Ben, a senior at UMD, tells us about his application process and how and why he came to choose UMD over Northwestern University.
Part 2 is here.
So the deadline to decide I think, is May 1. So, um, I had my AP Chem test on May 1, and I basically spent all weekend like still undecided. I was like talking my college counselor, and she was like, bam, like, I’m gonna need you to decide, like, you have to decide. And my family was like, bam, like what you’re doing. And so then, like, I would basically like, awake all Sunday night, and may 1 was a Monday until I woke up Monday, you know, after like an hour of sleep and was like, I’m gonna take the AP Chem test without studying, just so I can like take my mind off of like, deciding where to go for college. And so I took the AP Chem test in the morning, and then it’s kind of like wandering around school, talking to the teachers and getting their advice on school and then decided at about 11:58pm on May 1.
Hey, college kids, welcome back to my podcast, who cares about college? In today’s episode, I’ll be interviewing Ben. So Ben, could you please introduce yourself? Yeah, sure. So I’m done. Let’s see, again, these questions. I’m from Maryland. I’m a senior at the University of Maryland College Park. I’m a double major in economics and political science. I’m from Baltimore City. Live two years since I was like, four. So yeah, pretty much pretty much Marylander. Okay, so let’s start from the very beginning. So in your parents eyes, or maybe in your eyes, what were their expectations for college were you expected to, like reach for the stars? Or were they fine with you going wherever, um, I mean, like, wanted to go to school. Both of them do have bachelor’s. So like, they have an understanding of like academia and all that. So definitely wanted a good school. But, you know, weren’t saying like, I had to get into an Ivy League or anything. So I ended up applying for nine schools, roughly. Marilyn was like, pretty much my safety school, it was like kind of the bottom of my list. And I was like, I want to go the kid from high school who like went away out of state and like, Well, my friend was a UMD. But, you know, between cost and where I got in, like, Maryland ended up being the one which I’m pretty happy with. I guess Starting from elementary, middle school, were great, like a priority for you, were you always a straight A student always aced everything. Just you were very just a very good student top of your class. I’m pretty good. I’d say you know, like, in the gifted portion of gifted and talented or whatever they call it GT. Yeah, um, I don’t know, straight A’s, you know, definitely taught a couple B’s in there. But generally, yeah, you know, the upper upper part of the class? And when did you start thinking about the college process? And this can be anything just thinking about schools, thinking about maybe extracurriculars you wanted to get into? I mean, I remember in like, I don’t know, maybe sixth grade, I was like, at my mom’s office for a day, you know, like, we they all score or something. And I was like, telling all her colleagues that I was like, gonna go to Harvard. And I was like, oh, no, it’s like, it’s like a family joke. Um, but let’s see, probably seriously thinking about it, like, sophomore year, definitely. Just like, you know, counselors at high school started to like, say, like, here’s what you should be looking at and thinking about. So going into high school, was it an analytical approach? Or was it more of a free like free rein approach? Did you go into high school saying, I’m going to try to get I don’t know, 11? Aps, if your high school offered that many, I’m going to try to have a leadership position in these clubs. Did you come in with a set goal in mind? Or were you more kind of discovery? just discovering what worked for you and such? Um, I guess more like, I don’t know if I was going in like saying, like, I need to take all the APS I can, but it was definitely more focused on like, doing the best. During the best courses, and like, you know, getting the best grades to what extracurriculars was I on? I was in I did soccer for three and a half years. Like kind of did student government but not seriously. I feel like I did other things. I’m sure you did. Yeah, I just I cannot think of I did swimming for one year. Um, my friend was gonna like roped me into it. And I was like, What the hell? Yeah, no extra. Coker is like, yes, we’re definitely a side thing. It was more about the classes. Okay. And you’ve mentioned earlier, I mean, before we started this, that you went to a stem oriented school. So can you talk us through that a little bit how to, how was your high school experience a little bit different from a traditional public school? So Baltimore is kind of weird. Most of our high schools are magnet schools. And so you when you graduate, when you’re like coming out of eighth grade, you choose which one to go to. And like, based on your your test scores and your grades, they say whether you can get into that school or not. So you could choose which high school you attended. Yeah, pretty well. So they also have zoned high schools, but those ones aren’t very good. Um, what’s the Zone High School? Like, you know, like your school that’s like in your zone, like your schools do very differently than the counties do it. So basically, there’s like three or four, like main high schools in Maryland, Baltimore that like everyone wants to go to. So there’s one that doesn’t International Baccalaureate, that’s City College. And then there’s Baltimore Polytechnic, which is where I went that does more of a stem focused education.
