Meet alumna Chelsea Barnes, graduate of the Class of 2015 and current J.D. candidate in the UNC School of Law.
As a current law student and former undergraduate, I am what we affectionately call a “Double Tar Heel.”
I find a sense of pride in saying this now, but if you had asked me if I would be here five years ago there is a strong possibility I would have told you, “I don’t know.”
I am a citizen of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina and grew up in a small town about 30 minutes outside of my tribal community. Though I excelled in high school, I still had those pre-application jitters that many of you may be all too familiar with. As I look back on my senior year of high school, I remember being nervous about whether or not I would get into Carolina and if I did, what it would be like when I got there. Very few people where I was from went to college and of those that did, few went to schools like Carolina. In some ways, it felt out of reach.
When I got my acceptance letter, I was ecstatic. I entered my first year at Carolina hopeful about what the future would bring. Once I got there, however, I soon realized that I would need to find a support system. I floundered (to say the least) during my first semester and questioned whether or not I really belonged. My initial support system was Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American interest sorority. During my first months at Carolina, the women within the sorority reached out to me and ensured me that I was welcome and supported. When I later joined the sorority during my sophomore year, I learned that its very purpose was to serve as a support for college women in today’s society.
Though I had grown up outside of my tribal community, I was beginning to find my home at Carolina. Becoming a sister of the sorority led me to other opportunities, including becoming more involved with the Carolina Indian Circle (CIC), UNC’s undergraduate Native student group. I had the pleasure of serving as the president of CIC for two years. In the process, I learned so much about myself, my culture, and how to be a leader.
My involvement in these organizations led me to a myriad of other opportunities during my time as an undergraduate. I had the opportunity to work as an intern for Congressman Tom Cole through the Udall Foundation and was an honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship. I had the opportunity to serve on committees and work with university officials to plan events. I got to know other leaders of student organizations and work with them in efforts to make Carolina a place that would seek to embrace diversity wholeheartedly. Though I worked hard to earn these opportunities, I wouldn’t have gotten there without the support system I established within the Native community at Carolina.
Despite my initial academic struggles and issues I faced during my first year at Carolina, my support system within the Native community enabled me to excel both personally and academically. The network I created provided me with the support I needed to apply to law school and the confidence to do so. In some ways, not much has changed. I am currently serving as the president of the Native American Law Students’ Association and working with other members of our organization to think of ways we can increase enrollment of Native students at the law school.
As I think back to my experience as an undergraduate, I am humbled by the opportunities I was given. As a Native American female from a small town in eastern North Carolina, there are many (including myself) who wouldn’t have predicted that I would be where I am today. All of this goes to show that with lots of hard work, finding your support system, and a little bit of fate, things happen exactly as they are supposed to. My name is Chelsea Barnes, and I am a (double) Tar Heel.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill is happy to announce that we have Spanish-speaking representatives on our staff who are qualified to answer questions and concerns in Spanish to all families and students who feel more comfortable using Spanish as their first language. Some of our visitors have appreciated this option and we are happy to announce this initiative. Our desire is to make everyone feel welcome at Carolina. If you have any questions or if you would like to send us an email, please follow this link.
En la oficina de Admisiones de UNC Chapel Hill, es nuestro agrado anunciar a todas las familias y estudiantes que se sienten más cómodos utilizando el español como primera lengua que contamos con un grupo de representantes dedicados y calificados en nuestro equipo de trabajo que están dispuestos a responder a preguntas e inquietudes en español. Hemos notado que muchos de nuestros visitantes apreciarían esta opción y estamos felices de poder dar la bienvenida a todos.
Si tiene alguna pregunta o si necesita enviarnos un email por favor siga este enlace.
A couple of years ago, one of our essay prompts asked prospective students the question “why do you do what you do?” I’m guessing that many of the students who responded to the prompt found themselves wanting to turn the question back on us – why do we in admissions do what we do? First and foremost in their minds – especially as they put the finishing touches on their essays in the wee hours of the morning – may have been, “why do you ask us to write admissions essays in the first place?”
Fair enough. We should be able to explain why we ask for the essay, how we evaluate it, and how it will be used in your admission decision. After all, the application process can be stressful enough. Trying to complete a writing task for which the expectations and purpose are unclear only adds unnecessary stress.
You have probably been told by many universities that the admission essay is a way for them to “get to know you.” (Gulp!) In fact, we are guilty of saying the same thing to many of our prospective students. And it’s true, it is a way for us to learn a little bit more about you. But it’s not the only way. All the parts of your application help us get to know you – your letters of recommendation, your transcript, your extracurricular activities. Placing undue burden on the essay alone to fulfill this function isn’t fair – to you or your essay. Furthermore, we neither expect you to try, nor believe it possible, to distill the very essence of your being into a mere 500 words (or a college application, for that matter). It isn’t even our place to ask. And finally, we should clarify that “getting to know you” doesn’t require you to write an essay that bares your soul or divulges your deepest secrets. In fact, you don’t even have to write about yourself if you don’t want to; our Director of Admissions, Stephen Farmer, thinks some of the best essays have come from students writing about something or someone other than themselves.
But one of the biggest problems about giving so much attention to this getting-to-know-you business is that it obscures what is arguably an even more important purpose of the admissions essay, which is that it allows us to assess your writing ability. You will write in college, a lot. Regardless of your major. You will write after college too, a lot. And how well you write helps us determine how well you will perform all the tasks required of you in the classroom – whether in English Composition, Biology 101, or International Business. All of which is to say, the criteria by which we will assess your essay are undoubtedly the same criteria your teachers have used to evaluate much of your writing in high school: how well is your essay organized? Do you communicate a main idea? Are you using standard grammar, spelling and punctuation? Do you demonstrate appropriate and varied use of vocabulary? If you swerve from any of these expectations, do you do so purposefully and effectively? And finally, does your essay communicate your unique voice? Which should be good news! This little admissions essay exercise is nothing new after all. You’ve already done this, time and time again. No sweat.
A final word about why we do what we do. Most of us chose to work in admissions because we enjoy helping students find the best in themselves, whether that happens here at Carolina or another great institution. So when we read the many parts of your application, of which the essay is just a small one, we are always looking for the best in you. And we’re always grateful that you chose to apply.
Jennifer L. Kretchmar, Ph.D.
Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for Research