Beyond Numbers: Applied Mathematics

Mateo Dordi ‘23, University of California Berkeley

I major in Applied Mathematics at UC Berkeley. It’s the application of mathematical methods by different fields such as science, engineering, business, computer science, and industry. I’ve always enjoyed doing math and it was something that came naturally to me so I decided to make it my major.

Favorite class

I am currently taking Math 53 here at Berkeley which is Multi Variable Calculus. In high school, I took AP Calculus AB/BC in the 11th grade which really peaked my interest for math. I enjoyed working through each problem and really understanding the fundamentals and basics behind each and every problem in math. It showed me the simplicity and beauty behind mathematics and its implications in our day to day life. 

Favorite project

Though I didn’t really complete any projects, I did work on proving a theorem in Calculus class which was really fun, even though it took my friend and I almost a week to complete it.

Major culture

The department is a little smaller than the big name majors, but there are still a plethora of facilities and research opportunities for math majors to pursue. There aren’t too many applied math majors I know here but a lot of people I know are taking the same level math class as I am. The few people that are majoring in math really love the faculty. They’re very helpful since it’s a smaller program compared to something like Computer Science.

Career goals

Math is in every single thing that you do. It teaches you valuable lessons and if you can get a math degree, you can pretty much do anything. I hope to eventually get into software and use the math knowledge I have to advance the company I am working at. Some other fields that math majors can get into include being Statisticians, Mathematicians, Math Professors, and basically anything Economics or Finance related.

Our Application Motivation Playlist

This is it. The final month before your college applications are due. It’s stressful, and it’s tiring. So to give you that final boost to make it through your applications, we’ve asked the CollegeFindMe Team to put together their favorite songs that get them pumped. Check out our playlist and get to work… you’ve got this! 

Good luck! – Cindy, Sam, and Jeremy

The Hidden Costs of College

Jeremy Caldwell ‘19, Tufts University

Let’s face it: college can be expensive. CollegeFindMe can help you figure out different types of financial aid available to you, ways to avoid application costs, and even give you scholarships, but there are still some hidden costs when you actually get to college. So let’s break down some additional expenses you might run into, and how to get around them.

Room and board

What is it? This is the biggest additional costs that most colleges won’t tell you when advertising their tuition cost. “Room” refers to your dorm room, and “board” refers to facility maintenance, cleaning, services, and, most importantly, food! 

How much? The average room and board cost at a public school is $10,800 per year, on top of tuition costs. It jumps to $12,200 at private schools.

How to save. Most schools will require you to live on campus for at least the first year or two, so it’s hard to get around this cost. However, if you can find cheaper housing off campus and commute to campus, you can end up saving a lot of money. Similarly, you might not be able to get around the food costs at first (most schools will ask you to join a meal plan with a certain number of meals provided to you every week), but you can reduce your meal plan and start cooking for yourself if you have access to a kitchen.


What is it? Unlike high school, most classes you take in college will require multiple books to get you through the class.

How much? The average student spends $1,250 per year on books for classes.

How to save. There are lots of ways to work around textbook costs. 

  • Share with friends. If you and your friends are taking the same class, share a textbook! Work out a schedule to pass around the textbook, or study together.
  • Ask former students. Chances are, someone you know or another student in your major has taken the same class as you. Ask if they still have their old textbooks. Odds are, they’d be thrilled to sell them for really cheap!
  • Talk with your professor. Your professor will definitely have a copy of the textbook, and might be willing to share their copy with you. They might also let you know if a textbook is “recommended” rather than “required,” which means you don’t actually have to buy it. 
  • Rent. As long as you take good care of your books, you can save a lot of money by renting books online and returning them at the end of the semester. 


What is it? Many schools will ask you to have a laptop or computer to get you through classes and homework. 

How much? The average laptop costs $470, depending on what features you want. 

How to save. Know what you want out of a laptop. If you only need to use the internet and write papers, a simple Chromebook will have all the features you need and save you a lot of mooney. Don’t pay for more features than you need. 

