Interview with Jalen Wise

Jalen is a senior at Cornell University, majoring in Communication and Media Studies with a concentration in Persuasion and Social Influence. Jalen has had the opportunity to study in London and Hong Kong, as well as intern at Verizon. Currently accepted a full time position in Account Management at Yahoo.

Can you tell me more about your major and why you chose it?

I chose a Communications major because I am interested in social media and its power to influence people. I think social media is such a powerful tool because it can dictate the way we operate in our daily lives. Once I accepted Cornell, I saw that their Communications department was really similar to Marketing and Business, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to learn more in depth about social media since eventually I do want to get into the Media & Entertainment industry.

Can you tell me more about your transition from high school to college and what was it like for you to have to choose a college?

It was a bit difficult. Being a part of the EOP program at Cornell helped me become comfortable with the college campus. I also got to meet new people during the Pre-Freshman Summer program where I got to meet one of my best friends. I definitely went through imposter syndrome. It was a difficult transition because I didn’t go to the best high school, so getting into an Ivy League school was only possible with my support system in place. The resources at Cornell also made it easier for me to feel comfortable. It was definitely a culture shock, you know, coming from NYC and attending a PWI school was a huge difference.

How was campus life as an incoming freshman?

Once I was in the EOP program, I got more acclimated to the campus. I felt comfortable having a group of people whom I associated with, considering the campus is predominantly white. I’ve never been in this kind of setting like being the only Black person in the classroom or being the only lower-income student in the classroom. It was also difficult to adjust to the change in environment. In New York City, everything is loud around you. So during my freshman year, I would sleep with white noise because the rooms were too quiet.

What were some academic hardships you faced during college, especially during the pandemic?

During my freshman year, in the Fall semester, I didn’t have the best advisor. At that time, I was in a Pre-Med science class and taking a Business Statistics class, something I didn’t take my entire senior year of high school so I asked my advisor if these were the best choices for me but all they said was that I had to try it out for myself. I got 2 C’s that semester which blew my mind because I was Valedictorian of my graduating class. I got over it pretty quickly. I learned to take pass/fail classes and use my social network to gain more insight on potential classes. As I got older, I learned how to cope with different academic situations.

How have you remained motivated in school through all 4 years of undergraduate?

I stayed motivated just by doing things that took my mind off stressful things. I lived off campus so I made sure to keep busy by hosting paint & sips, and keeping my social life alive. I knew my academics wasn’t going to be fulfilling so it was important for me to take care of myself. I also tried to take classes I knew I had one friend in. Actually, during my first 2 years of college, I made sure to complete most of my work so that by my senior year, I could have a pretty light schedule.

How did the NVPS scholarship impact your college experience?

It has helped me a lot. It has allowed me to take advantage of the opportunities that I was offered in Cornell. For example, during my Freshman year, Spring semester, I was able to take a trip to Costa Rica. It helped me with transportation, like getting a bike or when I needed a new computer. I was also able to live off campus. It has allowed me to purchase food. Most importantly, it is allowing me to graduate college debt-free. As a low-income student, it is something that has helped me tremendously. I’ve been worried about money for a very long time, so this scholarship has granted me financial comfortability.

What are you currently working on? Do you have any post-graduate plans?

Once I graduate this May, I will be working full-time in Account Management at Yahoo.

Do you have any advice for incoming college students? What did you wish you knew about college as a freshman?

Take risks. I’ve taken a lot of risks. Because of taking risks, I was able to travel to Costa Rica, or interning by myself in Hong Kong, or even being a part of community events. Even if you are an introvert, you have to try to do different things that push you out of your comfort zone. One thing you don’t want to do when going into college is staying the same person throughout all 4 years.

How have you grown over the years from being a freshman to now a senior/graduate?

I’ve gotten a lot more independent and a lot more confident in myself. I’ve had a lot of personality growth. Growing up low-income and queer, there were just a lot of insecurities that I had about myself that didn’t allow me to fully express myself how I wanted to or enjoy who I was. But going to college and not having to struggle to survive has allowed me to be a lot more independent and less scared to join the real world.