We met with student Julia Bedell to discuss her first year of college, including being recruited as a D1 gymnast, lessons from her freshman year, advice to other students on mental health and student well-being, and more. Enjoy!
Julia Bedell is a D1 Gymnast at Brown University. In her interview with Karina Macosko, she breaks down her first year of college and gives advice to other college students. Julia tells younger student-athletes to just reach out to coaches and encourages them to put themselves out there. She discusses how she has learned the importance of self-love throughout her first year of college and hopes that her experience can help other students who are going through something similar. Being an athlete at a prestigious university is a blessing that also comes with a lot of responsibility. As Julia has walked through her first year of college she has learned to balance this responsibility while choosing to be kind to herself.
Brown University is a highly-ranked school based on the influence of their faculty and alumni. Brown’s rankings include:
You may also enjoy Karina’s video on what she did to get accepted into Princeton University this fall.
(Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been lightly edited to improve clarity.)
Karina: Hi my name is Karina Macosko from Academic Influence, and I am so excited for our interview today, we are here with Julia Bedell, who is from Brown University, and this is a little bit of a different interview, because not only is she a student at a prestigious university, but she is also a student athlete, and so we will get into that later, but first, we wanna hear, when you were applying to college, what were your top five schools?
Julia Bedell: So I would say when I was looking at into colleges, my college process was a little bit different because I was an athlete, so I guess this trails all the way back to when I was in high school, not just during the application process. So I started looking at colleges around my freshman year of high school, because when you get recruited for sports, it naturally starts a little bit earlier, so around my freshman sophomore year, I kind of been looking at UPenn, Brown, Yale, Stanford and UNC just kind of roughly looking at them, I was not actively talking to all of them, I had been talking to some of them when I was in high school that first year, but I actually ended up committing to Brown... The beginning of my sophomore year, so I really did not get too far into the talking process with any of those schools besides Brown, because they would offered so early.
Karina: Wow, that is so exciting and yeah, as an athlete, it is a little bit of a different process applying to college, which we have seen, and so can you kind of give advice to anybody who is a student athlete, maybe in gymnastics like you are, or really any sport who is kind of overwhelmed by the whole process, ’cause I know I apply just straight academics, and that is a little overwhelming in itself, but then to add on, having to talk to school so early on just like... Could you speak on that a little bit?
Julia Bedell: Yeah, of course. So I am not sure how it varies from sport to sport, but I can speak for gymnastics. This process has actually changed since I applied to college and since I had verbally committed to Brown, but my best advice for you is to just email, it is never too early to email, reach out to the head coach, assistant coach. Anyone for that matter? Try to get in contact with them, get under their radar, so your name can be recognizable when it comes later down the line, when you wanna start applying to these colleges or potentially committing to these colleges for a sport, so it is... Emailing is... You can never do it enough, just try to stay in contact with them. For gymnastics, I am not sure how other sports work, but I know with gymnastics, they offer these camps for people in high school, and you can attend these camps, that is also a really good way to get under their radar and get your name out there. So between that and then just trying to do the best that you can throughout your season when you get to the more recognizable meets like regionals and nationals, a lot of colleges tend to go to those and watch gymnasts compete, so through those meets, you can also get recognized.
So I guess just trying to get the most exposure out there for yourself, I do know that a lot of my teammates have these Instagrams that they run for themselves that are specifically for recruiting processes, and they post a lot of their highlight videos, videos for meets, anything that they would want a college coach to see, so I guess just for gymnastics, that is what I would recommend, but for any other sport, do a little bit of research on it, but emailing and reaching out to the college coach will never hurt.
Karina: Okay, yeah. And that is some great advice. Even outside of sports recruiting, just reach out. If you wanna do something, just reach out and never know where it is gonna lead you, and so the next thing I wanna talk about is adjusting at college, because I have seen some of your videos on YouTube, and if you have not seen them, anybody watching definitely go check them out. They are so fun to watch. But you talked a lot about having to adjust to college, and that is something that I do not think a lot of people understand, not only are you going to school, you are trying to take classes that are probably harder than you took in high school, but you also have to adjust to a whole different way of living. So how did you deal with that your first year, now that it is done, how did you deal with that going to Brown?
