend one of these universities. I received help at my high school’s college center and they also provided me with more information and resources to continue my research. Then came the writing part of my personal statement. I had to write that and it took some time editing and having it reviewed by several of my teachers. In addition to all of this, I also took several SAT’s and ACT’s to provide more for my application. After I did all of this I sent out several applications to different CSU and UC universities.

What did you look for in a college  when you were shortlisting them or applying to them?

Type of Program, Costs and Availability of Funding, Location and Campus Size

A big factor I took into consideration was the cost of attending. If a school had very high costs and I wasn't going to get enough financial help to cover the cost then I would put those schools at the bottom of my lists.

How did you obtain information about the colleges and universities? 

I learned about different schools from just going online and looking at the different schools available. I also visited my high school's college centre to learn about schools and different resources. Another source I used was the website college board that had information available to help me research schools.

What attracted you to your university?

The thing that attracted it to me the most is that it was close to where I lived so I would be saving money commuting to campus every day.

What are some of the major challenges you encountered while preparing for your university life?

One of the biggest challenges for me was just knowing how to prepare and having general guidance on what to do. I am the first in my family to attend college so I didn't have anyone close to talk to about college and how to navigate campus or how classes would be structured.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall college experience (10 being extremely satisfied 1 being extremely disappointed). Explain a few specifics about your journey.

I would rate my college experience as 8. When I first started college, I did not know anybody, and I was getting used to my classes and the campus. Later I joined a student organization where I met a lot of different people and I made a lot of friends. As the years progressed, I took a leadership position and helped coordinate different events and workshops. I also joined a senior design project as a volunteer in my second year where I worked on an Arduino program for an automatic kart that the group was making. The classes were my biggest concern where I had struggled with a few of them, but I had to learn good study habits and studied with a few classmates to get through them. That brings me to my final year where I must finish a few more classes as well as work on a senior design project throughout the year. The school year will be tough, but I am really close to reaching my goal.

What would be your advice to international students who are considering applying to the US school for undergraduate/ graduate programs?

My advice would be to look at the different programs and organizations that are available at each school and make sure that they will help you further your educational goals. There are a lot of different options out there and sometimes it can be confusing understanding what they offer. I would recommend doing extensive research when looking at potential schools.