Dublin High School Senior Kaushik Kasi on Surviving the College Application Gauntlet
By virtue of serving on the Dublin High School Site Council (SSC), I have had the opportunity to meet several outstanding students. For those unfamiliar, the SSC exists as a standing body of Certificated and Classified employees, Administration, Parents and Students that meet on a monthly basis to discuss academic advancement for each school site. While there is no student representation at the elementary schools, it is typical to have at least one student representative at the middle and high school levels. At Dublin High School the senior representative for 2014-15 is Kaushik Kasi. We took advantage of Kaushik’s current experience to frame this story.
The Kasi family emigrated from India in 1998 and settled in Michigan. At the time, father Suresh worked as a software engineer for Mopar in the automotive industry. They eventually moved west to Portland and then to the Bay Area in 2000. While they landed initially in Walnut Creek, they ultimately moved to Dublin in 2002. With two school-aged children, Kaushik and his younger brother, Kavin enrolled at Dougherty Elementary and Fallon Middle School, respectively. We were blessed with the opportunity to sit down with Suresh, Anna and the rest of the Kasi family last weekend.
OneDublin.org: In our conversation, you mentioned that your consideration of the college application process actually started in the 7th grade at Fallon Middle School. How did your counselor(s) and the school accelerate this process specifically?
Kaushik Kasi: “I was first exposed to the concept of a 4-year plan in the 7th grade, when the counselors came to our classrooms to discuss options for choosing classes. During that time, it was explained by our counselor about a four-year plan during high school, and what that might look like in terms of English, Math, and Science classes. That intrigued me because it was the first time I’d thought about education beyond middle school. Between then and my 8th grade graduation, the counselors from the high school met us one-on-one and talked about our course selections for freshman year and beyond. This was also supplemented by open-house nights that were held at the high school which allowed parents and students to see the new classrooms.”
OneDublin.org: How and why has your Dublin High School experience been enhanced by participating in the School Site Council? How is it that you initially became involved?
Kaushik: “The specific goal of SSC is to improve student achievement at Dublin High School. I was initially involved with School Site Council when Mr. Tim Sbranti asked me to join at the end of my sophomore year, saying it would be a good opportunity for me. My experience at DHS has been greatly enhanced by SSC, as it gives a lot of context behind how the school is meeting the needs of students from all walks of life and academic capabilities. I am able to discuss with teachers and administrators about how we can continue doing that, and give insight on how to improve education at Dublin High from a student’s perspective, as well as work to implement programs to aid our goal. Our focus last year was transitioning the curriculum to the new Common Core, and this year we are working on managing the growing size of our school from an educational standpoint.”
OneDublin.org: Help us to understand your timeline for college applications for 2014-15. What are you currently working on and what do you need to complete before this academic year is over?
Kaushik: “The timeline for applying to college started at the end of my junior year as my standardized test scores came and I had a realistic idea of what I wanted to do after high school. I did research over the summer and was able to narrow down which schools I wanted to apply to. With that in mind, I retook the SAT in October and applied to some select schools for early action before November 1st, which is good for creating options early without being committed to one place. Now, I am working on refining my essays for the University of California deadline, which is on November 30th. There are also other schools I want to apply to which have deadlines between now and January and the results from those will come around the end of March.”
OneDublin.org: While you are doing much of your university research online, please explain if and when you are planning to conduct campus visits. Why is this important or not important?
Kaushik “I visited some campuses that were close to me and also some in Southern California over the summer. I visited private and public schools, both large and small, to get a feel for the school environment in each of those types. Through this, I was able to restructure which schools I was thinking of applying to, because I had a clear idea of what type of school I practically saw myself attending. This experience is valuable because I found the reality of many schools was different than my perception of them (in positive and negative ways), which saved me time while applying.”
OneDublin.org: Based upon what you have experienced, what advice would you like to share with your fellow Seniors that are going through the same process relative to the applications process?
Kaushik: “If you are being overwhelmed about college applications, take advantage of the opportunities around you for help. Last year, many seniors went through the same experience and can give good advice on do’s and don’ts when it comes to selecting a major, writing your essays or applying for scholarships. My English teacher, Mr. Sollom-Brotherton, helped me a lot outside of class in strengthening my essays, and most English teachers (if not all) would be willing to do the same. The career center can help find good programs and scholarships for you too, and the counseling department can help you while you’re applying, they have been helping students do this for many years.”
OneDublin.org: Anything else that you would like to add?
Kaushik: “My last piece of advice would be, don’t over think the process and focus on presenting yourself in the most positive light in your applications. Many seniors (including myself) are worried that their academic performance isn’t as optimal as they’d like for the schools they want to apply to. As long as you gave an honest effort, the only thing you can do right now is focus on making the best application possible and creating extra stress for yourself doesn’t help you do that. While it is important to be realistic, note that the majority of graduated seniors are very happy with the decision they made and where they are now.”
To help us round out this profile, we felt that it would be logical to seek out the feedback from Kaushik’s parents – Suresh and Anna. They are both information technology specialists – coincidentally both working for Kaiser Permanente – Suresh in Pleasanton and Ann in downtown Oakland. The following responses are from Suresh.
OneDublin.org: As parents, what role have you actively taken in guiding Kaushik’s college application choices?
Suresh Kasi: “Kaushik has been more of a self learner. We have supported him in his choices and the results of the choices that he had made during his high school path whether it be selecting the right classes, working on the science fair, or opting in/out of certain clubs and activities. Similarly, we let him decide the colleges he wanted to apply to, as we didn’t want to compel him one way or another. We just had to make sure that we respected his choices and also expected him to meet high expectations on his choices.”
OneDublin.org: Please share the differences or commonalities that you experienced in going through the applications process when you were both in India (elsewhere).
Suresh: “In India we did not have many choices in selecting the courses which is very different in U.S. We had fixed set of courses and just had a choice in 12th grade for engineering and or medicine. It was not complex at all for the courses that need to be completed at the end of high school.”
OneDublin.org: During our conversation, you had both mentioned your experience of immigrating to the United States in Michigan and then ultimately to California. Was there anything that was particularly attractive to relocating to Dublin?
Suresh: “In 2002, we decided to move to Dublin, since it was a new community and there were lot of families who were moving to Dublin. It was also ideal in terms of the location for commute purposes, with many young families, good schools, and new facilities.”
OneDublin.org: Please describe any elements that you have found to be unexpected about the applications process – be it related to complexity, cost, etc.
Suresh: “The essay process and deciding on early admission appears to be daunting. Also writing the essay for each of the schools is very time consuming and exhaustive.”
OneDublin.org: With Kavin matriculating up through Fallon Middle School, might your approach to his post high school career be different? If so, please explain.
Suresh: “Yes, for Kavin we might start the college planning at a more involved level earlier on in his high school career. For Kaushik, we let him pick all the classes and activities he wanted to do, which he sometimes had to learn the hard way that it wasn’t the best choice. Based on the experience we had with my older son, we can guide Kavin accordingly on what choices will be good for him, for his career in high school and beyond.”
Regardless of where your child may be in the process, we felt that it would be helpful to understand where one family is managing the college applications process. OneDublin.org would like to thank Kaushik and the Kasi family for opening their doors to share their personal experience. It is our hope that this profile will encourage other students to invest themselves more deeply into what will be a life-changing process – the college applications experience.