How I Got to College: Julia Zoukhri

Here's how this Massachusetts high schooler chose to attend University of Massachusetts—Amherst.

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Julia Zoukhri, a graduate of Somerville High School near Boston, opted for the University of Massachusetts—Amherst.

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This spring, U.S. News visited Somerville High School near Boston to ask members of the Class of 2012 to talk about their journeys to college and pass on any helpful advice.

Somerville is home to a mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students, and recent immigrants. The school's 1,324 students speak more than 50 languages; about one third are white, just over another third are Hispanic, and African-Americans and Asians account for most of the rest. The graduation rate is 81 percent; 77 percent of grads go on to college. In the last school year, 129 students took 160 AP exams. Hear from grads on how they got in.

Julia Zoukhri's top choice of the five colleges she got into was Drexel University in Philadelphia (the others were Emmanuel College in Boston, St. John's University in New York City, University of Vermont, and University of Massachusetts—Amherst). But at $50,000 a year, she had to decline the offer. "It was a really sad decision," she says.

Zoukhri wishes now that she had applied to more moderately priced schools. Her dad and mom, Moroccan and French, didn't know much about the American process, so the swim team captain learned the ropes firsthand. In the end, Zoukhri chose U. Mass., where she will "be in the least amount of debt" when she looks toward vet school.

GPA: 3.6 unweighted

SAT scores: 590 math, 550 critical reading, 570 writing

Extracurriculars: Swim team captain, lifeguard, swimming instructor; has black belt in karate

Essay topic: How a fellow karate student with autism changed her perspective on dealing with people and on herself

Helpful: CollegeProwler.com. The site's report card on a school provides "a grade for anything from transportation to weather to boys/girls. It's almost as good as visiting the college."

Heads-up: Wishes she had thought more about which classes to take as a freshman so she could be better set up for animal science.

Advice: Interview. It gives you a chance to explain shortcomings in your transcript. Be ready for: "Why did you apply here?"

More Somerville High School student profiles:

Wriju Adhikary

Tania Ahmed

Zoe Blickenderfer

Michael Kemp

Norman Li

Zachary Sciuto

Johnson Thomas

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