Thursday, June 16, 2011

Considering the Ivies

After a quick blueberry scone and a strawberry smoothie, we were off to New Hampshire. The car ride was three and a half hours to Hanover and we were all very tired from the night before. I was still in the shotgun seat as co-pilot/navigator which did not give me much opportunity to sleep. Instead of dozing off and in between giving directions to Ms. Larson, I did a lot of thinking about this trip.

Before the Ivy League Connection trip to the east coast, all of my college choices were in California. Now that I’m here in Rhode Island, I’ve reconsidered my decisions. Although California has the best weather in the nation, I feel that if I choose to stay there I will not experience the true seasons that are on the east coast. I have lived in California for almost 17 years. Perhaps it is time to explore the rest of this great country.

I was awoken from a small nap (yes, I was slacking as co-pilot) by Ms. Larson who started to scream and slow the car down on the freeway. She was freaking out at a gargantuan brown bird that was flying across the road, which swooped in front of us barely missing the windshield. The temporary shock lifted and we laughed hysterically at the entire situation. Cohort #1 has grown very close in the past three days. Ms. Larson is a fantastic chaperone and a strong woman for driving five teenagers through three different states. Kathleen and Erinn are wonderful and humorous roommates. They are a pleasure to have as company. Andrew and Frank are very sociable and there is never a dull moment with them. This is the part of the ILC where we create lifelong friendships.

The hot weather welcomed us to Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. The college is surrounded by flat woodlands which makes Dartmouth isolated but also a hidden treasure. I was very impressed with the student tour guides. Every student that we met was passionate about their school. They are in love with Dartmouth. They refer to it as their home. As a loyal Spartan at Pinole Valley High School, I am a huge supporter of school pride and spirit. Dartmouth is plentiful in both. All the students know the alma mater song and a huge amount of them participate in campus traditions like the welcoming bonfire and parade. Seeing that students are so enthusiastic about their studies and community gives me hope. This is something I rarely see in the Bay Area. We also had the honor to see the president of Dartmouth College, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, in the flesh. He waved and joyously welcomed us to Dartmouth. All presidents are celebrities on college campuses.

Cohort #1 met John Beck (Dartmouth Admissions) and Peter Chau (also from Admissions and a Pinole Valley High School alum) at The Canoe Club Café which is right across the street from the campus. They were very informative about the admissions process. They urged us to strive to be more honest than creative in our essays. An admissions essay is an applicant’s only opportunity to talk about themselves to people that do not even know them. I considered this and agreed with Peter. Blogging and journaling really exercises our writing skills. I feel as if I am developing as a writer by blogging every day.

John Beck led us back to the campus by totally jay-walking diagonally across the crosswalks (Hanover loves pedestrians, unlike Boston). We immersed ourselves in historical artifacts at the Raun Special Collections Library. I got to flip through the original Book of Mormon which was amazing. The idea of holding a book that inspired an entire religion was unreal. The book was blotched and yellowing with age, but it was still THE one and only book. John then took us to the basement of the Baker Library. The Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco painted the entire room with his work “The Epic of American Civilization”. I did a research paper on Orozco in Spanish class last year and I had made it a life goal to see one of his works in real life. Who knew that I would be able to check that off my list a few months later? I cannot wait to tell my Spanish teacher.

Peter talked to us in the shade on the grass outside. We chatted about what we should start doing right away to get a head start on the admissions process. I found that talking to an alum that was relatively young was more comforting and understanding. He knew what we were going through and he gave us great tips. Most importantly, Peter told us not to wait until last minute to finish everything. The earlier the start, the better (and less stressful). I am proud to know a Pinole Valley High School and Dartmouth alum. Peter said that because we are in the Ivy League Connection we have what it takes to get into a great school. I plan to make that true.

Although it has only been three days on the east coast, I have developed a fondness for Rhode Island and the surrounding states. I like the different pace, weather, people, and city life. During our long car rides I went into some serious thought about applying to Ivy League colleges. I cannot wait to get to Brown. Ms. Larson says that I will love it.

Frank, Andrew, and I decided to get some exercise in the fitness room at Hotel Providence today. Andrew and I ran a mile and a half on the treadmills while Frank pedaled on a stationary bike.

