Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Rockefeller's Best Investment"

It has truly been a significantly valuable experience these past two days, visiting two prestigious yet totally different institutions. In today’s trip to the University of Chicago, our tour took us through a campus of older structures, elegant in their ivy-blanketed splendor, as well as innovative modern structures, such the building for integrated and biological sciences.

Of course, the most cutting-edge structure of all was the newly unveiled, glass-domed Joe and Rika Library, conveniently connected with the main campus library. U of Chicago has the largest library in the US, with over 7 million tomes on its automated shelves. I’m serious… the book shelves move! Additionally, with the press of a button, a machine claw will grab your book of choice for you. Personally though, I just like navigating the labyrinth-like aisles. I couldn’t help thinking that the place would be excellent for silent hide-and-seek.

I understand now what it means for a college to be entirely unique.

Strolling through the beautiful, quaint, and tree-lined Hyde Park community (even in the rain) is a pleasant experience. University of Chicago also seems to be a place where small classes of student-run discussions around a circular table prevail against the traditional lecture hall arrangement. There are a set of core classes capped at 19 students which everyone takes. U of Chicago offers a lot of merit aid options in addition to need-based financial aid. However, like Northwestern and probably most of the other elite institutions, about $1,000-$2,000 per year is available for NMS Finalists.

I must say that the highlight of the day was lunching with the U of Chicago students in the grand Hutchinson Hall, which also seems to be equipped with endless food options from all around the world. I opted for a salad and smoothie, while Genevieve tried the samosas and masala, and Terilyn ate sushi.

In our company was our friendly tour guide Elin Meliska, who had told us that the U of Chicago, established in 1890 and funded by John D. Rockefeller, was “Rockefeller’s best investment.” We also enjoyed the company of math major Cullen Seaton. I particularly identified with Pre-Med student, Lucy Peterson from Kentucky, with whom I share an interest in biological sciences and a rivalry between the Loserville—excuse me, Louisville Cardinals and the University of Kentucky Wildcats of my birthplace, Lexington. Lunch was really fun, and we thoroughly enjoyed the relaxed college cafeteria setting, but University of Chicago has some really awesome students!

The Order of the Phoenix

Today was the first day in Chicago we actually were allowed to “sleep in,” not having to wake up until 8 in the morning, a first. We went to Starbucks again, and shortly after took the bus over to the University of Chicago campus. Although the hour and a half or so on a bus had sucked all the energy out of me, I was still quite impressed by the Chicago campus. The gothic buildings covered in ivy gave off a Hogwarts feel of sorts (more on Hogwarts and University of Chicago later) and the wind rustling through the ivy gave the whole college seem surreal. After looking around in awe at the beautiful campus, we headed inside the admissions office for an info session with Ms. Callie Brown. I had attended the info session at El Cerrito High School earlier so most of the main concepts were just refreshers, but it was nice to remember just how interesting the University of Chicago is.

We then met up with a rising fourth year student at University of Chicago, Elin, who took us on a tour around campus. Hearing Elin talk with such excitement about her school drastically increased my anticipation to attend college, since she talked with great passion about the amazing freedom that came with attending college. It was nice getting to see all the classrooms, and the classroom layout was very unique, and quite interesting. The majority of the classes we visited were in a roundtable format, in which the students had a discussion rather than just listening to a lecture, which I found fascinating. Elin also mentioned UC’s yearly scavenger hunt, in which students have do things such as play human battleship, find a lion or tiger, make chocolate rain, and even search throughout campus to find the list that told them what to find in the school.

After the tour we headed over to Hutchinson Commons to eat lunch with a few Chicago students, which was just as enlightening as the tour and info session. These students were both rising third years, Lucy Peterson, a pre-med student with a biology major, and Cullen Seaton, who is a math major, along with Elin our tour guide. Although University of Chicago might be a bit too close to the city for my liking, after meeting with these students and Ms. Brown, I know that the people at University of Chicago would be reason enough to go.