And so we start with, and then I was in like a more advanced stem program within the stem high school, because I really wanted to like, put it lay it on myself. So I’m trying to think it’s been so long. Freshman year, I guess was eight years ago. Oh, my God. I’m so old now. Huh? Um, you said it, not me. Um, we started I guess, with like algebra two and like freshman year, if that makes sense. And then like, but we also did like geometry, trig and stats, like all in the first few years. We’ll wait a sec. So I understand. It’s a techie school. And obviously, STEM is going to be a priority. Yeah. But you took traditional like English, social, social studies and stuff like that. But we do a lot of like, half like one semester courses. Okay. Yeah, so I think trigonometry and statistics were both one semester courses. Um, and then geometry and algebra, were both full year. Um, so that’s kind of how that worked out. But then I ended up taking AP Statistics, like a couple years after that. And then we did AP Calc one, AP, Calc Two. So really got the math like, all the way in there. We had like a, like, innovation and technology cores, which is like a little bit of like, engineering, a little bit of computer science, a little bit of whatever else. Have a question. So you said you’re not really into STEM and engineering. So if you could choose which high school you want to go to, why did you choose the stem one? Was it just like, I was gonna look? I’ve truly no idea. Um, for one, it was, it was like, a couple blocks my house. Um, that was like, a major calculus in my decision, because like, my best friend lives around the corner, and he went to the other high school, which is like, 20 minutes away. Um, so that wasn’t like a major part of it. It just like, I always, like, felt like I was gonna go to this high school. I guess yeah. Um, it was just kind of like, it seemed like a logical, logical progression for me. We actually, my friend’s parents, like started this thing that we did every year where the eighth graders would kind of like all go to someone’s house. Like, all the eighth graders were invited, and they would invite like, five kids from each high school because the, like I said, the two biggest high schools and we kind of like a panel discussion. And so all the kids would get to ask of the students and then all the parents would also get to ask as the parents were all like Taipei, like super like, my kid needs to go to the right high school kind of thing. And most of it ended up being you know, you’re going to be fine in either high school. Um I am pretty happy that I did the stem one because I think it’s like, like, I have a pretty strong and liberal arts background and like side of, you know, everything I work on, so it’s good to have like a little bit of STEM to toss them there. And like, understand, so as I understand it, so you had a stem East School and what I understand from the schools is you do your regular mandatory main, like core subjects. But was it like whenever you had an elective open, it was usually filled in with something STEM related? Is that how it went? Because you took so many maths and your first two years? Yeah, um, I don’t think so. I don’t know if we really had that many elective options. Was it kind of planned out for you? Pretty much. I think like, junior senior year of high school, we had a bit more flexibility in terms of what we did. Um, so I took like, AP what let’s see what was an option that I had I can’t remember. We had like AP econ, which I don’t think I was able to fit in. There was some, like, internships that people did, I ended up doing an internship my senior year, which is like partly like a research practicum part internship thing. So that was like a up to you like, uh, oh, I did, I guess. Um, but yeah, the first two years, I think we’re pretty strict on what we did. Okay. And by the end of high school, when you were submitting your college apps, how many APS did you take in all of high school? So it’s funny, I was actually on the College Board website the other day, because I just saw that they, you know, change the sh t stuff. And I was like, just to like, see what my scores were. If I was on the website, I, I want to say I did like about 1010. Okay. And where did that place you in your school? Because I mean, you go to, I guess, a competitive school? Where did where were you in terms of rank top?
