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"Go where you are nurtured."| A UCLA/Rice University Alum on Getting into a Top Uni

We had the opportunity of interviewing Joyce, an alum from UCLA and student at Rice University about: Getting into Top Universities

Here are some of her qualifications:

  • a professional violinist

  • a YouTuber who shares valuable advice about her violin experiences

Q: Why did you choose to attend UCLA and Rice respectively? What are some differences and similarities they have?

A: Just for context, I went to UCLA in 2015-2019 for my undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Arts in Violin Performance) and currently am completing my master’s degree at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Being a music major, I mainly look at the level and opportunity within the music programs at each school. Both schools have a smaller student body size within the department which allows for plenty of personal time and the chance to network within the department.

There are differences between undergraduate and master’s programs in general. For me, UCLA was perfect for my undergraduate degree because I had a chance to experience college life — dorming, campus experience, attending sports games, and friends all while having a stellar music education. For my master’s, Rice has been a great school for the music program. I chose to attend Rice purely for the prestige of their music school and because I was able to secure generous financial aid from Rice.

Rice and UCLA are similar in that they are both stellar universities with a wide range of subjects and departments, athletic programs, and extremely rigorous academics. However I notice there are differences in class size (private vs. public schools) and in social living on both campuses. Because I attended both schools for different degrees, it is difficult to compare the two directly. But, overall, I think they’re both great schools.

Q: What would you say played a bigger role in your success? The environment or self-motivation?

A: In both my undergraduate and currently, master’s years, the environment really helped to encourage my work ethic and diligence. As a musician, I am always surrounded by other musicians who are also practicing late hours or even more. Seeing that kind of a work ethic around me really pushed me to want to do the same. I also tried my best to help cultivate that kind of environment for my peers around me. The community at both UCLA and Rice are extremely supportive and I never felt any toxic competition.

Q: Where was your main focus or priority in high school and how did you set them? (Academics, extracurriculars, etc.)

A: Fortunately for me, I knew exactly what I wanted to do during my undergraduate years. I had a set plan and the only other consideration I had to make was maintaining decent grades because I wanted to attend a university. High school was challenging for me because I had to balance practicing the violin with studying for my academic courses. I prioritized finding time to practice violin and then worked my schedule around that.

Q: What would you say made you stand out for UCLA/Rice?

A: I applied to a specified major so I think it was easier for me to stand out because it wasn’t entirely based on just my grades and my personal statement.

Q: What advice would you give to anyone who aspires to get into a top school?

A: Show interest in the department! Reach out with emails and keep in touch with professors you talk to. You may not get a quick response, but professors will remember the effort you put in. If you live close to your top school, try to attend the events because it can give you a reason to talk to the professors.

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