Expanding My Horizons: To UConn and Beyond

By Julia Assard

 Since I was a little kid, I had always wanted to go to UConn. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and almost all of our family friends attended this university. In addition, my dad is employed by the university, so that was always an obvious financial incentive. When applying to colleges as a senior in high school, I considered UConn to be my only serious option and applied to other schools as an afterthought. The day I got my acceptance letter in the mail, I sent in my deposit.

 The only down side of attending UConn for me was that it is only a mere twenty-four minute drive to my house. In addition, from my tiny high school with only 400 students, about fifteen people from each grade go to UConn. While many of my hometown friends were going here, I knew that I wanted to branch out as much as I could. I know people here now that only hang out with people that they went to high school with, and while I love spending time with my old friends, I craved something new. I wanted to be around people that I hadn’t known for the past eleven years. The idea of being in a lecture hall of 500 people I knew nothing about was both scary and exciting for me.

The author (center) with her “new” friends

For my freshman year, I decided to choose a random roommate who is now one of my best friends. On the second day of school, we sat with a random girl in the dining hall who quickly became the third in our trio. While I did have one person from high school that I was close friends with all of freshman year, I made it a goal to try to seek out new people and create new bonds. I wanted to be able to have the “Big Chill Weekend” that my parents and their college friends have every summer in the Cape. Finding new friends in college can be difficult, but I have been lucky enough to find people and make new connections and groups every year that has truly made the phrase, “you can always make a big school feel small,” true to me.

Looking beyond (from the Homer Babbidge Library)

 Choosing a college is a daunting task, but it seemed an obvious choice to me. While I have been lucky in that manner and love the school I chose, it is important for people to go somewhere that challenges them in some way. My challenge was entering a school that was about seventy times larger than my high school and being in a place where I didn’t know every detail  about every person’s life. In addition, my first semester of college I took the dreaded CHEM 1127, CALC 1131, and BIOL 1107. This course load was overwhelming, and my first exams came back with lower scores than I had hoped for. The transition from high school classes to college courses was a shock, and it scared me that I may not be cut out to be a physician assistant as I had always hoped. It took dedication, a lot of studying, and good friends, and now I find excitement in being challenged by upper level courses on the path to my future career.  In order for people to gain new knowledge, they have to do things that are scary and run the risk that it might not work out, but if it is a goal then hard work and perseverance will bring you to where you need to be.

Attending graduate school to become a physician assistant is now within my grasp. In my search for programs, I am now looking for schools much further away from home. While I rarely go home other than for breaks, I still have the comfort of knowing I am close and can always visit my dad at work, of course, if I need anything. The idea of being somewhere far from Bolton, CT is a scary thought but a necessary step to take. Attending a graduate school away from home will provide more independence, experiences and connections with new people.  After three years at UConn,  I am excited to be thinking about the next step.  In the words of Bilbo Baggins, “I think I am quite ready for another adventure.”

How do I prepare for Medical School or Dental School?

Shaun getting involved in extracurricular activities – Husky Hungama

This is a question that most Pre-Med/Pre-Dental students ask themselves as they make the transition from high school to college to continue their undergraduate studies. As a Pre-Dental student, this was the same question I asked myself when I started my freshman year at UConn. When I first started thinking about dental school, I didn’t know where to begin or who to talk to about my future aspirations.

The first step is to do research about the field you are interested in to see if it is a potential career path that fits your interests. Most people will tell you to speak with a Pre-Med/Dental advisor first, but from experience, it’s better to read about the field first so you are well-versed about the opportunities available and requirements that need to be met prior to applying to a dental program. For me, I started to research dentistry while I was a senior in high school. Despite spending many hours researching different dental programs, I found that doing this was extremely helpful because it showed me what dental schools were looking for from a well-rounded applicant. After doing some research, I met with not only Pre-Med/Dental advisors, but also spoke with other students who were currently applying to dental programs to hear their advice about what they did to become a well-rounded applicant and what they would do differently if they were to change the way they prepared their application for dental school.

After taking all of these steps, one of the most important things in this whole process is to shadow a physician or dentist by contacting different medical or dental practices. I believe this is a crucial step because when you are shadowing a physician or dentist in the field, you can see hands on what kind of work they do on a daily basis and what the work entails. For most people, this is a checkpoint because it gives you an idea of what kind of work you may potentially do as a physician or dentist. If you feel passionate about this work and you are certain that this is the career you want to pursue, then every measure you take beyond this point will become easier. When I shadowed different dentists during my winter and summer breaks, I knew that this was the career I wanted to pursue in my life. For me, not only did the dental procedures and the work environment of a dentist inspire me greatly, but it was the impact a dentist can have on their patient’s self-esteem that truly touched me.

