Local grads write college guide



The Daily Journal

Writing a college-prep book not only helped four high school authors prepare themselves for their transition, it taught them to believe in themselves.

Former Developing Virtue Secondary Girls School students Julia Ha, Yvonne Chen, Nancy Chu, and Aryatara Kandahsari -- as a project in their high school leadership course -- wrote "Crossing the Road: A Guide for the College-Bound Chicken."

The book has since been published and all four girls are now in their first year of college.

"Our teachers, Dr. Raymond Yeh and Priscilla Yeh, presented us with a seemingly insurmountable challenge: we (high school) sophomores, to whom college seemed like a distant and mysterious notion, would write a book guiding other high school students on learning how to make the right decisions and how to take the best actions to reach their goals, in this case, college," said Julia Ha, who will be going to UC San Diego in September.

With that said, a high school perspective is what makes this book different than the typical college-prep book.

"Secondly, there is a very specific, active process explained in the book that we believe really helps anybody to reach their goal," Ha said. "In this book we use the idea of a chicken crossing the road as a metaphor for the process a student might choose to decide whether they want to go to college, which college they want to attend, and how to get into the selected college," Ha said, noting they use simple flow charts, which basically ask the student an initial question, and then continue by having the student answer "yes" and "no" to more questions until the student comes up with an answer.

The book also uses a pros and cons chart, tradeoff analyses, action plans, and so on, to guide students through a step-by-step thinking and planning process, she said.

"We also help the reader investigate him- or herself at a deeper level, a level that is not muddled with statistics, pressure and opinions," she added.

However, when asked to give her opinion, Ha said: "Probably one of the most important things is to not let anyone else affect your decision, like your parents, classmates or the U.S. News, because a lot of people think that statistics are everything, but actually you can't judge something by numbers, and there is not just one school for someone, there are a lot of schools for someone."

Chen, one of the co-authors of the book, said in writing it she gained not only an "immeasurable amount of knowledge," but experience. "On my own college application experience, I used all the methodology shared in the book to help myself distinguish which college was best for me," Chen said. She starts UC Davis in September.

Chu, who, at about the same time, will attend Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, said writing the book showed her people are capable of doing all kinds of things if they believe in themselves.

"Writing and publishing this book really helped me to see how many things anyone can do if you don't limit yourself by thinking that you're inadequate or unqualified," Chu said.

Ha agreed. " I remember when Dr. and Mrs. Yeh came in one afternoon and told us that we were going to write a book. I remember laughing with my classmates and then turning a bit pale when we saw that they were serious.

"We had just undertaken a task that many students our age deem impossible, and with this book I hope people will not only benefit from the advice and methods presented, but also be inspired and realize that anything really is possible," Ha said, adding, "Writing this book not only helped me grow as a student, but also as a person."

"As my coauthors have mentioned, I too, did not believe at first that we were going to write an actual book for other high school students our age and have it published," Kandahsari said.

She starts at San Jose State University this week, and referred to writing the book as a "truly rewarding experience."

"I learned not to limit myself, especially with the dreams and goals I have for life. Anything is possible if one puts her or his heart to it. As the saying goes, Big dreams can be taken with small steps.' For those college-bound high school students, I hope that you will be able to use the methods in this book as the small steps you will take to get into the college you want."

The girls said they plan to write a sequel at some point. Meanwhile, this paperback is available for $7.95 at www.bttsonlineatdrba.org.

Laura McCutcheon can be reached at udjlm@pacific.net .