Ms. Olson: The UCLA Experience

Ms. Olson: The UCLA Experience

I went to UCLA for the music department and I was thrilled when I got in. I’ve been wanting to go to UCLA since I was in third grade because my mom did her master’s degree there. I moved into Sproul Hall when I got to the dorms. I remember my parents helping me move in because they only gave you a certain amount of time to put your stuff and when they left, I was like, “Oh my God I’m all by myself. Now what?” It was super overwhelming but exciting at the same time. 

As a music major, I was only one of 14 people who are majoring in this subject here. There is a lot of competition to get into the music major at UCLA. College is a bit hard especially since it is your first time away from home. You have to wake up, you have to get your work done, and you have to get yourself fed. You also have to start making friends by yourself and build networks. It isn’t easy for sure and it takes time but it does happen. 

One of my favorite memories at UCLA is from all the activities I went to. I was involved in football games, basketball games, I was in a sorority, and I did a ton of volunteering and community service. I even got to go to Russia with my choir during my junior year of college. College is amazing and it’s not easy to get started. But the memories, the friends, and the experiences you will have will change you as a person for life. A memory that really stuck out in my mind is when I was in the senior year. About two and a half months before graduation, I got a letter from the admissions office. They said I was one unit short of graduating. I was shocked. I had to go to my choir professor and ask him if I could do a one-unit independent study. I begged and pleaded and he let me and I wrote a paper and then he gave me a unit. I was really grateful for that, but man, that was scary. 

One of my favorite places to hangout was the North campus. There’s a cafe over there with a really fabulous piano and a lot of people hang out there. I would just sit there and study. We could also go to other people’s dorm rooms, order pizza, and also study and hang out together. College has made me the independent lifelong learner I am today. Growing up in San Ramon, they were only two African Americans and one Asian kid in my entire school. It was all white and so going to UCLA, which is very diverse, was a completely different experience for me. It taught me a lot about diversity and again how people see the world differently and how that can inform the choices you make. 

It was enjoyable but, I mean it’s really a double-edged sword. You get a chance to do a lot more in terms of going out but you also have to be captain of your own ship. You get to manage your time and you don’t have to ask for anyone’s permission. At the same time, you have to do your own laundry and make sure you get up. Most importantly, you want to make sure you don’t get yourself into debt which is a huge problem when you’re a college student because when you’re in college everyone will try to give you a credit card. 

It is definitely worth spending the money to go to college. These days there’s a big debate over whether or not college is really worth it but, I think there’s a lot of money out there that is unclaimed such as scholarships and grants. I would also argue that it’s very doable to have a part-time job and pay for your college. Additionally, you also have a community college option which allows you to continue to have these experiences but at lesser costs. I paid for my room and my board and for most of my expenses and costs. I was an RA already and I even had a part-time job. I understand the importance of debt and how it can be a huge hangover your head but there are always ways to make things work.