Are Top Colleges Worth It? | Interview with Jhaycee Barnes

Are Top Colleges Worth It? | Interview with Jhaycee Barnes

We met with student Jhaycee Barnes to discuss her journey through the college application process and her decision to attend the University of Georgia this fall. Enjoy!

Jhaycee will be a student at the in the fall. After applying to 22 schools she turned down top universities like Columbia and Stanford to attend her state school on a full scholarship with other benefits. Jhaycee and Karina discuss the overwhelming pressures for students to spend most of high school focused on getting into a top university. They break down the importance of living in the moment and enjoying being in high school. Jhaycee emphasis that the college a student attends does not define them because they can be successful at many different schools. Jhaycee also explains how she came to the decision to go to UGA over the other schools she was accepted into. As she reflects on her high school experience, Jhaycee advises current high school students and looks ahead to what she will do differently at UGA. Through the college application process, Jhaycee learned about herself, lessons that she will take with her to college. Follow along as Jhaycee Barnes gives advice about how to stay organized when applying to college, building your application, and lessons she would give her younger self.

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Karina’s Interview with Jhaycee Barnes

For even more from this future Dawg, check out Jhaycee’s YouTube Channel!


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Interview Transcript

(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)

0:00:23.2What were your top five schools?

Karina: Hi, my name is Karina Macosko from AcademicInfluence.com, and I am here with Jhaycee Barnes, who will be attending UGA in the fall, and I am super excited for this interview. And so, Jhaycee just starting off, so that people can kind of get an idea of what kind of an applicant you were, give us your top five list when you were applying to college.

Jhaycee Barnes: Of course, my top five when I started applying to college were Stanford, University of Chicago, Columbia, Duke, and Brown.

0:00:55.3What were you looking for in a school?

Karina: Wow. And guys, if you have not seen Jhaycee’s videos, you should definitely go check ’em out. She goes over her whole application more in depth, but I have to say, when I was watching your videos, I was very impressed. And I am sure people can tell just by your top five list, how good of an applicant you were, but kind of just give us a brief run down of, first of all, your stats, stuff like that, but also just what you were considering in a school.

Jhaycee Barnes: Of course. So in terms of stats, I had a 4.7 weighted GPA and a 4.0 unweighted. I took a total of 16 AP classes, and I did a few dual enrollment as well. I was Student Body President, and I was involved in a lot of clubs at school. I also had my YouTube channel that I ran outside of school. And in school, really what I wanted was just an intellectual environment that really allowed me to be myself and explore many interests, besides the ones that I wanted to pursue a career in. So that is really what I was looking for in a school.

0:01:57.7What would you have done differently?

Karina: Wow. And you guys, if you cannot tell already, Jhaycee was an incredible applicant, but more than just focusing on you as an applicant, because we have... Through our channel, we have done a lot of videos to help people become better applicants, but I really wanna dive deep into it, and guys were getting into some real talk here in a second, because I was watching one of your videos, which again, if you guys have not seen ’em, definitely go check ’em out, and something that really stood out to me was when you were writing your valedictorian speech, first of all, guys, she was valedictorian, so I just wanted to put that out there, you said that you wish that you had done more with your class. And obviously being such a good student, you are gonna miss out on some social things, but I think that more and more, there is kind of this idea that all of high school, you are just working to get into college. And so I kind of wanna talk about that for a little bit. So knowing where you are now, knowing what school you are going to now, and how the whole application process has worked out, what do you think you would have done differently, starting from freshman year?

Jhaycee Barnes: Of course. So I was definitely one of those students, who spent my whole high school career trying to get into college. And now, that I see how my college application process went, it went really well, I am super grateful for the results that I got, but looking back on my high school career, as I was writing my valedictorian speech, one of the things that some of my teachers told me was to highlight some of the things that you did with your class. And often times instead of going to do those things with my class, I was at home, studying, and yes, those things paid off, but at the same time, high school is such an important part of your life, and I feel like I missed a lot of those experiences, because I was so focused on long-term goals. So if I could have done something differently, I think I would have tried to kind of balance my short-term and long-term goals. I am such a type-A person to where I have to have everything planned out and kind of focus on the future, but sometimes I focus on the future a bit too much. And that is something I kind of tried to work on a bit this summer as well, just living in the moment and really enjoying what I have now.

0:04:09.0How did you come to the decision to attend UGA?

Karina: Oh my gosh, that is such good words of wisdom, guys. And so this is why I am so excited to talk about it, because I was also right there with you. Sophomore year, if you are gonna be one of these strong students, it does take sacrifice, but I think a lot of people miss that you can still work hard for what you want, you can still do well in school and take some time to go get lunch with your friends or to go to a football game. And so, that is really what I wanna speak on today, because really at any school, you can be so successful and you can change your career so many times and still be successful, but you only get to be in high school once. And so just speaking on that a little bit, you... For those of you guys who do not know, Jhaycee made an incredibly mature decision, which I am honestly so proud to like... I do not even know you, but I am so proud to watch your videos and see this decision that you made, because a lot of people can get caught up in the hyped up top 10 schools. And you had the opportunity to go to Stanford, Columbia, all these schools that you talked about, and you decided to instead go to UGA on what I might say is an incredible deal. And so, talk about that for a second, because I think you are the perfect person to kind of say to these high schoolers, "Look guys, this is my journey, and in the end, this is the decision that I came to."