Like, my class position? Yeah, class position around there. I was exactly the 20th person, or like 20th percentile. Because I remember we had like, an awards banquet thing, like at the end of senior year, and I was like, exactly the last person who got like, in the top 20, or something like that. Top 20 like students? I think so. It was either percentile or students I don’t remember. Okay, and what about your GPA? Where was that so long ago? Um, I mean, it was it was pretty good. I mean, I play if I was the 20th person, it was, I think my my graduate classes about 350. So if I was 25 to 350, I imagine it was pretty good. I have probably greater than, like, 3.9, right. Between 3.9 4.0 I want to say weighted it was probably like a 4.5. I’m just pulling on my AP scores, I can actually tell you how many I took. Oh, yeah. And can you tell us like the average score that you had on your AP tests? Yeah. So I took modern world history, government and politics, US history, physics, one, physics two, English language, Calc, a B, statistics, English literature and chemistry. Okay, so that is, okay, cool. I can count I’m good. And then I got a three or four on all of them. Except for government, I got a five. Okay, so your average is about like a third, higher three point something. Okay. And let’s move on to sa t. And this is I mean, very important to me, specifically, because I am a Maryland student, and UMD is a very likely option for many reasons. First of all, it’s a great school in general. And I know, or maybe this is just a rumor, with an almost perfect LSAT score, which is what we take in Maryland, most people take the LSAT, you can get a full ride or a full tuition to Maryland. Is that true or not? If I got a 1590 on the LSAT, and my GPA was a 4.0, unweighted, and it’s my GPA is probably going to be better for 4.7 4.8 weighted when I graduate, so could I get a full ride or full tuition because of that, they don’t do it based solely on the scores. I have a couple friends who like our own for ride, I think Marilyn called the band for key scholarship. Um, so there’s a couple people who are on full ride. But it also comes down to like your essay and your extracurricular, you know, like your admissions essay. Um, so it’s like two people have relatively the same LSAT score, and then GPA, what distinguishes, like, how they decide is based on like extracurriculars and essays? I’d imagine so, I mean, I don’t work in admissions. Thankfully, that’s the job. I would never want deciding who gets what, but um, I think that’s probably, you know, the deciding factor. And going into high school. Again, you know, the full ride full tuition, it’s based on multiple things, but one of the key factors is your like grades and LSAT score. So going into high school, did you think to yourself, it’s a very likely chance that I may go to UMD. So I should strive for like as high of a score as possible as high of a GPA as well. Well, I said Maryland was like, actually bottom of my list. Or like, I think maybe Pittsburgh was one beneath Maryland. Um, but, um, ya know, I, you know, I want good grades and everything, just like, like, I didn’t want to get into an Ivy League. That was kind of my goal. And so, you know, I want good grades for that, but I wasn’t like it was more just, you know, I wanted to get into best college I could, it wasn’t so much like where I was going. UMD was near the bottom of your list. UMD such a great school. What is this? No, it is and I’m like, like I said, I’m really really happy. I’m there. It was like more than I wanted to. So much like I think about 20% of My high school went to Maryland. Um, and so like I’ve very much just wanted to get away from that. Break free from honest. Exactly. Okay, so let’s go back to LSAT. So can you tell us the preparations that either you took or your school took to, like, prepare you for the test? And then what did you end up getting? I’m a pretty good test taker. That’s just like, I’ve always been pretty good. You know, especially like the very like, Excuse me, like, logical multiple choice kind of tests. Um, so I think I definitely had an LSAT book, you know, did a couple questions through there, I had an LSAT tutor for like, maybe two or three sessions. It wasn’t like very formal, it was a neighbor who like does it as part time job. And my parents paid him like 50 bucks or something.
And honestly, I don’t think he was that helpful, except for just making me actually sit down and do the tests. Um, you know, like, I knew my parents were paying for it. So I was like, Alright, I’m gonna sit down and like, take the time to do these. So I took the LSAT twice, and I took the AC T twice. Oh, why did you take them both? Just because I’m chaotic. And I wanted to take more tests. Um, yeah, I know, like, the AC T is like bigger for like, outwest. Um, but I think I’ve also heard that it’s like, no, that’s not true. Um, I don’t know, you know, I just kind of wanted to see what I could do on both of them. Um, so the LSAT I got, it’s actually funny. So both with the LSAT and the AC T, I did better the first time I took both of them. And the second time I took both of them I did worse. So I had already on the LSAT and then I did a 35 on the ACC, which was like, amazing. Wow. Yeah, it is really good. And where did you end up submitting the AC T or LSAT? Oh, both okay. Yeah, I was like, What the hell, you know? More impressive. Okay, so let’s move on to actual extracurriculars. Now. So you mentioned soccer. So let’s start with that. When did you start soccer and then like, say, I have no idea how sports work in high school. Just like football team or whatever. But can you tell us about like the soccer, why you started where you started, and then where you ended up where you kept in or something. Um, so I was, let’s say, I started playing soccer for a club, like a local club team outside of school in sixth or seventh grade. And so I did that through junior or senior year of high school. And then once high school started, I also started playing for the high school team. I want to say I was captain of JV. But again, that was so long ago, I’m not sure. And then played for. Let’s see, I played varsity sophomore year, junior year, and part of senior year, but then senior year, I was working at a local restaurant. I was also doing the internship, um, and then also school and college applications. And so I stopped playing soccer was really disappointing because I spent so much my life playing soccer, and I love soccer, but