Dorm furnishings

What is it? When you get your dorm room, you’ll be provided a bed, desk, and dresser, or maybe more. But you’ll still need to get sheets, blankets, pillows, and decorations. 

How much? The average cost to furnish a dorm is $125.

How to save. Rather than buying all new things for your room, take some items from home to your dorm. This will help you save a lot on decorations and make you feel more at home. A lot of stores like Target, Walmart, and K-Mart also do great back-to-school sales for dorm furnishings. 

Becoming a Triple Threat: Musical Theater Majors

Amaya White ‘22, Montclair State University

I’m a BFA musical theater major at Montclair State University. A musical theater major works on developing their skills to become a triple threat: a singer, dancer, and an actor. Many people describe it as a double major because of the workload. You also receive knowledge on becoming a better musician, dancer, and a performer in general.

Deciding on musical theater

I’ve always enjoyed performing, whether it was in my church choir, reading in class, or in a musical. I love the rush of excitement I get when I can show off my talents and make other people feel better or learn something new. The fact that I can go to college and take classes that help me develop my craft was very intriguing. 

Favorite project

My favorite project that I worked on for my major was my final presentation for my first semester acting class freshman year. I really enjoyed it because we had been developing this scene for the entire semester. Seeing how the different techniques we learned came into play was really exciting. It’s nice to know and feel growth within yourself. 

Friends in my major

As a musical theater major most of your classes are with the same people, aside from general education courses like writing. My class is very supportive and tight knit group of people. My friend Vanessa says one of the highlights of our major is “getting to do what I love to do with other people who have the same goals and aspirations.” It’s inspiring to see your classmates thrive and to work with other people who are just as eager as you. 

Career paths

Musical theater students learn many practical skills in addition to their required vocal, acting, and dance courses. For example, in order to be a performer one must be able to engage with people and do public speaking. People within this major can become directors, teachers, choreographers, or musicians.  

I intend to continue performing wherever I can, whether that’s on Broadway, on TV, on a Netflix series, or in a film. Hopefully, I will originate a role on Broadway as well as do a tour or cruise line. I love traveling and having the opportunity to use my talents in various places while getting paid is a dream of mine.

Common misconceptions

I believe getting a degree in musical theater is very beneficial because you can fail in a safe space before going into the real world. Auditions for tours, films, etc. are very high stakes. There have been times when I have completely fallen on my face, but I’ve learned from those experiences. I have to have a tough skin and get back up and try again. Often in the theater industry you will get many people telling you “no,” so it’s important to learn to take that with a grain of salt and keep striving toward your dreams.

My school also brings in various actors, directors, and choreographers from New York City that we can work with and receive feedback from. This is really important in this industry because you can network and create some great connections to find work right after graduating. It’s also helped me learn how to work with people who have different approaches to acting. 

Tips for future majors

If you’re intending to go to school for musical theater, congratulations! You are very brave. I would do as much research as possible on different schools and which degrees you can obtain, including a BA (Bachelor of Arts), BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts), or BM (Bachelor of Music). You should also figure out what kind of training you prefer: college (which focuses on teaching you skills), and conservatory (which focuses on connecting you with jobs). Also, when things become difficult, just believe in your craft and your abilities. People want to see you to succeed, they don’t want to say no to you.

Tips for First Generation College Applicants

First of all, congratulations on going to college! You’re the first person in your family to do so, and everyone in your family is proud of you. Don’t take this for granted; it takes an extraordinary and brave person to be the first to go to college. That said, college is probably unlike anything you’ve done before, so here’s a few tips to get you through your first year and eventually to graduation!

First Generation

First Generation students may face challenges in college that are unique from their peers’. A major one is adapting to the new environment of college. There are often unspoken rules, norms, and expectations that not all First Gen students will understand at first. Another sneaking issue many college students face is the hidden expenses of college, which may catch First Gen students in particular off guard. It can also be difficult to manage all the different academic expectations and resources, but students can definitely learn how to navigate college quickly and effectively.

