Janani Kumaran is a 18-year-old Gainesville High School National Merit Finalist, a Lombardi nominee and a recently accepted member of UF’s class of 2026. After a tumultuous high school experience because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kumaran is celebrating her successes as well as the people and resources that helped her achieve them.
Kumaran plans on studying applied biology at UF and eventually going into medical school to study neuroscience. Her goal is to get through undergraduate quickly so that she can begin graduate or medical school as fast as possible.
Q: How has your senior year gone and what have been some of your largest accomplishments?
A: It’s been going really well. I’m half dual enrolled at UF and half at GHS so I feel like academically it’s been smoother because I’m not taking as many classes. My biggest accomplishment for this year is: I’m on the tennis team for school, and I got to play number one this year, in seating, which is really fun. Then the National Merit acceptance was pretty cool.
Q: As you’re approaching the end of senior year, what are you most excited for?
A: I’m really excited to go to college because I feel like there’s so many more course options available at UF. Even when I’m doing dual enrollment courses, I can get so specialized in something that I’m interested in instead of having to take all these courses that I’m not really that interested in pursuing long term. So I’m just really excited to actually go into a STEM field.
Q: How do you feel about being accepted into UF? How were you feeling on acceptance day?
A: I was really nervous because going into this year, I thought that my stats were going to get me into every school that I wanted to go into. So I applied to all these out of state schools. I was really, really nervous for UF. I couldn’t relax. But when I got in, honestly, it didn’t hit for a while. I was still super nervous afterwards, but it felt really good because I was very nervous about it.
Q: What have you felt that you accomplished this year? What honors or awards have you received?
A: I think the main one was National Merit. This year was the first year that I started doing dual enrollment at UF, which it’s not really an award but I felt like my school and UF letting me do it was super cool. I got nominated for the Lombardi scholarship by my school, which was also very cool.
Q: What is your secret to success? How much work did you put in?
A: I think that especially after COVID, I feel like I was focusing more. I feel like a lot of people just stopped paying attention to their studies, you know, but I just wanted to make sure that everything was still in line, especially with the PSAT and the ACT. I always was envisioning that eventually it would pay off to something if I studied for it. So I just had a lot of motivation to study for my PSAT and ACT. I don’t know if you know what Sisyfly is, but I did a program there (for SAT and ACT prep), and also for my college applications, because I thought it would help and it did in the end. I always have to remind myself that I can’t really lessen (focus) on anything because schools, especially UF, like to see a continued process of development. But after 11th grade, because you know, junior year is supposed to be the hardest year ever, I felt burnt. I was like I’m so done with doing this because it was also COVID year. All the classes were weird, and they were half online. But I just had to remind myself that I only had a certain amount of time until I got to go and study stuff I was interested in, and then eventually it just got better. Like, the more you put into it, the more you feel better about it.
Photos Courtesy of Dr. Leela Kumaran
Q: What are some challenges that you’ve faced over the last four years?
A: I think 11th grade was super hard. I went to 11th grade, and I feel like I overloaded myself and I took so many classes that I thought were super hard. It was just really hard for me because it was like a rough year, especially coming off of COVID. Obviously COVID at the end of sophomore year, it was such a crazy change.
Q: What have been some of your favorite things about your school or your peers?
A: I’ve always really, really liked playing on the tennis team, because I met my best friend there. Ever since I met her, I feel like the tennis team represents something that’s super, fun, and it’s just an easier time. Everything I do is so academic related that whenever I play on the tennis team, it feels a lot better and it feels different, and I love the team this year. Last year and this year, I played the number one spot, which has been super, super cool. My best friend and I are the captains for our team, and I felt really really good about that. I really enjoyed doing that with her. The counselors for GHS have always been insanely good. They’ve always given me the option to dual enroll at UF, which I think was super important to my success this year, but they’ve also been incredibly helpful across the board.
Q: What advice do you have for high school students?
A: I don’t think it’s important to know exactly what you want to do, but I think you should definitely be able to narrow down, maybe at least what kind of field of study you want to enter into. Then you can start talking to counselors about what paths you can take, even before you go to college to prepare you a lot better for college or to help you get into a college. I also think dual enrollment is great whether it’s at Santa Fe or UF. I think it really helps you out in the long term, whether it’s just transferring college credits, or understanding the college experience a little bit before you go to college. It’s not going to be as big of a culture shock as it might be to other people.