it’s like, there’s just other things going on. I also didn’t get Captain my senior year, which I was like, super salty about and my friend did get it and I thought he was a schmuck and like, didn’t deserve it. And so it definitely was like, kind of salty. I’m like, maybe quit for that reason, partially. But I also have like some good excuses as to like, why I did not have time to play. Okay. But you were quite committed to soccer overall, because you I mean, you obviously can’t start high school sports till you’re in high school. But overall for soccer, you did start like in middle school. Right? So it’s pretty long for you. It was a commitment. Yeah. I mean, we would play for the club team. We in practice, like two or three nights a week and then like games on weekends. And then during Fall season, like the club kind of would die down because they knew we were all playing in high school. And then they’re in so for high school. We had practice four days a week and games one, one or two days a week. Okay, interesting. Okay, so wait, okay, soccer aside, what other extracurriculars did you do as well? Right. Take your time. Yeah, I truly, oh, we had like kind of a ski club in high school, which is fun. It was like super chill. Basically, like this one teacher. He would take his van and just like whatever kids wanted to go skiing, and we drive like an hour and a half from Baltimore, up to your Pennsylvania where there’s like a tiny little ski hill. And so we would go like every Friday after Afternoon. And so I think I started that junior year and got pretty intimate we would go like almost every Friday, like, from late December through March, just cuz it was like, you know, we paid for it, so why not. And so that was pretty great. It was just like we would all do. The second school ended, we’d like run to his classroom, like change into ski gear, and then just like hop in his car. And then it was so funny, he would just like, we’d get to the mountain and he would just leave us. He’d like go off in the zone and like, do his snowboarding and we’d sometimes like cross paths with him on the mountain. But otherwise, he’s like, yeah, go have fun, guys. Just be back in the car at 10pm. So was this like an official club? Or was this was it was, but it was like, so like, chill that it seemed not official. Interesting. Okay.
Anything else? Before we get into like internship and working senior year? Um, yeah, like I said, I did kind of student government. Like, I never really had an official position, I think. And I like did not really care that much. I kind of just like hung around. Okay. Yeah. I like, I don’t, I just don’t remember at all. I’ll show I should like, try to find a resume from high school or something. See what I did. Don’t leave out anything. Because I just interviewed a guy, right? He goes to MIT. He forgot to tell me he was a Coca Cola scholar. until the very last minute, so if you have anything like that, don’t leave that out. All right, let me see. Um yeah, no, I think it looks like I guess just What year was this? Oh my god. It’s so funny looking at my resume from high school compared to my resume for college now that like, so different college is much more impressive. Um, so I also tutored at my Sunday school. Like my synagogue, so I do that Sunday mornings? How long did you do that? For? Three years, three years? So I guess from like, 2013 Oh, my dates, 2012 and 2015. Um, so let’s see from when I was 13 Until I was 16. Freshman ish. Eighth grade to like about sophomore junior year. That sounds about right. Yeah. Um, yeah, I would babysit and all that kind of stuff. I feel like I’m so much more busy. I don’t know. I don’t know what I didn’t High School. Okay, so if that’s all you can remember, for now, let’s go on to senior year. So you mentioned an internship, can you take us through the process, like, why you started, how you started, and then what you actually did. So we have this program called research practicum, which is where, four days a week, like after lunch, basically, you would just go to a local place and do research. And so like, my high school is like, three blocks from Johns Hopkins. I’m so lucky. And so a lot of kids who just go to Hopkins and do like undergrad research with or like, you know, they work with PhD students and do like really cool stuff. Um, like I said, I’m not into STEM, so I was not into that. And so some kids started there, basically start the summer after sophomore year, and then do it all throughout junior year, summer after junior year and then senior year. And so they would get really, really like, fantastic projects. I did not do that. I started my senior year. And so I was working at the Baltimore City Health Department on this project about implementing telemedicine in schools. Um, without getting too nitty gritty, basically, like some schools, some public schools also serve as like the local community doctor. And so it was about like implementing telemedicine practices at those doctors offices within the school so that they could like broaden their impact and broaden their outreach for medical care. So I was kind of like looking into like doing a pilot program for them. It never went anywhere. I didn’t learn that much. The guy I was working for, like, didn’t really know what to do with me. But it was like, first of all cool to like, get out of school. Second of all, it was like cool, like work in a real place. And I like met some really cool people. I don’t know if you know Leanna when she was she’s been on TV a bunch of with like COVID stuff. She’s a former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. And then she was the president of Planned Parenthood for a year. Do you work with her? I didn’t like work with her directly at all, but her office was like, really close to mine are close to my little cubicle. So I could, like go kind of like pretend to like say hi sometimes. And then her like special assistant, worked at the desk across from me, and like, had gone to Harvard. And we’re going back to Harvard for med school. And so she was like a good persons like gets now. Interesting there. So did you do some networking there just like, connect with people heavily. And actually, one guy I met there, he was their communications director, um, like for the health department, and I’m actually still in touch with him. Turns out his dad goes to my synagogue and I like saw him at synagogue, like three years after I left the health department like, hey, wait a minute.