Seek academic resources

You’re going to college for a reason: to get your degree! College journey will put you through some of the toughest obstacles and challenges academically. Luckily, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. Many colleges offer a wide variety of academic help, from tutors to office hours with professors where you can go over assignments and readings. Some schools even have programs designed to help you develop study habits and a study schedule.

Make friends

College is also about the experience! Don’t forget to make friends, especially ones who complement your study habits. Having someone who helps you can keep you on track and focused when essential test dates and projects are coming up is a great way to stay motivated while still having fun. Look for someone with a different perspective from you so you can bounce ideas off of them, but who also has a similar work ethic. One of the best things about college is that anything, even studying, can become a social activity. 

Visit the financial aid office

Meeting with the financial aid office to discuss your expenses will help you avoid overspending or any sneaking bills. More often than not, these advisors will help you and keep you updated with any looming charges. It might feel awkward to be in there a lot, but know it will pay off substantially in the long run. Also, remember that you aren’t alone. The financial aid office is there for a reason: to help students like you succeed! 

Take chances

College is really a chance to try everything you’ve ever wanted to try. Want to play a sport? Try out for a team! Take classes on subjects you’ve never even heard of before. Study abroad. Join clubs with weird names and make friends with people different from you. At the end of the day, you’ll learn more about yourself if you go out on a limb and try something new!

Stay healthy

College can be super stressful, which can affect your health. Pulling all-nighters or drinking too much coffee can take a toll, especially if you don’t give yourself the chance to relax, stretch, and have fun. Take advantage of healthy options for food, gyms on campus, and outdoor spaces. These will help you stay in shape both physically and mentally. 

Don’t doubt yourself

You’re the first one from your family to go to college. You’re there for a reason, so don’t forget it. College journey takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but you’ve already proven that you have what it takes to get into a great school. Now it’s time to show off what makes you such an excellent student!

Avoiding Application Costs

Meghna Chhabra ‘20, Prospect Hill Academy

You’ve taken your tests. You’ve written your essays. You’re ready to submit your applications, but there’s one more piece of the puzzle. Some colleges charge application fees to help pay for reading your college application and making admission decisions. And, ironically, some financial aid services like the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile charge you to apply. So while you may want to apply to 20 schools, keep in mind that there will be a cost. 

Application costs

College applications can range from anywhere between $40 to $90, though the average application fee is $60. Luckily, not all schools charge application fees, or may offer fee waiver programs (we’ll talk about these a bit later).

Additional costs

There are some additional costs for taking the SAT and ACT, sending in your SAT and ACT score reports, and submitting your CSS profile to the schools you’re applying to. 

  • The SAT costs $49.50 (no essay) or $64.50 (with essay). There’s an additional $30 fee if you registered late. 
  • The ACT costs $52.00 (no writing) or $68.00 (with optional writing test). There’s an additional $29.50 fee if you registered late. 
  • It costs $12 for each school you send your SAT score report to, and $13 for each school you send your ACT score report to.
  • The CSS Profile costs $25 to fill out and send to one school. There’s a $16 charge for each additional school you send yourCSS Profile to.

Fee waivers

Those costs can be a little scary, and can add up pretty quickly. Luckily, there are several ways you can avoid the fees for the SAT, ACT, and college applications.

  • College Board offers fee waivers for students taking the SAT or ACT and when sending in score reports.
  • The Common App offers fee waivers when applying to schools.
  • Some colleges also offer their own fee waiver programs, which you may have to apply for separately. 

SAT waivers

You can avoid the SAT costs if: 

  • You’re enrolled in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
  • Your family’s income is within the Income Eligibility Guidelines.
  • You’re enrolled in a federal, state, or local program for low-income families (e.g., Federal TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
  • Your family receives public assistance.
  • You live in federally subsidized public housing or a foster home, or are homeless.
  • You’re a ward of the state, or an orphan.

