For this week’s blog post, we are featuring a personal essay submitted by an anonymous FLI Program Participant. In this piece, the college freshman shares their experience with switching high schools, mental health, the college application process, and how she feels in the present day.

(This content has been edited for clarity and grammar)

My journey throughout high school and into college was really something long and somewhat sad, I guess? But there is some good in it as well.

To start, I graduated from Chicago Math and Science Academy, but I didn’t start there. My first high school was Chicago Virtual Charter School. I started there because CVCS was convenient for me as I only had to go to campus once a week. My freshman year was kind of tough for my mental health. I think I struggled a lot in 9th grade because there were many things going on at the time. Although I was handling it well, it still affected me. I was volunteering, going to Taekwondo classes, and attending religious school as a full-time student. Although it was kind of hard to balance everything out, I did it.

When 10th grade came, I was doing better. I wasn’t volunteering but I started working at the taekwondo school where I use to practice. Although I managed to handle things, I still was a little behind in one of my subjects, mathematics. While my mom always used to say, “if you love math, then math will love you back,” the philosophy didn’t work for me. Since my grandmother and mom are great at math, I would always jokingly ask if I am adopted.

Eventually, I passed 10th grade, but it wasn’t a good journey and my GPA dropped a lot. Even though my 9th-grade transcript was promising, I was really scared about applying to CMSA. To my shock, I found out one day before school started that I got accepted and I was really happy. I remember having a slight injury on my leg, but it still didn’t diminish my happiness. Maybe it’s a weird thing to get happy about, but I am someone who enjoys little accomplishments.

Then I started 11th grade. I was happy I attended a school with normal schedules, and I met some great friends along the way as well. But as luck would have it, the COVID-19 pandemic began. In March of 2020, we were told that the school will be closed for 2 weeks tentatively, but we all knew inside our hearts that it would be longer. As the pandemic worsened, I began 12th grade online and ultimately finished online. We had the option to go back to school in April 2021, but none of the seniors saw the point. My 12th grade was extremely tough since everything was online. We had to learn how to do stuff completely virtual, such as scheduling a meeting every time when we remembered we couldn’t see that person face to face.

Then, the long and grueling college process of applying, writing essays, getting accepted, getting rejected. Even applying for scholarships. It was painful when I didn’t get accepted to some scholarship programs, but I didn’t harbor on it too much because I guess it wasn’t meant to be. The stress also started affecting my sleeping schedule. As fate would have it, I got a better opportunity to study in a community college and transfer from there. A lot of people aren’t big fans of community colleges due to whatever stereotypes they hear, but I am happy personally because I got a better opportunity here compared to other colleges. People at my college are helpful as well, so I don’t regret taking this route. I know I will have to start the whole process again, which I am not looking forward to, but at least it’s not completely online. I know I titled this blog “Journey from Freshman in High school to Freshman in College’,’ but I like to think of this as a pre-journey because now I feel like my real journey has begun, and I can’t wait to explore all the ups and downs of it.

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