Why I Chose Olin

Hey y'all, it’s Serna. Life never stops. The days just keep coming and the seconds? Endless. I’ve done six projects already. And I have like 3-4 more this semester.

When I wrote this, my week was dedicated to MechProto (Mechanical Prototyping) but my project works and I won.

Mech Proto Project

Shout out to my teammates Shawn Albertson (’21), Katie Thai-Tang (’21), Aaron Marks (’19 Brandeis). You guys were patient and I enjoyed working with you.

That’s why I chose Olin.

(This article is a little long. For the main reason I chose Olin, go ahead and jump to number 10 on the list below.)

I was deciding from a list of like 12 colleges, that had been reduced to three based on my financial aid packages. Between the final three… well, there was a lot of asking people.

Mom Texts

Conversations between me and my mom, who wanted me to stay with her in San Antonio.

I talked to a teacher that lived in the Boston area. I talked to my Engineering professor. I talked to my mom. I talked to my sister. I talked to my friends. I talked to the internet.

I would ask anyone who would listen.

Where should I go?

At first I was going here and then I was going there. Then I was like, I was going somewhere else and then I had another option?

I was tired and choosing a college was just fuel to the fire.

My mom was freaking out and was just angry/afraid/worried that I was leaving her. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with the next four years of my life. Everyone was giving me conflicting ideas. I was comparing myself to my friends and I was dealing with my life.

Knowing what you want is key to your decision.

You cannot decide on a school just because it’s good. You’ve got to make sure that you can see yourself graduating from that school, not just attending it.

Because I like listicles, here’s a list of things I was looking for:

  1. I wanted a small college. I didn’t want to be in “weed out” classes where I would be taking a 200-person class in a subject I would probably need support in. Considering how my classes have been at Olin, the size has been a blessing.
  2. I didn’t want a college in Texas. I didn’t want to stay. I wanted to be independent and explore the world a little.
  3. I wanted to be able to pay for most of it on my own. I got a very helpful financial aid package that let me afford college. I still worked the summer before college, but I’m not drowning.
  4. I liked the idea of having straight up experience and being hands-on. (Yay project-based learning!)
  5. After visiting Olin, I realized I loved the machine shop. I love creating things and I like being able to have an option and honestly? This past week I fell in love with sheet metal.
  6. I needed a physically accessible college. Olin was physically small as a campus and I liked that the walk between buildings didn’t have to be done through a 20-minute walk outdoors in the weather.
  7. I liked how independent I could be. Oliners are required to live on campus for the four years and that removed the stress of how I was going to get to my campus my 4th year. This means I also have the dining hall for the four years and I don’t have to worry about how I am going to feed myself. I could also like, Amazon the things I need to myself. Babson’s health center is convenient and Babson public safety drives me to my doctor’s appointments (important things to me). I also just pick up my prescriptions at Babson Health.
  8. I liked the idea of the curriculum. I liked the projects, the flexibility, the sizes, the emphasis on entrepreneurship, and all of it.
  9. The gender ratio was nice and this school had a decent percentage of Hispanic people… (sort of) (It’s gotten better.)

This one is the most important to me.

10. As a minority in the STEM field it’s very easy to forget you are in a STEM field. It’s easy to look around and just see white boys with money. I am not that. I’m a Mexican-American, disabled, woman who’s hasn’t always had it easy. Olin lets me just focus on the fact that I’m engineer.

Expanding on #10, I did FTC robotics in high school. I went to Travis Early College High School in San Antonio, TX and I was lead build person for team #9547. My high school was… not diverse. We were around 90% Hispanic. My robotics team was 3:1 girls to boys and like 70% Hispanic.

It was a privilege to be able to work with people that were like me. But the privilege was mostly due to the fact that they didn’t necessarily discredit me for who I was. Yeah, sometimes the guys insisted on carrying the heavy stuff and forced me to prove myself time in and time out when I really shouldn’t have to. But it was easy.

Going to robotics competitions was a different story. I basically built my entire robot, I just didn’t code it nor drive it, but people would always ask the white guy next to me how it worked while I was next to the robot.

I would count the amount of guys on the field and it was always like 80% guys. It was discouraging. It always fed the little voice in my head that said you don’t belong here.

The only times I was able to shut up that voice was when I knew 100% of my robot. When I knew the rules. When my robot worked. When I helped someone out. When I went to practice. When I tried. When I succeeded. When I learned.

That is what I was looking for when I was looking for the next four years of my life.

And when I came to Olin for Candidates’ Weekend, I found that. Yeah I was a little insecure about whether I was smart enough and I still feel that, but I was reassured that as long as I gave my best effort I would be fine.

I didn’t feel like a girl. I didn’t feel like a Mexican. I didn’t feel disabled.

I felt like an engineer.

I felt a variable I could change and improve on was finally what I was being judged on.

And that’s why I wanted Olin.

Even if I said, “Well I’m waiting to hear back on this scholarship to see where I am going and if I get it I’ll probably go to that.”

Because I knew that that scholarship, which was for hardworking resilient people (aka people who struggled and survived), would just remind me every day that that was who I was. I didn’t want that.

I wanted to be able to define myself the way I wanted to, and I didn’t want to feel like I was defined by others.

I’ve asked myself multiple times if I made the right choice, and I always find myself realizing that this is the best place that I could be at. I am the happiest here, happier than if I had been somewhere else, and I see myself succeeding.

Consider your options. Make criteria for what you want. Narrow your choices. Good luck.

Posted in: Erika '21, Class of 2021