So he and I texts every once in a while, he’s pretty well connected, like Maryland politics, which like, serves useful to you? Exactly. Um, you know, as I’ve been, like, building a political profile, you know, stay in touch with him. So, definitely, definitely worked out. Definitely also gave me you know, just like working in an office experience. Did you like the working in Office experience? Yeah. Oh, kind of it was like, it was weird, just because, like, I different from high school, different from high school. And it was weird, because I was both doing an internship. But also research was kind of like a weird mix. Um, so yeah. And can you tell us you said that you worked in a restaurant senior year as well. So can you talk about that a little? Yeah, I started that like this. I don’t know, maybe in August or July, before my senior year, it was like a pizza place that it just opened near my house. Like a fancy like, sit down pizza place kind of thing. So I was just like a busboy, you know, taking dishes from dirty tables and putting them to the kitchen, doing whatever on jobs had to be done, filling up napkin holders, sewing up cutlery, that kind of thing. But then, so worked on that kind of, I think at first I was doing like four or five nights a week, then drop that down to school and college applications became, you know, much more pressing. I think then I was doing like maybe two or three nights a week. And then stopped for a while, like, in the late part of senior year, just because, like everything was getting too much. And then started working again, ended up like working my way up to like actually making pizza, which is cool. But like still a skill I have, like, be able to make pizza from dough is like really cool. You know, I tossed in the dough and everything. So it was fun. You know, some good side money wasn’t particularly like, I don’t know, working in a restaurant sucks. But it’s like a good thing to like, you know, know how to do and do service work for people. And most importantly, you learned how to make pizza, which is, you know, really most important, really important skill on, everyone’s gonna ask that in an interview. So yeah, well, I was funny I used to have on my resume I had, you know, busboy a server, whatever else positions I had done in my last bullet under that Job was like, can eat an entire pizza in like three minutes or something. Okay, okay. I know, small flex. Do you have any advice for writing resumes in high school because I’m also in the process of potentially getting an internship. Right. But like, I understand I have to submit my resume, and I have to have an interview and then see if I can get into the program. So I have no, I have no idea how to do a resume. So do you have any advice for that? Yeah, not really. No, not really. I’m like, I’m just like, now that you were asking me like what I did in high school. I like went back and looked at it. And it was like my resume just looks so boring. I don’t know where just disappeared on my desktop to. There it is. It’s like, um I think the important thing, definitely keep it to a page like one single page. You’ve probably heard that before. Well, I have a limit, so I can’t go past a page. Um, yeah, keep it to a page. Don’t go like too into detail on anything. Because like, you know, if something’s important, you’ll talk about it in the interview. It’s supposed to be like a really like 5000 foot view of like what you’ve done you don’t exaggerate anything. Like instead of saying I was a waiter at a restaurant should you say like, I did this this this we these were my responsibilities should you make it seem more than like it is? Not really. You know, most people know what a waiter did what a waiter does. Um, you know, what I would do is say like, let me see what do I have? I’m like waiter comma, Polly Jes restaurant. Comma, like when you work there, and then like maybe two or three bullets under that saying your responsibilities. Or if you had multiple positions there you could say waiter for Like in that top one and then in your bullets was like also busboy I also dishwasher. Um Let’s see. Yeah, I also had this. This is like a really random thing. We cut down a big tree in our front yard. Like my sophomore year of high school maybe. And as they were, like hurting it all away, my mom like told them to keep the wood.
