By the fall of 2017, two of Garden Grove High’s seniors will be sipping warm coffee in the East Coast as freshmen of Ivy League schools. Marissa Garcia (12) will be attending Harvard University, and Tricia Viveros (12) will be attending Yale University. Both are proud to be graduating from Garden Grove High School.
After being accepted to Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown, Yale, Harvard, USC, Duke, and Stanford, Marissa chose to attend Harvard. She fell in love with Boston after seeing the East Coast for the first time during her admit weekend to Harvard. “The moment I knew that Harvard could be my college was when I saw the skeleton of the Stellar’s Sea Cow in the Harvard Museum of Natural History. I am a self-proclaimed manatee enthusiast, and the Stellar’s Sea Cow is its long-extinct ancestor. The fact that an institution cared about such a small corner of marine biology, the field I wish to pursue, was so resonant to me. I could picture myself interning at this museum, contributing to the knowledge, and that was when I knew.”
Tricia applied to two Ivy Leagues: Yale and Columbia. She decided to attend Yale. “The instant I set foot onto Yale’s campus, I was filled with this overwhelming sense of joy and belonging. I am a prospective English literature major, and Yale has the best English department in the country, with some of the most incredible English professors this nation has to offer (including my hero Anne Fadiman!)”
At first, many people considered their dreams too far-fetched, and sometimes, even they doubted their own qualifications to be applying to such prestigious universities. “I was often hesitant in telling others of my desire to apply because I feared they would think it wasn’t possible for someone like me,” Tricia shares. Marissa also faced the same doubtful remarks when she told others that she wanted to attend Stanford University (her original dream school). “Was I truly in an environment that did not produce Stanford-ready students?” she often feared. “Or were the students themselves deeming them unready for Stanford?” She opted to share that she wanted to go to UCLA instead since “to the schema of Garden Grove High School…It was the school that was encouraged as a dream, whereas if I were to say that I dreamed of Stanford, I would be met with dubious expressions.”
However, by the time college apps season rolled around, these senior girls decided to shape their own academic future — a future at their dream schools. From typing away their short answer responses to brainstorming essay ideas, Marissa and Tricia dedicated themselves to completing the Common App, the college application for private universities, to the best of their abilities. Their honest, quirky, and original responses were what made them stand out to the Ivy Leagues. “It is the one portion where the admissions officers look beyond all the numbers and statistics, it is where they can see you for you. I spoke of certain aspects of my life that not many people know of, not even my peers,” says Tricia. To Marissa, her witty personality in her essays was what earned her Harvard’s attention. “I submitted the weirdest, quirkiest essay that only took me about two hours to write (not because I didn’t try, but because it was so organically me that writing it came naturally). I told them about my marathoning of Parks and Recreation. I told them that my favourite colour was purposely blue and accidentally green. I told them that I collect coffee mugs, some from places I have not yet been. I told them that I overuse the exclamation point(!) and that I am the girl with bounces instead of spaces between her words. And most importantly, I told them that my favourite literature is the side of the cereal box, that I love analyzing the differences in diction between Lucky Charms and Kashi.” For both girls, being able to share their own story, their unique experiences, and their personality was the best part of the application process.
Their hard work paid off. It’s been many years since Garden Grove High School could proudly say that it produced Ivy League-bound students. Now, Marissa and Tricia’s success will inspire future classes to actively pursue their dream colleges, however impossible it may seem at first.
Marissa and Tricia leaves some tips about the college applications behind to GGHS Argos as they make their way onto greater achievements at their Ivy League schools. First of all, Tricia would like to remind everyone that “whether you do or do not get into an Ivy League does not define your capability as an intellectual, creative individual. You are not better than anyone if you go to an Ivy League, and you are not less than anyone if you do not go to an Ivy League. Getting into any college in itself is a noteworthy achievement.”
That said, college applications are hard work. There are essays after essays, and on top of that, there are interviews! “It just so happens that winter break is the two weeks before private school applications are due,” Marissa says. “DO NOT let the temptations of relaxing over winter break deter you from applying to as many dream schools of yours as you can.” Both girls stress the importance of the essay portion of the application process, where being able to show the colleges who you are as a person is a major factor in your acceptance. “Be passionate,” Tricia emphasizes. “I feel that too many students sacrifice their inner passion to fake interest in a subject that they think is more ‘practical,’ and you may actually risk coming off as dull or conforming in your application.” As for interviews, Marissa (who had to go through nine interviews within two months) shares, “I think that interviews can be just as imperative as the essays. It is yet another opportunity to show your personality, your little unique idiosyncrasies, that make you shine apart from the rest of the applicants.”
An equally important thing to remember as you’re applying to colleges is to never compare yourself to others. Both Tricia and Marissa warn us to stay off of College Confidential. “Believe me, I was one of those kids who, nearing the time of application deadlines, made the mistake of doing more and more research on forums such as College Confidential,” says Tricia. “The more research I did, the more discouraged I became, thinking I was nothing compared to these perfect-score, all-star students. The worst thing you can do to yourself is compare yourself to others. Your story is just as valuable as everyone else’s. Colleges simply want to see how you utilized the resources specifically available to you to your advantage. Also, the notion that you have to have perfect standardized test scores and grades in order to get into an Ivy League is just absolute baloney.”
Marissa sends us off now with encouraging words: “I can confidently tell you that coming from Garden Grove High School is such a special background.” After meeting students from all over the world at college admit weekends, Marissa is proud to have spent these last four years at GGHS, growing as a student and a leader on campus. So, don’t let any doubts about your capabilities or background hold you back. “All of you,” Marisa tells us, “have such a valuable story to tell.”