Currently studying a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology major, Dance minor) at the University of Auckland (UoA), Mackenzie talks to Crimson Education about why she chose to move from her home town Waikato to the big city.
Read on to discover more about Mackenzie’s experience in secondary school, her journey to UoA and any advice she has for any secondary school students considering moving from the country to attend university in the city.
When you were in high school, did you ever think you would be studying at the university you are attending? If so, when did you start thinking of attending that university?
Yes. As a kid, my family would visit Auckland a few times a year and I kind of fell in love with the idea of living in a big city, so I always knew I wanted to move to Auckland one day. Then as I got older, it seemed the obvious choice to combine wanting to live in Auckland with studying at university. In year 10 I got the opportunity to go to the University of Auckland (UoA) with some girls from my school for the “Girls Into Science” day held by the Faculty of Science. We got to explore the campus in a scavenger hunt, and I loved what I saw while running after our school’s female Physics teacher! From that day onwards, UoA was stuck in my mind as the university for me. I started to seriously think about attending the University of Auckland in Year 12, and I looked at all the courses online and headed off to the open day with a friend that wanted to study there too. This whole combination of experiences meant that I never really considered any other university, because I just knew in my heart (and my head) that UoA was the only option for me.
Was there a meaningful moment that made you feel you could attend a top ranked university?
At the open day I went to in Year 12, I went to the lecture delivered by the Dance Studies department about the Bachelor of Dance Studies. I realised the person giving the lecture, Ralph Buck, was one of the editors of a book I was using for my Extended Essay on Dance in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. I realised that if I was already using academic books written by some of New Zealand’s best academics in a field I was really interested in while I was still in high school, I could definitely attend the institution that they look after.
How did you choose your university? What questions did you ask yourself?
I didn’t really ask myself a lot of questions since I just knew it was the right university for me, but there was one key question I had to ask: Am I ready to move away from home? I’m a Waikato girl born and bred - was I prepared to completely uproot my comfortable life in order to study what I wanted? I was ready. I was accepted into University Hall, and the sound of mooing cows was replaced by the sound of the motorway. For as long as I can remember I’ve lived in the same town (I’ve lived in 7 houses in the same town though), and moving to Auckland was a huge decision. I'm an only child, so my parents weren't too keen on their kid moving out of home - my mum made many impassioned pleas for me to go to the University of Waikato, but I knew staying in the region was not what was best for me, and after a year and a half (and a month long exchange to Melbourne to prove she could live without me) she came around. I was ready to become more independent and take that leap of faith with my own life, so I did. Now I’m a proud Jafa who will always keep her Mooloo bell on her bookcase!
What was the application process for your university? How did you find the process?
Since I wanted to go into the Halls of Residence, I had to apply for them first. It was a pretty straight forward process, it asks a few questions about your academic ability and what you aim to do at the university, but there were also 5 questions where you basically had to tell the residence you wanted to live in why they should accept you. I found this process a little stressful (don’t apply on the second to last day, you will hit problems and it will result in a lot of tearful phone calls to accommodation solutions) but it ultimately worked out because I was accepted into the hall I applied for! The actual university application was also very simple, it just involves entering in some details about yourself (like your national student number, or your candidate code in the case of IB), selecting the programme you want to enrol in (with details like your major, minor, conjoint, etc.), and waiting for your end of high school results to be released to the university, and hopefully an offer of acceptance!
What academic strengths or extracurricular activities do you feel helped you to secure an offer at your university?
In IB, my final score was 40. Given that enrolment into a BA only required a 26, I truly went above and beyond. The great thing about IB is that the breadth of what you have to do really prepares you for a BA - endless essay writing being one of those skills that was truly cultivated in IB and became a huge academic strength of mine. The ability to do a lot of self directed study was another strength that helped with securing a place, since this is skill used a lot in a BA, the university knew an IB student would do well in the degree. I also took SL Dance and achieved an A in my Dance Extended Essay, so studying dance in an academic sense at high school really secured me for a place in my minor (I was even offered a place in the Bachelor of Dance Studies over the phone!).
Why do you think it’s important for other students to step outside their comfort zone and attend a top ranked university?
You only get out of life what you put in. If you put in the self-belief, drive, and effort to attend a top ranked university, you’ll get out a top ranked life. It’s cliché, I know, but clichés come around because they’re truthful time and time again. If you want to have amazing opportunities gifted to you by incredible people, a top ranked university is the way to go. It’s overwhelming at first, but at the end I promise you that you’ll wonder what you were even scared of in the first place.
What do you love most about studying at The University of Auckland?