And we didn’t have a fireplace in our house, but all of our neighbors did. And she was like, oh, no, you know, the neighbors will love to have the firewood. And so they dumped all the wood out. And she didn’t realize that the pieces were like literally five feet are like wide eyed. They were literally fried, like slices of tree trunk. And our neighbors are like, we can’t put them in our fireplace, like it’s bigger than the fireplace. So she bought me an axe and bass was like, have at it like you can sell the wood yourself. So I sold firewood for like in and out of high school. Which is like a fun little side job. That must have big tree to be selling a bunch of firewood. I think I probably made like $2,500 off of selling the wood. Like over the course of the entire tree. It was like a, you know, a full size tree. But so I have like, owner of my firewood business, which like, it wasn’t an official business or anything but like, still can’t, you know, like, you know, for your exaggeration point. I guess I could say that. Okay. Okay, so we’ve gotten through the, you know, high school transcript extracurricular part. So let’s go on to actual college application stuff. So number one is recommendation letters. Again, how did you approach it? Who did you get them from? So if you remember, this was an issue. Common App requires two teachers like junior and senior year. And the teacher whom I was closest to was the teacher from sophomore year. So yeah, sophomore year. Um, I actually asked him first and asked another teacher from junior year and then had to ask a third teacher because I needed you know, another junior year teacher. So the one guy who was really close to was my government teacher. I was constantly like bugging him with questions and stuff, like after school when we were just like, even in class, like we would be just like debating and having a good time. So he was really good recommender. I think I did my English teacher and my history teacher. The history teacher was another really good one, because he and I also made it all the time. Like, we were literally just debating, like, everything in class and like, the entire class, just be like, sitting there like watching YouTube, it’s like, go back and forth, like a ping pong ball. But you know, like, it builds like rapport with them, and they understand like, you know, what you’re talking about? Um, so yeah, so those three you know, never read the recommendations, because you never get to see them. But I got into school, so I guess they were getting recommendation letters aside. And then, yeah, basically, just pick the teachers that you thought would say something good about you the ones that you were close to? Yeah, it was once I was close to I think the like, the relationship that you build with them, like most important thing, you know, not so much if they’re gonna say something good or not. But it was like more just like the ones whom I knew well, or who I thought knew me well. I guess that’s the most important thing is like the ones who you think know you will, and who can like not just like write up write something nice about you, but like, who actually know you and can like, speak to your character? So was this something that you came across yourself? Or are you like me and like, watch a bunch of hack videos about college application process and learn? We like so we had a lot of college counts, like, I went to like an inner city high school. And so they like do focus a lot on like getting kids through the college process. So the program that I was in had its own college counselor. And then the school itself had two or three college counselors. So between the four of them, like we had like tons and tons of assistance. And so we kind of go to them for help. I definitely didn’t watch any like videos or anything, but yeah. Okay, so recommendation letters we finished with Okay, let’s go on to actual application. So number one, let’s start with how you picked the schools that you wanted to go to. Can you tell us like the main main things that you looked for? And then of course, the schools that you choose, chose to apply to?