You can use your SAT fee waiver as many times as you want. 

ACT waivers

To get an ACT fee waiver, you have to be a junior or senior, take your test in the US or a US territory, and meet one of the same standards set for the SAT (except for students who are orphans or wards of the state). Your fee waiver can only be used to send your score profile to a maximum of 20 schools. 

CSS Profile waivers

You can get a CSS Profile fee waiver if: 

  • You received a SAT fee waiver
  • Your family’s expected income is $45,000 or less, or
  • You’re an orphan or ward of the state under the age of 24.

Other options

If you don’t qualify for any of these fee waivers, there are still plenty of options. Try some of the following: 

  • Apply to diversity and outreach programs at colleges
  • Email your admission representatives at colleges explaining your financial circumstances
  • Just ask for one! Colleges might give you one if you show demonstrated interest in the school.

Tech Meets Business: My CIS Major

Nirmeet Bhogill ‘19, Cal Poly Pomona

My major is Computer Information Systems. I would describe my major as ‘the business of technology’. I actually came in as a Computer Science major, which is much more technical and consists of coding to create software programs. During my COM 100 class (general-ed communications), we had to present on an app of our choice. The process of researching the technology and industry, and then presenting to the class to convince them to invest in the app, was such an enlightening experience for me. I really, thoroughly enjoyed the project, which pushed me to change my major to CIS. I had discovered my passion for the business side of technology.

Favorite class

My favorite class I’ve taken within my major has to be Data Analytics/Business Intelligence. I really enjoyed it because we learned how to analyze data and interpret it in unique ways to gain new insights. I was really interested in this class because it taught me that solving a problem within a team or company is much more than just finding a solution and using it. It’s about analyzing different perspectives and also predicting which solution will be the best to be as prepared as possible.

What my friends think

I do have quite a few friends within my major. I think the most ‘liked’ part in my major is that it is the perfect medium between tech and business. Most people either do Computer Science or Marketing/Business. However, with CIS, you get the best of both worlds.

Career paths

There are a variety of career paths to choose from. CIS tends to emphasize solving business problems with computing technology. The vast field can include the development of strategic information systems, implementation of enterprise-wide systems, or creation of Web 2.0 apps. App development typically involves programming to build interactive web services. Information Security, or Cyber-security, involves learning to protect computer systems and networks from various attacks. The third main region of CIS is Business Intelligence, also called Data Analytics, which lets organizations make the best calculated business decisions based on data patterns and trends. In Data Analytics, you organize raw data to be interpreted by the core employees. These interactive graphs and charts provide insight into the company’s performance, and give the organization a more detailed explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes.

Life after college

I hope to go into technical product marketing with my major. I really enjoy doing product marketing/management, but specifically for technical products since I have a lot of knowledge about technology. My goal is to eventually be a part of top tier companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.

I think my major will prepare me for life after college because it’s given me a good foundation in technology. Since I want to go into business or marketing, especially for technical products, I think it’s really beneficial for me to have a strong curriculum knowledge of technology fundamentals.

Tips for future majors

Just because you aren’t super extroverted or outgoing, doesn’t mean you can’t do business. It’s such a common misconception, and honestly it’s one that I believed in too. I was quite introverted in high school, so I automatically thought business wasn’t for me. It involves being ‘naturally charming and enthusiastic’, which is true, but to an extent. Aside from the fact that your personality will definitely mature in college, you don’t need to be an extreme extrovert to do business. As long as you do what you enjoy and are passionate in, your true personality and dedication will shine through!

Writing Your Best College Essay

Marc Leroux-Parra, CollegeFindMe Intern

By this point, you’ve probably heard about the essay portion of college applications. If you aren’t the biggest fan of writing, or applications, or writing about applications, you might not be too excited to get started. However, the application essay is the biggest opportunity you, as a student, have to tell your story. Don’t let the fear of sounding “backwards” or “different” impair and water down your writing; colleges want you to tell them your unique background, personal perspective, and experiences. This can make the essay a bit more fun, but you should still definitely take it seriously. So let’s go through some tips for knocking your essay out of the park.