We are building memories and staying healthy. What a wonderful experience so far! We’ve been here for three days and it feels like three weeks. I love our productivity.

Rural College Not a Bad Idea

Today, our third day on the East Coast, we drove a total of six hours to and from Hanover, New Hampshire to visit Dartmouth College. We met at 6:45AM, grabbed breakfast at Starbucks, and headed out. Frank and I spent most of our ride sleeping. The most exciting incident that occurred during our time on the road was a turkey flying so close in front of our car on the freeway. The girls screamed in shock and burst into laughter after the danger passed while the boys shrugged off the hilarious close call.
We arrived at Dartmouth in time to catch some of the informational session and go on a tour. Our tour guide Elise was entertaining as she shared with us her experience as a student at Dartmouth. I learned that Dartmouth runs on a quarter system with each class lasting only ten weeks but still covering the same amount of material as a semester long class. I actually like this type of system because it allows students to take different courses they originally wouldn’t have taken if they were a whole semester long. There is also a popular club called the Dartmouth Outing Club that organizes small groups of freshmen to go into the wilderness and bond with each other before the start of school. The beauty and atmosphere of the school really appeals to me. Dartmouth is currently my favorite school out of the three we’ve visited so far.
For lunch, we dined at the Canoe Club. We were joined by John Beck, current Assistant Director of Admissions at Dartmouth, and Peter Chau, a Dartmouth alum. They provided us with details about the college’s study abroad programs and flexible majors. I was intrigued to hear about the numerous study abroad opportunities offered at Dartmouth. Peter traveled to Beijing, China to study Chinese while John spent time in France learning French. I am planning to take part in a study abroad program at college so I was happy to listen to their stories.

After our delicious lunch consisting of American burgers, BLTs, salad, and veggie wraps, John and Peter took us to see parts of Dartmouth not shown during the tour, including the famous Epic of American Civilization by José Clemente Orozco, which Erin was dying to see. After John left, we sat on the grass with Peter and discussed the college admissions process with him. His advice was a wakeup call for me to start looking into college applications and certain school requirements. I certainly gained a lot of insight about Dartmouth from John and Peter and might consider applying there. I usually like urban areas such as Boston, but surprisingly I was quite taken with Dartmouth’s rural location.
I checked last night that there would be a thunderstorm in Hanover today. Not only was there no rain cloud in sight, the day was very warm and the sun was very strong, leaving my face and arms a shade darker. Tomorrow’s weather calls for a thunderstorm in Providence. I hope the weather channel is wrong again.

Unexpected Change of Heart

The early departure and the long car ride to get to Dartmouth was worth it. I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see the thunderstorm that was scheduled today and it was in the upper 80s so it is similar to California weather.

When we arrived I thought the Dartmouth campus could have been the town by itself, featuring stores at the border of campus. I also couldn’t picture myself at Dartmouth. I couldn’t understand why; it was a suburban college, which I thought I preferred to a busy urban school, had plenty of open space, trees and even the familiarity of hills. It also reminded me a lot of St. Mary’s College and I am not interested in that type of school. Then I thought I would be won over by the tour guides as I had been with MIT, but alas it alienated me from the college further. The facts that our tour guide told us wasn’t appealing to my interests and the picture of Dartmouth I got was a socially competitive school that had too many parties. I made up my mind that Dartmouth was not my school.

Since we had a little time before our lunch reservation, we decided to go into Barnes & Nobles. I was slightly confused about the format of the store and thought the downstairs portion was the entire store, while there was a second story entirely filled with books. I decided to find the second book of the series I began on Tuesday, and it was a good decision because on the way back I finished the first book with two hours until we would reach the hotel. For 15 minutes I was looking around the bottom of the store trying to find the fiction section. I finally found and bought it after Kathleen told me that there was a second story.

We were joined for lunch by Peter Chau and John Beck, who worked at Dartmouth College as Admissions Officers. We didn’t get to ask a lot of question compared to the dinner at L’Espalier, but we did hear great stories of life at Dartmouth and the alums' decision of Dartmouth as their college of choice. Both Peter and John told stories of Dartmouth’s study abroad program, how they went to study a language and the associate culture. After the stories about Dartmouth, Andrew asked the most important question “what are Admissions Officers looking for on an application?”; the answer was not simple, despite previously hearing so many tips on what Admissions is looking for on applications from other people. John recommended that we try to personalize the personal statement and answer the prompt obvious enough that the person reading the essay should know without an explicit statement.

