Acceptance letter leaves junior nothing but smiles

1,090.99 miles. That is how far away junior Katie Yang will be next fall when she enrolls as a freshman at Columbia University in New York, New York. She was accepted Early Decision by the admission committee. By applying Early Decision, she pledged to the university that if she was accepted, she would attend.

Yang compared the feel and atmosphere at Columbia to other schools she’d visited. “Over the summer, we went on a road trip to visit a wide variety of schools to help Katie decide what type of school she wanted to go to. After visiting the colleges, she picked her favorites: Yale and Columbia,” her mother Min Zhang said. “When it came time to apply, we sat down and talked about what she wanted in a school and what she liked about each of the two schools. In the end, Katie picked Columbia.”

It was a binding decision, so it took a lot of thought for Yang to choose Columbia. “I liked the atmosphere and the overall feel of it and the students there. Those are what sold me on Columbia,” Yang said. She attended the information session and tour while on campus. “My family [and I] talked with current students there. At Columbia there’s a more independent feel; they’re not all up-tight. It’s relaxed.”

While preparing for her college visits, Yang was not picturing herself applying her junior year. “I didn’t decide to apply early until after I visited colleges. I really liked them and the idea of going. It was a lot of work since I decided kind of late, but I had the [high school] credit so I decided to go for it,” Yang said.

Certainly a lot of hard work went into Yang’s application process. “We helped her make a timeline of what she needed to do. With the essays, we helped her brainstorm what to write about. We wanted the essays to be her writing, but we gave her ideas on topics. She took it from there,” Zhang said. Yang said she drafted her essays and then reread them a multitude of times. “I didn’t give them to other people to read because then, inevitably, their voices would come through, and I wanted it to reflect my voice and personality,” Yang said. She worked on drafts for three different personal statements and then chose the one she liked the best to edit further and perfect. “I picked the one that showed who I am the best. Thankfully Mrs. Timmins has taught me how to crank out papers. I finished my essay just a week before I had to submit it,” Yang said.

Among the many parts to her application including transcript, test scores and extracurricular activities, Yang is most proud of her essays. “I put a lot of time into them. I said what I wanted to say, and I think I got what I wanted to get across,” Yang said.

Because of the route Yang took, she was not very stressed out while applying. “For me it was ‘if I get in that’s great, if not, I could stay another year and get that much more experience.’ It was what luck had for me I guess,” Yang said.

Several people at the high school helped her reach her goal. English teacher Judy Timmins and physics teacher and robotics adviser Kenton Swartley assisted Yang by writing recommendation letters for her. The entire counseling office, and specifically her counselor Josh Carnelley, helped her to make sure she could graduate early. Carnelley met Yang when she was an eighth grader and was planning her 9th grade schedule. “Katie has been pushing herself academically for quite some time now. Katie actually started taking her first high school class here while she was in 7th grade. Katie’s plan varies somewhat differently than other students in regards to how many advanced high school courses she took prior to attending the high school full-time, the amount of advance courses she took online that her family and she sought out outside of school, along with her summer activities which included taking classes and being a part of college prep activities and programs. Lastly, with all of the high school course work that Katie has taken prior to this year, she will graduate an entire year early,” Carnelley said.

Carnelley never had to suggest a rigorous course-load for Yang; she had the drive all on her own. “Katie’s hard work and determination was her own doing along with the assistance of her ALPHA instructors and her family. Katie is a very motivated student who is a strong advocate for her education, and ever since I met her almost four years ago, she has been the person asking the questions and getting her goals accomplished,” Carnelley said.

Yang feels like the classes she has taken at Cedar Falls High School have prepared her for college. “There were a lot of assignments, so I had to learn time management and to juggle things. In the sciences classes I learned to evaluate and think in different ways. In Composition and Rhetoric, I learned to write a lot of different types of papers,” Yang said. “I think all the classes helped in their own way.”

Yang found out her admission decision in December. “I think everyone gets a little nervous when they find out their result,” Yang said. Her mother remembers the day vividly. “Both Katie’s dad and I came home from work early that day to share her special moment. We were actually nervous for a few days before the results were released. When the time came, she insisted on looking at it alone and shut herself in her room,” Zhang said. “A few minutes later, she came out jumping and screaming that she got in. We were overwhelmed with emotions. We were elated because she got in, proud because this was a goal she’s been working at for many years, sad that she’ll be leaving us a year early and just overall excited.”

Yang is most nervous for the city because it will be such a cultural shock from Cedar Falls. Cyrus Moussavi, who graduated from CFHS in 2004 and graduated from Columbia in 2008, was also sold after visiting the campus. He picked Columbia because he wanted to experience living in a big city. He had many favorite aspects of Columbia University. “[I liked] New York City music and movies, a library with every book imaginable, good professors, smart and weird classmates and Mexican food available 24 hours a day,” Moussavi said.

He has some advice for Yang as she adjusts to city life and college. “Don’t adjust too much. It’s easy to get caught up in New York and try to fit in, but the things you learned in Cedar Falls will benefit you more than you can imagine. Also, look both ways when you cross the street. Seriously,” Moussavi said.

According to her mother, Yang has become very mature, independent and persistent. “If she sets her mind on a goal, she won’t give up until she reaches it,” Zhang said. Qualities like these will allow Yang to flourish in college. “Katie is a very strong student. She has a solid foundation with her academic skills and abilities. She enjoys research. She can do very well when working independently, and she is open to expanding her horizons and challenging herself. Katie has all the right skills to be successful at Columbia,” Carnelley said.

Although it is very exciting that Yang will be attending an Ivy League in the fall, her family is also sad about her departure. “We can’t imagine the household without her bubbly, uplifting personality or her daily music practice,” Zhang said. Yang’s brother Kevin Yang loves singing Columbia’s fight song, “Roar Lion Roar,” everywhere he goes. “I’m going to miss playing ping pong and tennis together. I’m excited and proud of her,” Kevin said. The family has shared many favorite moments together. “We have loved watching her grow from a little girl into a fine young lady,” Zhang said. “A few minutes later, she came out jumping and screaming that she got in. We were overwhelmed with emotions.”



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