Let’s see. Okay, first off Do schools. Harvard, Northwestern Dartmouth brown Davidson down in North Carolina, Maryland, Pittsburgh. Oh Wash U in St. Louis and Georgetown. Um, Those are in no specific order. Um, let’s see, how did I pick those? I definitely didn’t. I know some kids, you know, who applied to like all the IVs and they were like, I need to get into an IV I need to go to an IV, so I’m going to apply to all of them. That definitely wasn’t me. Um, I visit I only visited Harvard, I
think, is that the only college tour you did? No, that’s only I Believe Tour. I did. Um, I think, Oh, I did. UPenn. Um, so I think I guess like the main deciding factor for me was like, I really wanted a college campus. Um, you know, I didn’t want to have an urban campus I didn’t want to like be in the middle of nowhere. I wanted something to where it was like clear that there was like the college campus but then like nearby was like an urban area. So most of those fit that description didn’t want something huge, which is I guess why I ended up in a huge state school. I’m trying to think what are the things were like important, honestly, just laying vibes. I wish there was like a better thing. But like, I remember like the day I toured you Chicago, it was like snowing and cold and just like not a great day. And just like didn’t get a great vibe for the campus. And so that just like so Northwestern was somehow better. So like a day before or a day after. Also that like Northwestern is campus so pretty. The homes around the campus are gorgeous. Yeah, it’s like you Chicago. Also, though, again, like it didn’t fit my criteria of like, it was very urban. You know, it’s very, like enmeshed in the city. I remember, I walked around NYU, and again, it was like, can’t really tell where the city stops and the school begins. So I just didn’t like that. Um yeah, I guess that was like most of my criteria, like, you know, most of them have pretty good political science programs, that kind of thing. Yeah, I mean, Georgetown, like, yeah, say political science. Yeah. So you knew what you wanted to do before you actually went into college? Most of them, you know, they you have to apply as something or other. You know, you have to even just like, say your intention or something like that. Um, so, yeah, you know, I had a pretty good sense that I wanted to do something liberal arts, he probably politics. I added econ, in my at the end of my freshman year of college, so I didn’t have that initially, initially. Excuse me. Um, but yeah, I think I applied for pretty much all of them is like political science or government. Okay. Okay. And let’s go on to actual application. So did you apply to all of these through common app? Georgetown has its own application? I remember that one was complicated. Um, let’s see. I mean, most of them definitely were common app, Maryland used to have its own application, I think we now use the coalition, or the, you know, there’s two major like common AP type ones. There’s the difference between common AP and coalition. I just, it’s really not nothing. It’s just like, which one they decide to use? I think. You know, they might ask a few different, like, minor questions. I think one of them used to be one of them used to ask about whether you had been incarcerated before, which like a lot of people thought was like a problem. And that was like, you know, discouraging people from applying. Otherwise, I think they’re pretty much the same. So anyway, Maryland and Georgetown had their own applications. And I want to say all the other Oh, Pittsburgh had its own application, but that was the easiest one. Oh my god. It was literally like, submit your test scores. And then like three 150 word essays. Um, so like 450 words total on three different questions, which is easy, you have less words to express your answer. So I’ve got to say Yeah, it’s like it that makes it more difficult but also like I literally banged out that application in like, two hours and I like I think I might have even done that one first and it just like it felt really cathartic to like have applied to college and like you know, at least like I applied somewhere like even if I get into none of my other school like I applied somewhere and like felt really good. Um, I ended up getting almost a full ride to Pittsburgh
because like, that was basically like my safety school yeah, I think all the other ones were coming up.
Okay, so for I mean, just Coalition have one big essay to like, relatively large as, like Maryland. Is that okay? But for the big essay, that’s, I believe it’s 650 words now. So what did what was your topic for that? How did you approach it? Was it very hard for you? Or did you easily find a topic? Did you like write a bunch of drafts? Or was it last minute? Um, no, definitely add a bunch of drafts. That was another thing where we had like a family friend who like kind of does it as a side business helped me with it. Which like, definitely was a privilege. She was like, massively helpful. I mean, yeah, she was great. Also, like really snarky with me, but like, in a good way, she was like, Ben, like, this was stupid, rewrite this. I wrote it. Okay. Um, I started it with, like, having gone door knocking with my dad, for Obama, in 2008. When I was nine years old, and how that like gave me like an interest in politics. I don’t remember where I took it, though. Oh, I took it in direction of like, how, like, politics needs, like worked for people after like Freddie Gray. Because like, Freddie Gray happened my sophomore year of high school. And so I kind of took it that direction of like, you know, I have this great idea of like, what the government can be, but like, needs to work for people or something. I think that’s, I feel like, that’s how I remember it. I remember the difficult part of it, though, was the common app was 650. In the Maryland one was 500. So I had to delete, like a paragraph. And like, you know, I spent like, two months, like, you know, perfecting exactly like, 649 words or something. And, like a massive section. Wow. Okay, spent a lot of time on it. Like, I remember, I probably went through 10 drafts, at least interesting. And I know, you went