Name: Zara Jaff
University & Graduation Year: University of Miami, Class of 2022
High School: American School of Dubai
Major/Program: Biology major, with minors in psychology and entrepreneurship

1. As a first-year student, what was the biggest surprise about college life compared with high school? Were there any specific challenges you faced or adjustments you had to make?

With freedom truly comes responsibility. You are given all of this independence, but it means that no one is holding your hand and guiding you through everyday activities. It was definitely a big shock, but I think I have grown immensely. A big adjustment was figuring out everything on my own. If I was sick, it was my responsibility to take care of myself. If there was any type of issue in my classes, I didn’t have my family to step in and help me resolve it. In short, there was a quick adjustment between being a teenager and turning into an adult.

2. What makes your college special? What is your favorite thing about it?

My college is special because there is such a diverse group of people that attend. Miami is a melting pot of cultures, and my school is filled with students from around the globe. This made it super easy to fit in here, as I could relate to many individuals with unique backgrounds.

3. Are there any misconceptions out there about your college? What would you like to share with students who might be considering applying to the University of Miami?

People tend to think that this school is only for partying. While UM can be a lot of fun, the work-load can be rigorous. Teachers have a high standard for their students, which ultimately means it is your responsibly to be on top of your academics.

4. Are you involved in any clubs, teams, or other extracurricular activities? If so, tell us how this has shaped your college experience.

I joined Greek life, which was something that was very new to me. It was a great way to meet more people and make the community smaller. I am planning on joining the UMTV club, because I am super interested in TV production and presentation. I also work part-time at the student wellness center, which has been a great way to add discipline to my schedule.

5. If you could give your high school self any advice about college admissions, what would you say? Having been through the college admissions process, what is the biggest lesson you learned?

It’s important to explore all your options in high school and obtain as much experience as possible. If I could go back, I would engage in more shadowing and internship programs, in order to help me understand what I want to do. In terms of admissions, I would recommend applying to a school whose programs genuinely interest you. It’s easier to follow the crowd and apply to the same school as your friends. However, it’s more valuable to attend a university that sets you up for success in your chosen field in the future.