Later we met back up with Ms. Brown to take a tour of the library, the biggest library in the United States with a whopping 7.7 million volumes. This library also happened to be yet another sign of University of Chicago’s similarity to Hogwarts, with a glass transparent roof similar to the dining hall in Hogwarts (sorry I’m a bit of a Harry Potter nerd). After all these great things at University of Chicago it was time to go back to the hotel, a return journey that was delayed significantly by the lack of a bus for around 40 minutes, which left us out in the rain, of course.

Then we went to Gibson’s Steakhouse to meet up with Callie again, and were able to take a picture with Jesse Jackson! The meal was great and it was fantastic getting to talk to Ms. Brown more. Tomorrow we fly out to Ithaca to have dinner with some Cornell admission administrators, as well as Mr. Ramsey and Ms. Kronenberg.

The Phoenix Burns Bright in Chicago

There is much more to Chicago than high rises and bustling streets.  There are places with Ivy-covered buildings, lush plant life, and the general peace and quiet that one would not associate with Hercules, let alone Chicago.

Chicago in the morning.
Despite all the stereotypes, I found that there is a lot more depth to this city than hot dog stands and tourist traps.  This was because today, I visited the University of Chicago, in the historic Hyde Park neighborhood.  Shades of Berkeley were present here, though, it seemed to be much more pristine than I would imagine.

We made our way to the admissions office and met up with Callie Brown, the Assistant Admissions Director.  We had originally spoken to Callie a few months beforehand at an informational session at El Cerrito High School.  She gave us a special in-depth information session.

Once the clock struck 12:00, she gave the reins to Elin Meliska, a rising senior and currently a tour guide at UC. She gave us a detailed tour of the entire campus, expanding on the housing systems (the dormitories are divided by house), the various classrooms (something extremely interesting was that most of the classrooms were set up as a discussion area, not as a lecture hall), and the fun student activities (the Scav hunt, a university-wide scavenger hunt seemed very great).
An Ivy-colored hall.

With the students.
When the tour finished we joined two other students, Cullen Seaton and Lucy Peterson, for a nice lunch at Hutchinson Commons.  This was an interesting parallel, and provided the strong personal nature that was not as present at Northwestern. 

We learned not just a lot about the University of Chicago, but also about the city itself, the personal likes and dislikes of the students.  All three were wonderful people and I hope that they do read our blogs.

Hutchinson Commons only pushes the
Hogwarts point.
After that, Callie took us to the Mansueto Library and we traversed the labyrinth of automated bookcases.  It was both amazing, and terrifying.  I would not want to get lost in there.

The rain drove us straight to the bus stop, and eventually, back to the hotel.  It was surprisingly great because we made an umbrella fort.  Once we returned to the hotel, we immediately started getting ready for dinner with Callie.

ILC with Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr.
At 7:20, we set off to the Gibson Steakhouse.  We caught up with Callie along the way, and even took a picture with the Reverend Jesse Jackson!  The restaurant was very crowded, but it had a nice, homely feel to it.  We spoke to Callie about various topics, not just about the school, but about the city and her own experiences with the Bay Area.  It was very interesting and the atmosphere was much more relaxed, not to mention the filet mignon was fantastic.

Good night Callie!
Even though I the University of Chicago seemed to be a wonderful school, the visit taught me a very important lesson.  I learned that it is important to scrutinize a college—and to remember that not all of them will be the right fit for me.  That does not infringe on the quality of the education or the university, it just means that I need to keep looking.

And I will do just that.

Two Colleges In Three Days

Never before had I attended a college tour before, but already on this trip I have attended two! Today, we visited the University of Chicago, located in Hyde Park, a beautiful campus that resembles closely the campus of Hogwarts. :) We spent our morning talking to the wonderful Northern California admissions director Callie Brown. Next, we got a special tour from Elin Meliska and then got to join her and two other students, Lucy Peterson and Cullen Seaton, for a delightful lunch. I must confess, this experience has solidified in my mind that personally talking to students is the make it or break it factor. We had a jolly good old time!

