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Estudiante Carmen - Access USA

Student Stories – Carmen A. S.

Name: Carmen A. S.

Hometown: Madrid, Spain

Major: Mathematics (Class of ‘27)

University: Columbia University

Hi, I’m Carmen A. and I was honored to receive an offer from Columbia University to study mathematics for my undergraduate degree. I live in Madrid, I studied at Runnymede College doing the A Levels, the British curriculum.

As tough as college admissions processes are, you have managed to get admitted to a fantastic university like Columbia. What are your feelings right now? What is your overall reflection about this long process?

Well, I’m actually really excited about this new stage in my life. I’m also really grateful to everyone that has helped me throughout the whole process, and has enabled me to reach this stage. 

I’m grateful for my family that has always been there from the start to my teachers, and of course, Access USA, for all the help they have given me, and continue to get me throughout this whole process. It’s great to have someone that will guide us in that these applications tend to be really long and complex.

And I’m really, really happy with the outcome of the overall process. I applied to very selective schools, I got great offers, which were very hard to choose from, to be honest.

Columbia wasn’t the only university you applied to, they were offers from other schools as you said. What criteria did you follow when selecting which colleges to apply?

I applied to other very selective schools, since I was looking for educational excellence, both academically and personally, institutions that can give you a good projection in your future career. 

The main criteria for selecting colleges were, on the one hand, the academics. How they prepare you for the undergraduate degree you want to study, in my case mathematics, and the opportunities outside the classroom they offer, such as research. 

On the other hand, it was how the institution prepares the person as a whole and for your future career. Of course, other criteria included the location, the extracurricular activities and clubs, the environment of the university…

Honestly, I created a giant table with different parameters and gave different punctuation, like rankings for the different universities for each criteria. It really helped me clear my head on the things I was looking for in a university. What I’ve also found really useful when making the decision is being able to ask questions about the university, asking admissions and current students at different universities.

What attracted you to ultimately commit to Columbia? Why did you finally decide to make the leap to the United States?

I decided to commit to Columbia due to their academic excellence, and also educational rigor and due to the support and opportunities they offer throughout the undergraduate degree.

I preferred a smaller university for undergraduates, that has a very small students-to-staff ratio in comparison to larger ones, because I believe I will be able to take advantage of the resources they give me more effectively and it will give me a more personalized experience.

Also, Columbia offers an integral education with its core curriculum. And I believe that, ultimately, US universities prepare you both academically for life beyond university, but also as a person. They value integrity. So I feel like Columbia specifically and US universities in general, really prepare you for this.

Going into more detail about your admissions process, on what aspects did you concentrate when you were preparing college applications, essays, etc.? What do you think was the key for you to build a competitive application?

I think that one of the most important parts, if not the most important part, are the essays. They are the key components of your application. They not only show your academics but also your personality, your values and how you tackle different situations. It’s what they use to determine whether you will be a good fit for that school or at the university you apply to.

I feel like David & Access USA helped a lot in this aspect. Before starting the essays, we reviewed all the activities and projects in which I was engaged in, which you add to reflect about yourself, about your personal message and your value. 

And I think it is very important to read the essay prompts very carefully, to plan ahead what you’re going to write and to specifically answer the question they’re asking. And I think most importantly, they’re looking for authenticity in your essays, you have to be yourself, you have to show who you are, so you can be a really great fit for the university that you choose in the end.

Looking back on your experience and the support you received, what piece of advice would you give to students who want to apply to selective universities?

When applying to selective universities, I think it’s very important to first research the university you’re looking to apply to, and speak with students, if you can… visit the campus, which I did do for some of the universities, and don’t apply to every single selective school there is. 

Focus on a few, focus on three maximum, so that you can do the best essays possible, and make sure that your application really fits with what the university is looking for. And ultimately, it’s also how you’re going to fit in at the university and where you’ll be happier. You have to look for the university that really, really fits you.

What is your transition process looking like before you move in this fall?

I believe in US universities you feel part of the community from the very start, when they give you your acceptance letter. And I feel like they offer a lot of help. 

Columbia and Access USA provide me lots of help with all the stages you need, like accommodation forms, Visa preparation, everything you need to do to go to the university and be prepared for the fall. 

I think the whole process is going really smoothly. And it’s a bit daunting, moving to a large city like New York. It’s a new environment, obviously, but I’m really excited to meet new people. It’s going to be very hectic and near the dates of the start of the term. But I’m really looking forward to it.

What do you expect about your experience at Columbia? Do you have any projects in mind you would like to work on at Columbia and in your near future?

Well, I’m obviously expecting Columbia to be a wonderful experience, you know. One of my projects that I had in mind is mathematical research, and how it can be applied to cancer research. I always like the idea of combining mathematics with other sciences such as Physics and Biology. 

I think due to the flexibility of the US universities specifically, and then this example, Columbia and all the research opportunities they have and they give you it’s very easy to pursue this interest. And it allows you to combine multiple subjects and explore their connections. So I’m really excited to explore mathematics, specifically applied to cancer research, and hopefully continue in the near future.

I’m really excited to enter this diverse community and I can’t wait to meet the people there.

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