Time management

As someone who applied to all of my schools on the same day, let me give you an insider piece of advice: You cannot write an essay in a day. College application essays require multiple drafts, especially if you want to meet the word count while still being clear and direct. So give yourself plenty of time to organize your thoughts. A draft doesn’t have to be big and complicated; just some bullet points that can turn into sentences and paragraphs and, finally, a personal essay.


Admissions officers want to see your background, personal developments, and experiences reflected within your personal essay. The prompts are merely different lenses through which they expect you learn about you as a person. Before you write, it is helpful to sit down—either alone or with a parent or close friend—and brainstorm a list of the most impactful, emotional, and difficult moments of your life, positive or negative. From this list, you can narrow down the list to one or two events which have defined who you are today. If, at this point, you have more than one finalist event, it can help to analyze each event in detail by asking yourself these questions:

  • When and where did the event take place?
  • Who were you before the event?
  • Who were/are you after the event?
    • What changed? How did this influence your actions moving forward with your life? How have other events been influenced by the effects of this one?
  • Who was around you during the event? How did this change?
  • What emotions did you feel during the event? What emotions do you feel now, looking back at the event?

These questions will help you form a fuller understanding of how a particular event shaped your life, and hopefully make it easier to put it into words.

Word count

In writing these essays, every sentence counts. Every sentence should drive your story forward and provide new information about yourself. That isn’t to say you can’t describe a particular moment with more than one sentence, but if you do, make sure you highlight a different part or detail. And make sure you always, always, highlight how this event has shaped your personality, development, life, and who you are now.


Keep in mind, you don’t have to just describe who you were and who are now. Let it shine by using your voice. Are you funny? Make (appropriate) jokes! Are you mature? Use language that reflects that. Are you clever? A little word play never hurts. However, don’t try to be someone you aren’t. The whole point of the essay is to paint a picture of who you are. Try telling your story out loud and recording it before you write it down. This will help your essay sound more “you” than anything that comes out of a thesaurus. 

Final note

This might sound like a lot to juggle. And it is, but it’s possible. Every single person who has gone to college has written a successful essay, and you will too. Don’t rush, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. And most importantly, don’t try to be anything other than yourself, because that’s the best thing you can be. 

Understanding FAFSA and Financial Aid

Wiener Douyon, CollegeFindMe Intern

What is FAFSA?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, is the certified report of your family’s financial standings. Each college applicant receives their FAFSA after submitting documents such as W2 forms and recent tax returns. FAFSA is the financial side of the college application process, and for many, it can be the most important. So let’s dive in!


FAFSA allows U.S college applicants to be eligible with different types of financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study, federal loans, and private loans. We’ll help you understand these categories below.


  • No repayment required
  • Offered by the federal and state government, along with some institutions
  • May be merit-based, need-based or student-specific*
  • Can be highly competitive
  • The most common grant is the Pell Grant

*Many student-specific grants are for minorities, women, and students with disabilities.


  • No repayment required
  • Offered by individual institutions and private organizations
  • Awarded based on a number of factors, such as academic performance, athletic ability, religious affiliation, and race, among others
  • Most require an essay or some sort of task to be completed, such as a video

Work Study Program

  • Earn money that helps you pay for school through work
  • Schools provide students with federally funded jobs on campus or at other approved locations
  • Libraries, campus centers, administrative offices, dining halls, and residence halls tend to employ work study students
  • The positions available and the pay offered to vary widely depending on the school

Federal Loans

There are two types of federal loans that the government offers to applicants: subsidized and unsubsidized.