After the first two years of undergrad, I began my preparation for the dental admission test (DAT) where I scheduled study sessions for two and half months prior to taking the DAT. This was a very stressful point in my college career because I had to be very disciplined in keeping up with my study schedule so I could perform well on the DAT.  Despite this struggle, I can assure you that creating a tight schedule with breaks included will make this difficult time easier. After taking the DAT, I remember starting to write my personal statement which required a lot of time and effort to write. One thing I would suggest is to start writing your personal statement in advance because it is the one of most important factors of your dental application that admissions committees will review and it is not something that can be written overnight. My personal statement took three months to write and after doing many edits on it, I soon was able to reach a point where I was satisfied with my work by making small changes on it each day.

Among all of the pre-requisite courses, shadowing hours, extracurricular activities, research, and employment opportunities I had throughout my undergraduate studies, one thing I learned was never to give up. At some point, you will reach a roadblock, by not doing well in a class or feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities that you are given. When you reach this point, ask yourself one question, how bad do I want it? If you want something as bad as you want to breathe, I assure you everything will fall in place.

“Nobody Knows Where They Might End Up…”

If you’re as much of a Grey’s Anatomy fan as I am, I’m sure you’ll recognize the title words of this post. Nobody knows where they might end up – I believe this can resonate with people of any age group, but particularly college students. College can be one of the most exciting, challenging, and stressful times in one’s life. The pressure to succeed and be on the “right” path can be overbearing. We may make mistakes and find our lives to be totally different from what we planned or expected.

Katie and her Chicken
Katie training her chicken for Little I

So sit down, take a few deep breaths, and listen to me when I say that everything is going to be okay. It is more than acceptable for your plans for your time in college to not turn out as you had anticipated.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and a variety of internships and volunteer experiences throughout high school to the present have solidified my desire to follow that career path. I began my freshman year at UConn as a dedicated student ready to take on any challenge – I was my high school class salutatorian, had a strong work ethic, and was totally sure nothing was going to get in the way of graduating early and attending veterinary school. As I continued through college, I started losing motivation and began more tangibly struggling with mental illness. Time flew by and before I knew it I was placed on academic probation in the Spring of 2015. I felt lost and devastated; I feared that I had completely jeopardized my future career and goals. Fast-forward to the present: I made the Dean’s List in the Fall 2015 semester, I retook some classes to improve my GPA, and I have postponed my veterinary school applications until the next cycle. As a senior graduating in December, these and other experiences along with the support of my advisors, professors, and friends have truly shown me that it is okay to be on a different path than your original intentions, as long as Continue reading

Closing Up An Era

“Enjoy it, your next four years are going to be the best years of your life.”

Gansbaai, Cape Town, South Africa
Gansbaai, Cape Town, South Africa

I’m sure we’re all familiar with that line by now. For some of us, it was one of the main reasons we were so excited to graduate high school and move on to the next step. For others, it was the driving force behind all of those sleepless nights filled with partying and friends.  In my case, for a while every time I heard that line it would only instill a sense of fear of what’s to come after college and everything downhill from there. Luckily, I’ve come to the realization that accepting college as my peak is simply pathetic.

I’m not saying that these college years can’t be your best – far from it actually – all I’m saying is that these have been the best years of my life SO FAR. The memories that I have created at UConn will carry on with me for the rest of my life and even though UConn has given me five amazing years, I can’t wait to see what’s to come. This school has taught me so much, like the fact I’m not a morning person and to not trust anyone who tells you they’re your “best friend” on a Thursday night at Huskies, but most importantly it has taught me who I really am and who I want to become.

College Ambassadors hayride
College Ambassadors hayride

So many people think that as soon as you graduate, life is over. From that moment on it’s only bills, mortgage, and a boring job, but that’s so far from the truth. Life is just beginning. If I were to give any advice to the incoming class it would be to start looking at college as a stepping-stone to your ultimate goal. Whether you want to become a middle school teacher, travel the world, find the cure for every imaginable disease or all of the above, college is just one step in that journey. During your time in college you’ll have the training wheels bolted on your bike, but as soon as you walk that stage with a degree in hand it’ll be time to start pedaling.

Don’t worry; you haven’t hit your peak yet. You’re not even close. You have the rest of your life ahead and it all begins on graduation day. At that point it’ll be time to go. Time to do. Time to pedal.

The Misconception of Graduating

Most student’s thought process:

I am currently a senior getting ready to graduate. I think I needed to have my life figured out by the time I graduate. But now here I am not knowing which path to go. I need to have a full time position lined up for after May! Right?…….. Wrong!


The correct thought process

I know I am not alone in this. This is a very common thought most college students and most seniors experience.  But I have realized that this is the wrong way of thinking. You did not fail at life if you do not already have a job lined up. Don’t stress!  You’re not alone and you will find a job. After talking to advisers, professors, friends, family, and some mentors I have figured out a few steps to follow in order to land a job; and the deadline of May (by graduation) is not one of them!