Jhaycee Barnes: Of course. So from a young age, I knew that I was going to an Ivy. I have a picture of me in sixth grade, and I had on a Stanford shirt, because I was like, "I am going to a top school." I knew I was going to go to a top school. So as I went into my application process, that was the mindset that I had, and while I was applying to schools, the University of Georgia was one of the first applications that I submitted, and I honestly only applied, because it was my in-state school, and in Georgia we have this scholarship to where, if you have a certain GPA and SAT score, you get a full tuition scholarship for all four years. So that sounded like a nice opportunity. I did not think I was gonna take it, but my mom told me to apply just to make sure. So I did. And my mom also really emphasized looking for scholarships.

So one day I was Googling University of Georgia scholarships, and I found the Foundation Fellowship, and I actually found it about two days before it was due. But basically, I read the benefits of the scholarship, and it included tons of travel and meeting with industry professionals, and that was just something that really sounded interesting to me. So I did my application, I forgot about it, and then in about January, as I started waiting for all my other results of my other applications to come in, I got invited to an interview weekend. And that interview weekend really, really sold the university of Georgia to me. I was not 100% sold, but it really showed me that, "Hey, just because this is your state school, just because this is not an Ivy, does not mean that it is not a good school."

So as my other application results started coming in, I was super excited, and I kind of forgot about the fellowship, because I had a certain deadline to accept it, and I kind of forgot about it until I started getting financial aid letters from my other schools, and those letters were kind of scary, because I was realizing, "Hey, if I wanna make this a reality, I am either gonna have to grind on these scholarship applications some more, or I am going to have to go into debt." And when I started comparing the benefits of my Foundation Fellowship scholarship with these other schools, it just did not seem like the right choice. And I feel like what a lot of students do not realize is that if they are getting into these top schools, they already have something within them that is going to allow them to shine at any place that they go. And I feel like a lot of times when we see these prestigious schools, we kind of get caught up in the fact that these schools are going to make us somebody. And no, you were already somebody just by getting into the school, starting to apply to the schools. You already have what it takes. And I feel like a lot of us do not realize that we can take that anywhere.

0:08:18.4What scholarship does UGA offer to top students?

Karina: Oh my goodness, that was such good advice, because absolutely, I think you are right. I think everything you said is so true. And guys, that is the reality of it, college is so expensive. When you start getting that bill back, you are like, "Oh my gosh. This is real." And so, yes, I love what you said about going to a college does not make you. And that is so true because I have heard way too many people kind of have this idea that if I get into a top university that is gonna make my career. I do not have to worry about anything else. And the reality is, one, once you get to that top school, you are still gonna have to work hard in your classes. And also two, will they provide you good connections? Yes, but you may also find that connection at a Starbucks randomly or just somebody that you happen to meet. And so, I think that is so good. And just like giving advice to these high schoolers, I know we already talked about social events, but like you said, the University of Georgia gives free tuition to anybody, who has a certain GPA and is not people who are valedictorian, or is it just a certain GPA and SAT?

Jhaycee Barnes: So if you are a Georgia resident and you were valedictorian or salutatorian, you can also get that scholarship.

Karina: And so, I am just speaking hypothetically, but looking at... Obviously, that scholarship probably does not have all the benefits of the one you have now, right?

Jhaycee Barnes: Right.

0:09:54.8Would you have told yourself to not worry so much about college?

Karina: But if you had known the opportunities that you would have been able to get at UGA compared to an Ivy, do you think you would have told your freshman self, "Look, do not worry about college, just make good enough grades to be valedictorian and then just have fun with the rest of the time," knowing that you can still get a full ride to UGA, if you... ’Cause obviously, besides academics, you probably had a ton of extra curriculars that you invested time into and stuff like that, but do you think you would have gone back and told your freshman self like, "Look, do not worry about it, just make good grades and have fun"?

Jhaycee Barnes: Yeah, I think I definitely would have told myself to relax a little bit, I am still really grateful for the experience that I did have, because it allowed me to get the Foundation Fellowship scholarship, and it allowed me to find YouTube, which is something that I love to do, but I definitely think that I told myself, "It is okay. You do not have to over-commit yourself to everything and do all these things, because you will turn out fine regardless." So many of us have that spark inside of us already and that spark is going to carry us, no matter what we do.

0:11:03.8What is your plan for next year?