I think it may just be my accepting nature, but I actually like the Dartmouth that Peter and John talked about. It was different from the idea I got from the tour guide. Peter and John took us to more places on campus including one of the libraries that contains historical literature. We got to hear about how students are able to see the original documents, which I thought would unintentionally deteriorate the documents, and we saw the original Book of Mormon. John left us as we went down to see The Epic of American Civilization by José Clemente Orozco. Peter guided us through the rest of the school taking us to see the classes and through some of the buildings. Now I have mixed feelings about Dartmouth: I can’t see myself going there, but the things there intrigue me.

With plenty of time to spare, Peter brought our group out to the lawn to discuss anything. The conversation was inspirational, and now I feel motivated to either start my application process or research the schools that I want to apply to.

We decided against a sit down restaurant in favor of a quick order of Chinese food. It had been a long day yesterday and a long day today. We just wanted to eat and relax before tomorrow when we visit Yale and Wesleyan.

Dartmouth and Flying Turkeys

Andrew, Peter, Frank, John, Erin, Kathleen, Erinn and
I at the entrance of campus
Road Warrior
Today we had the opportunity to visit Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. It was a great school to visit after touring the campuses of MIT and Boston University yesterday in the bustling metropolis of Boston. The students were really able to grasp the more suburban and relaxed feel the minute we arrived. This is truly what I love to see while I am here with the students. I can see firsthand how they are making decisions in their minds about where they feel they would “fit-in,” what they like, and what they don’t like. I enjoy hearing them ask various questions to the tour guides and admissions officers to help them continue with this very crucial process as they begin to imagine themselves on these very campuses. I truly began seeing this process in all five of our Brown 1 cohort today and that makes me happy. They are consciously making these decisions and are figuring what makes them tick and what will make them thrive at a particular school.

With that being said, Dartmouth is a much smaller school than Boston University but this gives the students and professors time to truly get to know one another. Our tour guide in the morning, Elyse, said that she and her classmates are invited to dinner at her professors’ houses frequently. She has also babysat for them! The quarters are 10 weeks long and there are three quarters a year. Roughly 64% of the student population chooses to study abroad at some point during their time at Dartmouth. This is something that definitely has sparked the interest of our cohort. I know Frank would like to study Spanish abroad and Erin has also expressed interest in studying abroad at some point in her college career.

We had the honor of seeing Peter Chau, a graduate of Pinole Valley High School and Dartmouth. Peter is currently pursuing law school. John Beck, assistant director of admissions, was also able to join us for lunch today. The students asked both Peter and John questions about the application process, what Admin. Officers are looking for and specific questions about the personal essays. After lunch, we had our own private tour of the campus!

It has been another jam-packed day and we have Yale and Wesleyan tomorrow. Until next time!

By the way, we saw a flying turkey (we actually aren't sure exactly what kind of bird it was) this morning on our drive to New Hampshire. It came out of nowhere and we were all laughing hysterically. What a fun group of young men and women!

cacoethes scribendi

I opened my eyes to Andrew's smiling face, and thought "Great, it's 6 o' clock."

Adhering to the policy of punctuality, Andrew and I prepared ourselves quickly and made our way to the hotel lobby dressed casually for the long day ahead. We met with the girls; Erin, Erinn, and Kathleen who were patiently waiting on the comfortable lobby couches. We all watched the clock to see if Ms. Larson would make her 6:45 AM deadline, and either our watches were a little fast or...

We traveled together to get a quick breakfast from Starbucks. There, we all ate food until our blood sugar levels were sufficiently off the charts. I also took note that Erin's strawberry smoothie looked extremely good.

After leaving Starbucks, we reentered the car and began our long journey to Dartmouth. As always, I slept in the car. I slept through the Boston traffic, which--after I awoke--Andrew and Ms. Larson filled me in about. I didn't know what to expect at Dartmouth, but I looked forward to the tour nonetheless.