Julia Bedell: Well, I actually just posted a mini little video series kind of walking everybody through that whole process, but I can quickly sum it up for you right here, my adjustment of Brown, was definitely... It was definitely challenging, but it was also very rewarding in the end. It was, as you said, a complete change in every way of living, everything I had known before I had gone to college had basically changed, whether that be down to the way that I lived, the way that I went to the bathroom and showered, or where I wanted to get my food in the morning and eat really every aspect of my life had changed, so that within itself is an adjustment also, just even though... So I live in Massachusetts and Brown University is in Providence, so I am still relatively close to home, and even that adjustment of not being home or not feeling like I could get home super easily was a weird feeling to me, and just... It was a lot, it was just a lot of change. And then on top of that, my athletic schedule and trying to balance that was... It was just a lot of different layers of different things to get used to, and I would say, honestly, the whole year, my whole first year was a learning process, I do not think that it is right to put out the idea that everybody has it under control within a week or two, because that was definitely not the case.
I still at the end of my freshman year was learning new things as I was going, and a lot of just different lessons, I learned a lot about myself, there was a lot of self-discovery with my first year, and I just gotta learn a lot of very... I gotta meet a lot of great people, I have gotta learn a lot of things about my campus and about the way that I like to do things myself, and I got to acclimate to my courses and get used to my pre-season and in season and meet schedule and just there was a lot to adjust to, I guess if anyone’s looking for recommendations, just be patient with yourself because it is definitely not an easy process by any means. Just do your best and be open to change because that is a very important, I guess, characteristic to have, especially when you are changing so much in your life, so.
That’s really how I would sum up my adjustment into college. Just be kind to yourself because I know it is very easy to beat yourself up and be like, Oh, I feel like everybody is adjusting so easily because honestly, from an outward perspective, this really is what it looks like. Everybody seems like they have everything together. But just from my experience, I can tell you that is not the case. So be kind.
Karina: Yeah, no, and I think that is so good for people to hear because there are a lot of good parts about college, but there is also a lot of hard parts, like college is hard, and apart from learning in class... As you said, you have learned a lot about yourself, which I think is absolutely true for most freshmen with such a dramatic change of life, you are gonna learn a lot of new things about you, so thank you so much for just being honest with people, because I think sometimes we miss that side of college and college admissions and stuff on Academic Influence, some parts are genuinely hard and you have to learn to adjust and... Yes, you did post that new mini series, and if you guys have not seen it, definitely go check it out, so fun to to watch again. And so now kind of moving into next year, so you have learned a lot this year, what do you think you are gonna do moving forward, you said Be kind to yourself, and that is an amazing lesson that you have learned this year, but going forward, what do you think you are gonna do through gymnastics, through school, everything.
Julia Bedell: So moving into next year, I think that it is honestly gonna be a lot easier just because I have been through it before I know what to expect. I think one of the things that made my first year really difficult was just the fact that I did not know really how anything worked, whether that be for my gymnastic season or through school, everything was just new to me, so moving into my next year, I think I am just gonna try to... As I said, be a lot more patient with myself because I noticed my first year, it was very easy to get really upset with myself when something... When I was not handling a situation the way that I felt that I should have, or just...
Karina: I mean, last year you had to adjust a lot, but now this year, you have kind of gotten more into the flow of thing, so do you think you will be able to hit the ground running... Obviously, things are gonna be different. It is a new year, it is same school, but do you think that you are gonna be able to hit the ground running more, or do you think it will still take some adjustment?
Julia Bedell: I do think there will be some sense of adjustment there, but not nearly as much because a lot of this stuff is going to be the same. I think really the only thing that is gonna be changing is the courses that I am taking, a lot of the people that I am surrounded with, same type of people, I know how the curriculum works at Brown, I know how the athletics works at Brown, so a lot of the things will be the same besides my courses that I am taking and my living situation, which then is still pretty similar to the living situation that I had first year, so as you said, I think this year I will be able to hit the ground running a little bit better than my first year, not nearly as much adjustment, I feel a lot more confident going into this year, because I know last year I was just so terrified of everything because I was like...
Everything feels so new, I wanna be able to handle it in the best way that I can. And I think that in itself just stressed me out a lot, but being through it, I am really excited to go into it with a different mindset in this former experience, and then also we have some freshmen coming in on our team, so I am really excited to just help them through everything, seeing the fact that I have been through it before, so yeah, I am really excited to just be a support system for them if they need anything, ’cause I know exactly what it is like to be a freshman. And it is very overwhelming.