  1. Step away from UConn but keep the family

Fellow seniors, and other undergrads: don’t be scared to step away from UConn. We all love UConn and the years we’ve spent and shared here! But it’s our time to move forward and find what or where the next chapter of our lives will be. However, keep in mind just because your graduating does not mean you need to close the door and can’t look back. Keep in contact with those at UConn who you saw as mentors or that you were close with. There are plenty of ways to stay involved on whatever level you want. Your time here as a student is over but you will always be an alum and Continue reading

Graduation – A Time of Thanks

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks; and ever thanks.”

-William Shakespeare

Thank YouAs graduation creeps up quickly there is much to reflect upon as I look back on the treasurable time spent here at the University of Connecticut. The sparks of excitement in finding a newer path of life sometimes are engulfed by the fear of leaving behind UConn’s magnificent walls. I have been shaped and guided by many friends, family members, and professors in this important time of my life. To each that have prepared me for my future, I would like to say thank you.

Thank you to my loving parents and family who have supported me from the beginning.  Thank you for helping me financially, to peruse my career and never doubting what I can do. I am grateful for being loved so deeply and given every opportunity I can reach. From them I have learned to love myself and have confidence in myself that I can make a difference in this world. I am thankful for the friends that have stuck by me through the years of school and always have been there for advice and a helping hand. And to the many new friends I have made here at UConn, I thank you tremendously. We have stuck together through an array of courses and have accomplished so much together. I thank all of you for making the transition to UConn so positive and smooth. I also give my thanks to the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and the Ambassador program. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to represent the college and meet a variety of prospective students and wonderful faculty. The networking and training provided has shaped me to become a better student and I thank you for Continue reading

Commencement: It’s the Beginning, Not the End

CAHNR Commencement 2014
CAHNR Commencement 2014

With graduation right around the corner, it’s starting to get very real that our undergraduate careers are nearly over. Despite the constant warnings from family that college would fly by, it didn’t change the fact that it did. If you’re like me, you tried to make the most of your time at this amazing university; nevertheless, there are always those quick moments, such as after a long day of writing a paper or during a difficult exam that you wished the time in school away. As we look towards the next chapter, it might seem as if the best years of our lives are now behind us. However, you cannot buy into that myth! Of course, everyone knows college is an awesome opportunity, one where you can try out new things at any time and meet people just by walking out of your dormitory door. Before we don our caps and gowns to join our friends in celebrating great memories and new beginnings, we should take a moment to appreciate the wonderful school we’ve attended the past few years. Nevertheless, our time spent as undergraduates cannot be used to define some peak in our lives, as it is just a stepping stone to much greater heights.

What lies ahead will be different from what we’re used to, yet whether we head towards Continue reading

Surviving to Senior Year

Starting out freshman year I thought that four years was a long time and that I had everything figured out. Now at the end of my senior year at UConn, I can say that time flew and I learned a lot more “life lessons” that I expected; some of which I would like to pass on to you.

Freshman Orientation- Summer 2011
Freshman Orientation- Summer 2011
  1. Live in the moment

College is going to fly by and before you know you will be studying for your last undergraduate exam. Is that exciting? Of course! But it’s all too easy to rush through things to get your to-do list done and survive a semester. Take some time to appreciate where you are and pay a little more attention to what you are doing. Put down the phone and enjoy just hanging out with your friends. Live in the moment and seize the day!

  1. Caution when taking advice

Some of the best classes I have taken here at UConn were the ones my classmates said “That class is so hard, don’t take it.” Classes go differently for a lot of people and someone’s worst class may be your best class, but you will never know until you try it out. Instead of taking their advice as fact, try it for yourself. And the opposite holds true as well. Trust me, when someone says, “That class is easy,” don’t write it off or you will learn the hard way not to…

  1. Expect the ups and downs

As much as I hate to admit it, getting your undergraduate degree isn’t the constant party that the movies make it out to be. There will be Continue reading

3 Bits of Advice for Graduating Seniors

With only a month remaining in my last semester as a University of Connecticut undergraduate, I have found myself reflecting over the past four years. I have met so many people – professors, mentors, advisors, friends…And along the way, I have picked up various bits of advice. With graduation nearing, my mind has been focusing mainly on post-graduation wisdom. I want to share three pieces of advice in particular that have been resonating with me lately. This is mainly geared towards graduating seniors, but any undergraduate student can take this advice to heart!

CAHNR Commencement 2014
CAHNR Commencement 2014

1. Take Advantage of Your Networks

As a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Connecticut, I will have one of the nation’s largest alumni networks at my disposal! By taking full advantage of the UConn Alumni Network and social media websites like LinkedIn, connect with University alumni. Do not be afraid to reach out to alumni involved in fields that interest you to ask them to share career stories with you, successes, challenges, and passions. Chances are you will connect with a like-minded University of Connecticut Husky and establish a valuable, professional network.

2. Don’t Be Discouraged

My parents have told me time and time again to not become anxious, upset or discouraged if my persistence during the search for a job is not immediately or ever rewarded. While it can be Continue reading