Karina: Oh no, absolutely. If I could go back and tell my freshman self some advice... Look, I was not even working to get into the top university, ’cause, honestly, when I saw people applying, I kinda lost hope in getting able to go, but I wish somebody would have just told my sophomore self like, "Look, you do not need to eat dinner in your car, going from one activity to the next." ’Cause that is literally the point I was at, and so that is the kind of grind that people think that they have to be on in order to make their career set. And so, I have just loved this interview, and I think it is really speaking to a lot of people out there, because that college application process can be so stressful. But let us focus on something a little bit more fun. And so, next year, what is your plan? What are you gonna do? And also carrying some of this advice from your high school self, what are you gonna do differently at UGA?

Jhaycee Barnes: For sure. So UGA is a big football school, so I am planning to have a great time at the football games. I have already started to focus on incorporating my friends and spending more time around people that I enjoy being with. So for example, I have a lot of friends that are going to UGA as well, so I have already planned an outing with my friends on moving day, because now I am starting to really see the importance of connecting with other people. And I have also decided that I am going to only involve myself with the things, that truly interest me, instead of just getting involved in things, because they look good on a resumé. Because I did that in high school, I was stressed out, and some of those things did not really even make as big of an impact on my application as I thought. I remember one of my admissions officers from one of the schools I applied to, she wrote me a note saying some of the things she liked about my application, and one of the activities I did only for college applications, that was not even mentioned in the note, and that really stood out to me. So definitely doing the things, that I enjoy and just making sure that I am having a good time.

0:13:10.5How did you apply to so many schools?

Karina: Yeah, oh my gosh, that is so good to hear. I really feel like you have gained... Obviously, you got a high school degree, but also the wisdom that you have gained from this high school experience. I really feel like there is no assignment that is more important than the people in your lives. And if I could have known that earlier, it honestly would have transformed my high school experience. And I am not gonna lie, I did have fun. I went to those high school football games, my boyfriend’s on the football team. So it was fun, but also just taking a moment to appreciate the people around you. And, yeah, I love that you say, that she did not even mention the thing that you just did for your resumé. Well, I do not love that she did not say it, but you know, because I feel like so many people get caught up in doing activities just to put them on their resumé, when in reality, doing something that they love and are passionate about may look just as good on your college application. And so, applying to college, you, I am guessing, had to start really early for 22 schools, I think, you applied to, right.

And so, I definitely was not on top of my game for college applications, but maybe speak to that, because there is a lot of people who are going into their high school year, they are starting their college application and kind of give them advice, because, girl, if you applied to 22 schools, you must have had something going on. So just speak on that for a second.

Jhaycee Barnes: Yeah, so I had my Common App Essay idea, way before I even thought about applying to colleges. I am someone, who likes to really document my memories and journal and take pictures. So my essay idea came from that. So I am really grateful, that I had those experiences to write that essay, but as far as supplements go, I started researching them the summer before my senior year and just taking note at some of the supplements, because a lot of years, supplements do not really change. You can kind of look at them, and they will say the same from year to year, so I kind of started working on those. And once again, I am a really organized person, so I made a calendar and said, "Okay, I want to write 100 words to this day and 100 words this day, and while, I did not always stay with that, I wanted to write every day.

So I tried my best to do that, and it also helped that first semester of my senior year... My school is on a blog schedule, so we take four different classes each semester. So my first semester, I only had two classes at my high school, so I was leaving school at 10:45 every day, and I am fortunate enough that, because of my YouTube channel, I did not have to get a job or anything like that. So in my free time, I was either making YouTube videos or working on college applications. And while I know everyone cannot do that, I would recommend seeing what you can do to make your time work for you. I know I am guilty of spending a lot of time on TikTok or things like that, but when it comes time to really do something, I know that I am going to have to sacrifice that time that I am using on TikTok to really work on my applications and get things like that together, and also reusing essay is something I did a lot. I know a why major essay was something that a lot of schools asked. I used that same essay and I revamped it and tweaked it to be specific to a school, but the principles of that essay stayed the same for each school that I applied to. So I really recommend trying to see, where you can re-use your essays.

0:16:33.4Sign Off

Karina: Yeah, no, that is key, especially when you start applying to these top schools or a bunch of these top schools, it is four essays for every school, and there is just no way that you write ’em all. So thank you so much. I feel like this has been so encouraging and such good advice for people. This is kind of like the part of the college application process that nobody really talks about. Everybody wants to explain how to write your essays, how to do good extra-curriculars, but nobody wants to talk about the fact that you are still a person applying to college. And one, you need to enjoy high school and just be a person, be a teenager in high school. But two, also the college you get into really does not make you as a person. I do not know where this idea has kind of... Well, I do know where this idea has kind of been feeding from people, but it is like you are a person who is applying to college and your identity is not found in what college you go to. And so thank you so much. I am so excited to just see what you do at UGA and see what you do in the future. So thank you so much.

Jhaycee Barnes: Thank you for this opportunity, Karina. I really enjoyed being able to share the things, that I learned throughout high school.