Janisse is a member of the AF University Prep High Class of 2017. We recently caught up with her to hear more about her life in college.
Tell us about yourself! What have you been up to since graduating?
I’m a sophomore at Columbia. I recently got a research position, which is probably my biggest accomplishment since graduating. I work at the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Currently, we’re testing the effects of glucose on mice, and trying to see which areas of the brain are activated through brain sectioning and dissections. I’m getting to apply my interests and learn through hands on activity and research.
I’ve learned a lot since AF about what works for me, and being around new people in college has helped me clarify who I am. I’m not the same person that I was when I graduated.
When I was opening my college acceptances, I said to my counselor that I wanted to open Columbia first because I wasn’t going to get in—I don’t know why, but I never thought I’d get in. It was like a 5% acceptance rate. I had been doubting myself for so long. Getting into Columbia helped me see that I am more than I realized.
Do you have ideas about what you’d like to major in or pursue after college?
I don’t have a major yet—I’m interested in neuroscience, which is why I’m pursuing research in that field. I took some psychology classes, and what interested me the most was the bio part.
I’m open to a lot of things. I love math, and I’m considering that, too. I have to declare my major this semester, and I’m hoping the classes I’m taking now will help me decide.
I wish I did have ideas about after college, but I’m still trying to figure it out. I do know that I want to help people in some way. I don’t see myself behind a desk—I see myself interacting with and talking to people.
What is your favorite thing about college?
My favorite thing is the people I meet. Unlike in high school, you get to spend a lot of time with friends. They become your family. That’s where I learn. I remember in freshman year, we were studying for the chem final, and I was confused on a few lectures. One of my friends helped me and was quizzing me even though he had his own final.
I’ve found that people want to share their knowledge with you. There is competition, but if you look closer, there are people who want to help you. I love being able to learn from others and inform people about things they might not know about.
Since I’m from Brooklyn, I used to be the tour guide for a lot of my friends. I gave them a lot of recommendations for places to go. Now they’ve figured it out.
When you’re not studying, what other activities are you involved with on campus?
My family is from Dominican Republic. I’m on the board of Grupo Quisqueyano (GQ), and we spread awareness and share our culture on campus. In March, we’re planning for Columbia to host the Dominican National Conference. It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice to be around people who know what it’s like to be Dominican.
During my free time, it depends. One of my friends is on a dance team, so sometimes I’ll go dance with them. I do find time to go to the gym. That helps me a lot to take out some stress.
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting college and give yourself advice, what would you say?
I would tell myself to talk to my professors and learn how to study from them. And not to be too scared to ask for help. When I came from high school, I got As. I never was lost, I was never confused. At Columbia, people seemed to know everything, and it was overwhelming. It was a new situation, and I needed to change how I’ve approached learning. I’m still learning how to study and what’s productive for each class.
Columbia has been very challenging. That’s a big part of my growth—learning how to deal with those challenges, and failing for the first time. I had to learn how to fail—I didn’t know how to go about. But I’ve learned from those failures. Failures aren’t a dead end. It happens for a reason, and you learn, and you make sure you do it better the next time.
That’s great advice! Thank you so much for sharing, Janisse! We’re rooting for you.