Skip to content

Life at Columbia University and JTS – from Dublin High to the Ivy League

October 31, 2010

My homecoming football game!

by Sarah Wolfish (Dublin High Class of 2010 graduate and Columbia University / JTS Freshman)

I am not your typical college student. I am a proud freshman of List College, a joint program with Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS). What’s a joint program? A joint program means that in four years, I will be graduating with two separate bachelor degrees—one from Columbia University and one from the JTS. This means that sometimes I will be taking as many as seven classes a semester in order to graduate on time (most college students take four classes a semester).

Although my workload is hard, I absolutely love it here. I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world. Not only do I go to both a small school (my JTS freshman class is only 51 people) and a larger school (my Columbia freshman class is 1,419 people), but I am eighteen years old and I live in New York City!

I live in a city that literally never sleeps. If I’m bored I can go explore Central Park, go see a show in Times Square (Columbia students get extremely discounted tickets to most shows and free admittance to all museums in Manhattan), or go grab a sandwich at Katz’s in the lower east side. There’s always something going on and I’m trying really hard to take advantage of every opportunity.

There are endless activities to do here, which means there are endless distractions too. What’s different between college and high school is that in college, the only homework is reading, essays, and tests. There are no homework assignments and quizzes to make sure you’re keeping up. It’s up to the individual student to make sure he or she is caught up or to make sure he or she understands. That means that it’s really up to you whether or not you should go see a show or write a paper; no one is here to tell you what you should do. College means managing time. I could easily find something to do on campus or in Manhattan to take up all of my time, but I can’t. As a college student, you have to have priorities and find a balance.

Columbia is known as an oasis within the concrete jungle of New York city. Here's an example: Butler Library.

The Ivy League is not what I expected at all. I was terrified of being compared to some of the brightest individuals of my generation. I was really scared that I was going to become a C student and not be able to measure up. But, now that I’m here, it’s not scary at all. I’m still debating with my peers left and right in discussions, still maintaining my grades, and still an active member and leader of the community. The adjustment from Dublin to Columbia was not hard at all. In fact, I didn’t really make an adjustment—I’m just doing what I’ve always done. For all of you that are worried about Ivy League schools, or just schools in general, DON’T BE! Just be yourself and keep doing what you did to get into that school. Remember, you were accepted, which means you are good enough!

Here's a my dorm room. I have two other roommates and we also have our own sink, common room, and full kitchen.

I’m not going to lie. I miss Dublin a lot. Being 3,000 miles away from home has its drawbacks. I am not a few hours’ drive away and round trip flights are very expensive.  I miss my family, friends, the food, the weather, and just being home. College has made me realize how unique Dublin High really is and how lucky I was to be a Gael. I have encountered many students who went to private schools and were shocked that I went to a public high school and was successful. I have also met many students who hated their high school experience, which is such a foreign concept to me. I guess I sometimes forget that not every high school is like Dublin High.

My advice for all the college bound Gaels is to make the most of Dublin High and what it has to offer. Start developing your time management skills and create that balance now. Explore as many activities as you can and figure out what you are passionate about. Not only will this help you get into the colleges you want, it also will prepare you a lot more for college and for life in general. At the end of the day, it comes down to creating your own experience and being satisfied with it and that’s all that matters.

At the Dublin High School 2010 Senior Awards Night Sarah was recognized by the United States Marine Corp. for Scholastic Excellence, the Lions and Rotary Student of the Month for June 2010 and November 2009 (respectively), and was awarded a college scholarship to Columbia University & Albert A List College of Jewish Studies.  Sarah is also a California Scholarship Federation Life Member, won a Bank of America Achievement Award, and was recognized with a Gold award under the President’s Outstanding Academic Achievement program.

Other articles in the Life in College series:

Columbia University - Roaree the Lion and Friends (I'm on the right)