Name: Zia Mussa
University & Graduation Year: Boston College, Class of 2026
High School: Dubai College
Major/Program: Finance

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

The biggest challenge for me was adjusting to living in a new country. In Dubai, we live in a sort of bubble. In Boston, life is quite different in terms of transportation and working hours. Shops tend to close at 5 or 6pm and restaurants much earlier than in Dubai as well. My brother already lives in Boston and I have a few friends from Dubai here so settling in was manageable. However, I quickly realized that being outgoing and open-minded is very important when starting at university, as it helped me make new friends rather than just sticking with the group I knew from home.

2. If you could do your first year/term of college again, what changes would you make and why?

At first, I didn’t realize the importance of each class and assignment in university. In high school, I did the British Curriculum where our grades were based on a final exam, whereas at an American university, everything counts – attendance, assignments, participation, etc. I fell behind in my first semester, because I wasn’t used to this style of assessment.

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

Boston College has, in my opinion, the nicest campus is Boston. Additionally, we are only a 15-minute car ride from the main city so you get the best of both worlds. I also love the fact that we have a very strong athletic program which builds a sense of community, as everyone is involved in supporting the teams and attending games.

4. Are there any misconceptions out there about your college? What would you like to share with students who might be considering applying?

I would say a common misconception is that the Boston College is very Christian. Although it is a Jesuit school, they do not force religion upon you and the school is not trying to push a specific agenda in the classroom. On top of this, I discovered a larger than expected international community, which is important for a student like me, coming to college from halfway across the world.

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

I am involved in the international club and participate in intramural sports. This has allowed me to widen my network and meet more people. Sports is a great way to bond and joining clubs allows you to spend more time on campus and be involved in student life.

6. 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?

Start early. There is a lot of work to be done and essays are a big part of your application. No one will write the perfect essay on the first try. You will have many drafts, so start early to give yourself plenty of time to perfect your applications. For me, location was an important factor in selecting the right colleges to apply to, so, I think, choosing the right environment that you will thrive in is important. However, no matter what your preference is, you could be wrong! I wanted to live in the city at first, but when I came to Boston College my opinion completely changed. I suggest going on college tours, if possible, or, at the very least, doing virtual tours, to get a good sense of the schools you are applying to.

7. In hindsight, was there any class you did or activity you participated in high school that especially helped prepare you for college?

I can’t think of anything specific but any activity or life experience that forces you to be independent and take on challenges helps you prepare for the transition to college.

8. What has been your most memorable experience of your college career so far? It can be academic or non-academic.

The whole first semester is very memorable, but I think the best memory I have is going to watch one of the Boston College American football matches with all my friends. The atmosphere was amazing and everyone had a great time.