The vestibule of Dartmouth's admissions office was fashioned with a ballroom-style staircase. We had entered the building from the scorching heat of New Hampshire and immediately went to sit in for an information session about Dartmouth.

Dartmouth seemed interesting and appealed to Erinn and Kathleen the most. I was amazed by the fact that their performing arts teachers provided free lessons for vocal performance and instrumental performance. That's a huge benefit of the school, in addition to their profound collection of historic items.

After our tour guide Elise dismissed us, our group solicited Hanover, New Hampshire until lunch time. We visited Barnes & Nobles, where I purchased a Spanish dictionary to occupy myself on the 4-hour drives. Erinn purchased the next volume in her series of books, and everyone relaxed while Ms. Larson filled her role as bodyguard, meticulously guarding the Barnes & Nobles door from crooks.

We were accompanied to our dinner by John Beck, an admissions officer of Dartmouth, and Peter Chau, a Dartmouth alumni and member of the (then) in-development ILC.

We learned a lot from these two gentlemen. We were all very inspired to start our applications now and to hit the ground running. The most important thing I took from their advice was to be genuine in your essays, not to write up a story to stand out.

They showed us the interior of the university, and we were able to see multiple paintings of past school presidents, as well as "The Epic of American Civilization," a Jose Orazco mural. We relaxed on campus until we met up with Ms. Larson near the car.

We parted from Peter, got in the car, and began the long trip back to Hotel Providence. I fell asleep.

Upon arriving back at Providence, we ordered Chinese food from Dragon 2000. The restaurant receives Frank She's golden seal of approval. They pass the genuine Chinese food test.

We ate, and then worked off the calories at the Fitness Center in the Hotel. Hopefully Erin posts a picture for your viewing pleasure! I am currently charging my camera now, and promise to embellish my next update with pictures.

Until tomorrow.

8 Hours, 480 Minutes, 28,800 Seconds!

Today was quite an interesting day. We had to wake up fairly early, and eat breakfast at Starbucks because of the long nature of the drive ahead of us. Our only destination today was Dartmouth University in Hanover, New Hampshire. Hanover is approximately a four hour drive from our hotel in Providence, so the journey there and back was a full work day of eight hours. The drive was pretty strenuous, and at one point or another all of my cohorts fell asleep except for me. On our way to Dartmouth approaching the two and a half hour mark when everyone was getting tired, a large turkey almost crashed into our large, fast moving Chevy Tahoe. This quickly got everyone’s attention for about five minutes of constant hysteria.

We arrived at Dartmouth and jumped right into the informational session. From this session I leaned that Dartmouth has a unique plan known as the “D plan.” This means that students have to take a required amount of courses, but they can modify these courses in order to fit into the major(s) of their choice. This was very unique because that means I would be able to take the classes I needed and wanted to relate to my major. Dartmouth’s campus is very beautiful, but also very secluded. It reminds me of Colgate University, a college that I visited last year. Both are strictly college towns in rural and secluded places, with an array of different types of people. We went on a campus tour and this was also very informative. Dartmouth has the largest study abroad program of any Ivy League college. You can choose from 42 programs, the second most of the Ivies is 12 programs. So this shows Dartmouth’s advancement in this arena.
After the tour we had lunch with Peter Chau, a Pinole Valley alum, Dartmouth alum, and the first “ILC” cohort EVER, and also John Beck, Dartmouth alum, and current Dartmouth admissions officer. Peter told us that when he was involved with the “ILC” it had no formal name, and on his visits to the East Coast he did not have the pleasure to travel with any fellow high school students, rather he only traveled with Mr. Ramsey and other School Board officials. It was great to see a former Pinole Valley student who was very successful. John Beck added great insight to what admissions officers are looking for in a complete student application.

After lunch we had an exclusive campus tour with John Beck and Peter Chau. In this tour we were able to see the original book of Mormon, and the famous Epic of American Civilization mural, painted by Jose Orozco. The mural used great color, shapes, and clashes. 

That basically concluded the day, but we did have to face the daunting and treacherous four hour drive back to Providence. Time went by fast though, because all of us in Brown Session 1 are closely knit and we know how to enjoy ourselves.
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