An Interview with Ana Lopez

Lincoln’s DCAC UC Berkeley Advisor

An Interview with Ana Lopez, Lincoln’s DCAC UC Berkeley Advisor

Interview by, Rista White
(Questions in bold, responses in italic)

Thank you for doing this. To start, where are you from and where did you go to high school?

I am from Southern California. Exactly, I’m from the city of Garden Grove. It’s very close to Disneyland and I attended a school called Santiago High School.

During high school, what drew you to Berkeley? 

So, I knew I wanted to go to college throughout high school but I actually did not start thinking about what colleges I was going to apply to until I was a senior. In southern California, everyone talks about UCLA, right. And a lot of students go to UCI, it’s very close to where I live. So I definitely knew I was going to apply to those schools. One of my friends told me that UC Berkeley is one of their dream schools but I’d never really heard about it. But you know in the UC App you can just checkmark literally every school. So, I just applied and ended up deciding to go to Berkeley.

Do you think that kids should move away and try to experience a different city for college?

I would highly recommend it if it’s financially feasible and the student is comfortable. I think they should. For me, it gave me a lot of independence. For example, when it came to looking for an apartment and moving in, I didn’t receive a lot of help with that. So I had to rely on my peers and just friends, in general, to make it work… And actually, my experience at Berkeley living by myself made me feel that it was okay for me to not have to move back home. That’s why I’m in San Jose now. I feel comfortable moving to different cities. 

What did you study in college?

I studied sociology and social welfare, so two different majors. 

Did you choose those majors because of your interests in high school?

I came to Berkeley as a Political Science and Global Studies major. So, I did my pre-reqs [prerequisite classes] and during my second year I was signing up for my upper divs [upper division classes] and I did not like any of the upper divs. I call this my little major crisis. So, I went to go talk to my counselor and they told me that I had to figure it out because you have to declare your major by the second semester of your second year. It was really stressful because I did not know what I wanted to do. My counselor told me that I could take a semester off but I explained that that’s not really an option for me because I needed to be enrolled in the school to receive my scholarship. Financially, it just wouldn’t work out for me… so I took a reduced course load my second semester. And instead of taking upper divs like other students, I took classes that I thought were interesting. So I took education and sociology classes. I liked them and decided to stick with a sociology major. 

Do you think it is easier to apply for your major as a first-year student or later once you’ve been accepted at Berkeley? 

Probably a first year because I had to take some summer classes to catch up.

What did you like most about UC Berkeley?

I would say that the clubs and opportunities I was able to join and be a part of. I was a literacy mentor which I really enjoyed. That’s how I knew I wanted to work with youth. I primarily worked with students and helped them improve their English skills. I was also part of an organization called the Students Advocates Club where I worked as a financial aid caseworker. That piqued my interest a bit in social work. 

In the future, do you see yourself doing more social or public service work?

Yes, I definitely want to go to grad school and do something in education, maybe work in a university, but I’m still deciding. 

What draws you to work in school settings?

I believe that all students should have access to higher education if they want to or at least know about it. I had the privilege of having AVID [an academic support program] in high school which helped me figure out which colleges to apply to. I also had a teacher who helped me out a lot in seventh grade and throughout high school. He tutored me on the SAT and gave up a lot of time after my cross country practice to help me get ready for college. I didn’t like that at the time but… I feel that since I got all this help I should be contributing and giving back through education. 

What was your least favorite part of going to UC Berkeley?

My least favorite part was access to mental health resources. I don’t know if it’s still the way it was, but when I was a student there was an instance where I needed to talk to someone and they were not able to schedule me out until a month after I asked. For me, thankfully, it wasn’t something I needed really badly. But, you know, for students who really need it, a month is a really long time. …In general, for most universities, you have to go through a bunch of bureaucracies. It can get a little bit tricky with the hierarchies at schools. Getting in touch with people and sometimes some professionals at schools like counselors may not be as empathetic, so it’s up to you. 

How can high school students at public schools like us prepare ourselves for a rigorous academic environment like Berkeley?

I think one of the best things you can do is step on campus and look for your resources. There are clubs and organizations you can join based on your ethnicity and a lot of clubs that can help you. Feeling that you are a part of a community is important on Berkeley and any big campus…A lot of students get imposter syndrome and don’t feel like they belong or that they’re smart enough. I think that’s often inevitable but definitely something you can get through if you have the right resources. 

How would you describe the feeling on UC Berkeley’s campus in three words?

Really active, inspired by the people around me, and at home. 

How can students reach you and utilize your resources as a DCAC counselor?

I’m available for every student. I’m available anytime but specifically for students that don’t have a first, fifth, or sixth, and after school they can come in. We can work on their essays or CSU app which is coming up, UC apps, or anything else. If they have questions I can talk to them about my own experience in college. I can help them with their resumes too. I’m not an expert but I can definitely help. I also have access to the UC Berkeley Career Center, which is a really cool resource. So, basically anything you have a question about, don’t hesitate to ask. 

Do you have any advice for kids stressing out about college applications right now?

Yes. I think the best advice is just to start now. I know you’re stressed but start ASAP, especially with your essays. If you’re applying to UC’s your essays can either make or break your application, especially now that so many students were unable to do their extracurriculars because of the pandemic. So, they’ll be looking a lot at your GPA and essays… They want to know specifically about experiences that changed you, that shows your growth. Talk about the significance of the experience that you’re writing about.


Parts of this interview were changed slightly to increase readability.