through a lot of drafts. And usually when you go through bunch and edit a bunch of turns out to be good. But would you say your writing level is relatively high? Yeah, I think I’m a pretty good writer. And also, like, it definitely improved. Like with writing the application. Like, I definitely, like know that my writing now is like a result of partly writing an application. And what about your little supplemental essays? You know, every application has them. So did you also go through drafts of that, or was that more? Definitely not as much? Um, but yeah, probably a couple, a couple of drafts. I was like, I remember, I was so focused on the main main essay that like when I got mostly done with the main essay, and then I was like, damn, I gotta write more. Um, but yeah, I think that was, yeah, I probably still went through a couple drafts of that. Okay. Okay. And so we’ve gone through all of this now tell us which schools did you get into? So I did Harvard and Maryland early. Harvard, I got deferred Maryland, I got in Dartmouth, I got waitlisted. Different difference between deferred and waitlisted? What is it? Deferred? So Harvard, I applied early. And then they deferred me so they said, like, basically, we need to see another semester of work from you to see whether you like qualify to get in. So they’re kind of basically kicking you out of the early action pool and putting, you know, like a different man, early action and regular Oh, yeah. So they just put you in the regular pool to check over. Okay. Um, and then I didn’t get in through regular, um, got into Maryland got into Pittsburgh, um, Georgetown, the application was due the night of Obama’s farewell speech, I remember. And I was feeling like so inspired by Obama that I rewrote my entire essay, like an hour before it was due and then it was absolute crap. So that definitely screwed me over I think Wash U I did not get in Davidson. I didn’t get in Northwestern. I did get in. I think, you know, the admissions interviews played a big role in a lot of the kind of interviews. Yeah, so a lot of like, the private schools, you know, they all do these admissions interviews where like, they set you up with a local alumni. Um, and so, I feel like I’m like a very, like, you know, I went to talk and so I think that like, helped a lot with some of those. Everything so who knows? And how did the can you just tell us so Northwestern, you did an interview for right. Can you tell us a little bit about the interview? What do they exactly ask you what do they talk about?
So it was actually this is a slight slight conflict of interest, but it was actually like a family friend. Not supposed to be someone that you know, if the northwestern admissions people see this, you know, But it was a family friend. We just like met at a local coffee shop and talked about like school and careers. And you know what I was interested in? What I had done what he had done. Did they specifically ask you like, Oh, what are you going to bring to Northwestern? Why should Northwestern accept you? I don’t think so. Definitely was not that formal case or like more just like a conversation. Totally. The Georgetown one, the northwestern one, both, I just like had it a local coffee shop. Um, the Harvard one, it was like a doctor and I had to meet him at the hospital. And like a conference room, we had actually a great conversation that like, you know, went totally off the rails, but in a good way. I’m trying to think where else I had an interview, I can’t remember Oh, brown, I had Brown had a really bad interview, and that probably like slink my admissions. I think those are the only ones. Okay, so you get in and then. So you get into Pittsburgh, right? You get GMD you get into Northwestern. So, again, how did you pick me you were telling me earlier, but like, you have to say it again for the podcast. So tell us like going through and finally settling on UMD. So Pittsburgh, like just really had no interest in it. They did give me a lot of money, which was like, nice, but I’m just like, wasn’t interested. Um, Northwestern was up there. They actually brought me out for admitted students day they like gave me a voucher to like buy a flight, which was really cool. So that was fun. Yeah, ultimately, it really just came down to money. I think it was, I think it was pretty much between Northwestern and Maryland. You know, I was like, waiting for the Dartmouth waitlist, but I wasn’t super, you know, didn’t really like my chances. And I think at that point, I, when they said, like, you know, the waitlist is closed, or whatever, I was, like, fine. You know, I’ve already settled on Maryland. I’m, like, good with it. It was my decision. But yeah, ultimately, it was like Northwestern with financial aid went from like, 75 to 50. and Maryland went from 27 to like, three. So it was a lot of people were saying like, yeah, you know, going to a prestigious school, like Northwestern can definitely help you. But in the long run, like, you’re going to be so laid down with debt that, you know, you’ll be happier you went the easier route? I am. Yeah. And I mean, like, I am, okay, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming because of your financial aid with Northwestern only went to 50. Your family’s probably like middle class. So like, okay, that’s ridiculous. I mean, like, middle class people. They don’t get any financial aid. Like, if you’re, like, I know, in a first generation, low income, a lot of time you get most of your tuition paid. If you’re, I mean, once you reach a certain point, I mean, your parents can probably just pay the price. But then like middle class people are stuck with like, am I going to go into a bunch of debt? Or should I just settle settle for my state school or something? This is this is like the major problem with American higher education. Like it’s just absolutely. You know, it screws over everyone at every level. Yeah, like middle class people. I mean, I mean, I would say I have to go through this too. Of course, I’m worried about whether I’m going to get into the school, but more importantly, like can I even afford it? Because who cares if I get enough I can’t afford it means nothing. Exactly. Yeah.