Karina: Yeah, yeah, and I think those experiences are what makes you a better teammate because you are like, I know exactly how overwhelming this is, and let me tell you, you can get through it, and so I think that is so fun, and I think that is really also good for people to hear if you are... I am about to be a freshman this year, and if you are also about to be a freshman or in the near future, the reality is you are not gonna be able to handle everything as well as you want to or you think you should, and that is okay. I think that comes with giving yourself grace, like you said, and so that is great, and I wanna talk a little bit more about Brown, because as a student athlete, you already said how your process getting there was a little different, but also deciding... So for you, was it like I wanna do gymnastics in college, it was more about, Where am I gonna do gymnastics, or were you still on the fence about like, Well, should I continue this sport in college or... What was it for you?
Julia Bedell: So my whole life had just been built around trying to get into one of my dream colleges, which had been the Ivy’s, and the only schools that had gymnastics in the Ivy League are Yale, Brown, UPenn and Cornell. So between those four schools that it was kind of like slim pickings already for where I wanted to go on top of the Ivy league only so many had gymnastics. So I did know that I wanted to do gymnastics in college just because it had been this sport that I had dedicated so much of my life to, and I wanted to reap the benefits of that on the other end, so I definitely knew that I wanted to do gymnastics in college. It was just a matter of where. So when I had started to reach out to colleges, I had been talking to UPenn really just UPenn and Brown at the time, because I was... Normally for Ivy’s in these higher ranked academic schools, they do not really start committing athletes until junior, senior year. So the beginning of my sophomore, I did not think anything was going to happen, so I was kind of taking it lightly going into it gradually, and...
So I would only been talking to these two schools, but my coach from Brown had reached out to me, and I had a teammate at my club gym that had committed to their school a few years prior, she was three grades above me, so she was already going to Brown, she had already committed to Brown. So my coach had mentioned when she came in to my club gym and watched my teammate that had already committed, she had apparently seen me and she had been impressed with what I could do and what I had to offer, so she had been talking to my club coach and she offered me a spot, she offered me a verbal commitment at the time, and that was really exciting to me, and...
It was a lot all at once. And it was definitely a decision to be made, but my logic when I was thinking about committing to a school, I was just like, I do not know if I am going to get this opportunity, I do not wanna pass this up and then potentially not get offered by the other three Ivy’s, and then I just thought about the things that I did like about it, I liked how the school was a close-knit community, I liked how the school was also fairly close to my home, so if I did need to get home in a pinch, I could... And there were just a lot of pros about the school that checked off enough boxes for me where I was like, I think I can take these leap of faith and be okay with it, and I was... So it definitely worked out, and I am so beyond grateful that I am getting the opportunity to go to such an amazing school and also be able to do my sport at the school, it is just... Yeah, I would say it was really great.
Karina: That is so good to hear, and it is so good to hear on the other side of it that it does work out, and I think that is the case with everybody who goes to college, regardless of whether you get into your dream school, it is gonna work out, and there is gonna be a lot of pros and there is also gonna be a lot of hard times, but you are gonna learn from that, and so I think that this is such an encouraging video for people, regardless of what stage they are in, if they are in high school or if they are in college, and they are like, I am struggling too, I am struggling to adjust. And so, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. Is there any other advice that you have for people going through this process who are about to go to college?
Julia Bedell: Yeah, of course. I mean, beside... I think we did a pretty good job covering a lot of the general stuff in this video so far, but besides that, I would just say, as I said earlier, be kind to yourself, and then also try not to stress too much, I know that does not mean much coming for me because my whole freshman year I was just filled of stressed, but I do not want other people to have to go through that if it is not necessary, and I do not think an excess of stress is ever necessary, but just take faith in the fact that everything is going to work out. I know that is so cliche to say, but it is genuinely so true, because...
Karina: It is true.
Julia Bedell: Now that I am on the other side of my freshman year... It is... And now that I am looking back on my freshman year and seeing everything that happened, like, yes, there were ideals that I could have met, but I still got through it, I learned a lot, and I think that every lesson that I did learn throughout my year was necessary to my, I do not know, personal growth, if you will. So do not try not to put too much pressure on yourself because that just completely destroys creativity and drive and passion for things, so yeah, be kind to yourself. Do not be too hard on yourself, try to just take it for what it is and... You will do great.
Karina: eah, and you made it, you made it through your first year, so I mean, that is...
Julia Bedell: I did, yeah. [chuckle]
Karina: That is proof in itself that it will all work out, and so thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, it was so fun having you on and... Yeah, I really think that this video is gonna help people and... Thank you so much.
Julia Bedell: Yeah, of course, thank you so much for having me. This was really great. I just felt like I was having a little conversation with you, so I am just... Yeah, I hope other people can watch this and I can help at least one person out there feel better about their situation and yeah.
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