  • Subsidized Loans– Available for students who have demonstrated financial need. Terms are a bit better than unsubsidized student loans, since the government pays the interest while the student is in college (and 6 months after graduation)
  • Unsubsidized Loans– Available to all students regardless of need. Students are responsible for repaying interest during all periods.

Private Loans

  • Granted by private banks
  • Help to bridge the gap between the cost of your education and the amount of financial aid you receive from the government (loans, grants, work-study).
  • Eligibility for private loans often depends on your credit score
  • Tend to have higher interest rates than federal loans

Loans, specifically private loans, are the causes of extreme student debt for many adults today. When applying for financial aid, be thorough in your research before signing up for loans, and look for as many scholarships and grants as possible, since you don’t need to pay them back. You can check out some great scholarships offered by CollegeFindMe and our partners here. 

Preparing for FAFSA

This is the dawn of one of your biggest financial moves that you will take in your lifetime. Similar to mortgages and car loans, there are a lot of aspects that students need to keep in mind before making any decisions. At the moment, the best way to prepare is to gather all the resources and forms needed to fill out your FAFSA. That way, you can fill out right when the finance department opens (October 1st) and receive your package earlier than most.

Remember: While it’s important to reach for the stars, don’t burden yourself with debt if you can avoid it. There are many colleges that are more affordable and fitting to your needs than top-tier institutions that charge two or three times more than other colleges. What’s really important is your work ethic and your ability to network within any college you go to. You are amazing, so don’t think that you need to go into an insurmountable debt in order to be successful. You’re destined to be successful no matter the college you go to!

Mastering Media Studies

Osmanee Offre ‘21, New York University

I am currently majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication or MCC for short. My major focuses around media studies. For the first year and a half the curriculum covers the basics of media theory. These core classes introduce several theories about how an audience is created, how media shapes who we are, and the history of all types of media forms from radio to television. Once you’ve taken the required courses, you can study any form of media that you want to go into. People from my major go on to pursue careers in everything from marketing and public relations to film and TV.   

Choosing Media Studies

I originally wanted to major in English since it was always one of my strongest subjects throughout school. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that I wanted to incorporate my love for literature, film, TV, art, and writing into my future career. Media studies was the best path for me, since it incorporates most of my passions, and is becoming increasingly relevant. 

Favorite class

My favorite class that I’ve taken in my major is Intro to Media Studies. Even though it was my first MCC class, it was the most pivotal moment because I realized that I was exactly where I should be. Our professor presented us with fundamental concepts that have forever changed the way that I think about media. Not only did the class present core concepts that I apply to my life on a daily basis, but it was also taught in a manner that isn’t outdated and treated the students like adults. 

Favorite project

Since my field of study involves visual media, I was able to take a photography class. My favorite project was our final project where we developed a series of 4 to 10 photographs around a central theme of our choice. As part of the project, we had to present our photographs at an exhibition for our peers. It was my favorite project because we got to fully express ourselves through any concept or theme that spoke to us personally. It was also satisfying to be able to have the exhibition and talk to our peers about our work.  

Common misconceptions

A common misconception about my major is that it’s going to be super easy. In reality, media and media theory are dense concepts to dissect and study. While it isn’t bio-engineering, you still have to have a high degree of analytical skills and be willing to put forth the work in order to succeed. Some analytical skills that I use as part of my major are deciphering the intended audiences of media content, decoding underlying messages in mass media, and determining cultural themes throughout history that influence subject matter and representation in media.

Career paths

Some possible career paths are marketing, public relations, social media, film and tv production, and communications. I hope to go into producing and writing for film and TV. My main goal is to find a way to develop original, artistic content that can be successful in the market. I think that my major has prepared me not only to develop successful content that is conscious and deliberate, but also has positively impacted the way that I think and engage with media, which is a major part of my life. 

Tips for future majors

My advice would be to stay curious. Be present in class, especially since those professors are in the industry and are great resources for recommendation letters and advice. The people that you make connections with are going to be as valuable as the degree that you get.