The ability to combine a subject I love and with which I can see a fascinating future (psychology), alongside a subject I’m truly passionate about (dance), all while living in a city that I love. All of the staff are welcoming and you can tell they adore their subjects, and the campus is beautiful - walking under the trees on my way to the dance studio on Shortland Street always reminds me of home. I love that I love what I’m studying, and that I love the city I’m studying it in.
How has studying at your university provided you with unique opportunities?
I’ve been able to meet some of New Zealand’s most highly regarded people in their field, and been able to have my worldview shaped by so many different people. The highlight of my first year was a lecture given to my psychology paper by Debra Lampshire, a woman who hears voices, and is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever gotten the chance to listen to. Studying at the University of Auckland means I’m in the heart of dance research in New Zealand, and I get to be a part of shaping the future of our country in psychology and dance.
What made you want to become a tutor/mentor with Crimson?
In my IB cohort, we had both the highest average score ever for my high school, but also the highest non-pass rate. I couldn’t believe that we all had the same academic opportunity, but there was such disparity in our little group. It’s from this disbelief that I found the motivation to want to help the people who want my help, and to pass on the knowledge I gained through going through the IB process. I’m passionate about geography and I want to pass on my love for the subject to other students. If there’s one thing geography taught me, it’s that education and knowledge can change the world, so if I can spark a change in one student, I know I’ve done my job.
What do you love most about tutoring/mentoring students?
I love seeing a student’s face light up when they finally understand the content that we’ve been going over. It’s like you can see that lightbulb turn on and they have a moment of clarity - the moment when I know they’re confident with this newfound knowledge is a look I aspire to see in every session
What advice do you have for current high school students considering their future study options?
Take your time to think about it before jumping into any big decisions. Firstly, you must think about if study is right for you - I see all the photos on my Facebook feed of classmates who took a gap year and who are currently exploring the world, and I have a twinge of envy every time. I know that continuing my studies straight out of high school was the right choice for me, but make sure you’re listening to yourself and not any social pressures placed onto you. Secondly, consider the student loan - are you going to take one out? Studying at smaller local institutions and ‘techs’ are going to keep your loan to a minimum. If you’re prepared for the financial responsibility, pursue a larger university. These loans are no joke! Finally, really consider what you want to study in a big picture, not just focusing on your major. For me, I could’ve taken Psychology as a major in a BSc or a BA. I chose a BA because of the other subjects that I could take in the Arts faculty (I could do Dance, carry on with French, do some Sociology, etc). Think things through, talk with family and friends (and other professionals, like staff at the institution(s) you are applying for), and make a decision that is entirely yours.
What would you like to do once you finish university?
After my BA, I would like to pursue the Doctorate of Clinical Psychology at the University of Auckland to become a registered Clinical Psychologist. I have a fascination with mental health and I wish to make a living out of helping people and hopefully improving the lives of the people I can help. I would also like to travel (I have to put my French papers to good use!) and generally live a life I can be proud of.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Academically, in my first year at university I’ve maintained a GPA of over 8, I was a New Zealand Top Scholar for IB in 2015, and I achieved an A in my Extended Essay. Personally, I’ve recently been cast in my first musical in Auckland, and I have an incredibly supportive and loving group of friends.
Do you have any role models? If so how do they inspire you?
Jonathan Larson was the creator of the musical Rent, a musical that changed my life, who sadly died the night before Rent started it’s run of previews on Broadway. You may not have heard of the show, but it shaped the future of Broadway in the 1990s - if we didn’t have Rent, we may not have had Hamilton. He died without seeing the profound impact that his show would have on the world. Rent showcases the ideas of love and acceptance for all, and that there’s ‘no day but today’. Jonathan’s story proves that you must always appreciate what you have in life, and be bold enough to live the life you want, because we never know when our time may be up - a lesson which inspires me every day.
What do you do for fun?
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a bit of a musical theatre nerd. For fun I listen to a lot of music and annoy all my neighbours by singing too loud. I also enjoy dancing musical theatre/jazz, and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into my first Auckland musical in 2017!
What impact would you like to leave on the world?
I would like to make an impact on the individual lives of people. I don’t care if the world doesn’t remember me, all I want is for individuals to remember me. I would like for my name to be uttered and for someone to smile with a fond memory of a kind word I said, or the time I tripped over my own feet, or when burst out laughing in the dead silent library. I would like a future client to be able to say that thanks to me, they found a reason to keep living. I would like to impact the lives of the people I come in contact with in small or large ways that make them say, ‘“I’m glad I met her.”