A very impressive aspect of the campus was the brand new Joe and Rika Mansueta Library, a glass dome that was part of the largest library in the whole United States! It was really fun to explore; especially the moving bookcases. I also thought UC had an innovative implementation of classroom discussions. Instead of front-of-the-room lecturing teachers, the class sits around a table as equals and just talk and debate as their course experience. This was a new idea for me, and I found it very interesting.

After leaving the beautiful campus, we made our way back to the hotel, waiting for buses in the ever-present sporadic rain. Then we had a lovely dinner at Gibson's, getting to see and speak with Ms. Brown some more. One thing I must say is that I have never seen desserts the size of my head before. And that slice was only a small portion of the whole cake!

We finally head to Ithaca tomorrow. I look forward to stepping foot upon and exploring the campus where we will be spending our next three weeks, as well as the upcoming orientations. Wish me luck in getting a good roommate! Here is my ritual before-bed blogging, and now I'm off to bed hopefully for some sweet dreams.

(P.S. sorry about only having group photos, a memory card was misplaced and cameras not having batteries) I'll show the lovely campus of UC in some other upcoming blog, I promise!

"The University of Chicago: Because I got waitlisted at Hogwarts"

Today I experienced yet another new feeling—the feeling of wholehearted support and admiration for something that I knew was not right for me. Today we visited the University of Chicago. We had a private information session with Callie Brown, Assistant Director of Admissions at University of Chicago, followed by a private campus tour with University of Chicago student Elin Meliska and lunch with Elin and two other UC (that’s University of Chicago, not University of California) students, Lucy Peterson and Cullen Seaton.

Quite honestly, the experience was absolutely delightful. It really was. We all gawked at how incredibly beautiful the ivy-covered brick buildings were; we all laughed and talked with Elin, Lucy and Cullen like we had known them since middle school. The library is the largest in the country and boasts automated shelves and breathtaking architecture. In addition, the UC stresses the importance of discussion, which was especially appealing to me since all of my favorite classes in high school are discussion-oriented. Add on top of all that an uncanny resemblance to Hogwarts, and the University of Chicago seems rather perfect, does it not? And it is an amazing school—that was completely evident from today’s visit.

But I didn’t get “that feeling.”

I couldn’t imagine myself there, at the University of Chicago. I wanted to feel like it was the place for me because so much of its culture and characteristics appeal to me, but I didn’t. I was actually disappointed that I wasn’t feeling the way I wanted to, but in the end I am just grateful that I had the chance to learn a bit more about what it was that I had been unconsciously looking for in a college all along.

The rest of the day we spent eating dinner at Gibson’s Steakhouse with Callie. Dinner at Gibson’s felt much more relaxed than at Spaggia. That was nice just because it was more comfortable. The food was amazing as usual (Mr. Ramsey's taste in restaurants is impeccable.) I have never seen such large slices of cake in my life.

I can’t believe we are leaving Chicago tomorrow morning. I am still stuck in that strange warped time. Some parts of our stay in Chicago feel like they happened months ago. It is quite mind-boggling, maybe even a little bit overwhelming. All I can say is that I am so incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to come here as part of the Ivy League Connection. It’s been great, and we haven’t even “officially” started yet!

Maroon 8

I must admit I am dreading applying to colleges. I guess you could say I am a pessimist when it comes to selecting my college and here is why: I can’t give you a real number for how many colleges there are but I can tell you there are more colleges than I could every visit and thus I feel there is no way I can choose the right school. In my mind I can think choosing a college is like choosing a significant other, so I wish I could date each school to utilize each college for its benefits that they all have to offer.

At the University of Chicago (UC) I found myself falling in love with the students Ms. Callie Brown invited to our luncheon. College tours give you the opportunity to have a casual chitchat but tours do not give you the chance to take that chat to a deeper level, which is what the luncheon allowed us to do. We ate with Elin Meliska who is a rising senior (or 4th year), Lucy Peterson who is a rising junior (or 3rd year), and Cullen Seaton who is also a rising junior (or 3rd year). All of them were very inspirational and helped me realize that the stress I went through last year (my junior year) will all be worth it. They touched on their personal reasons for attending UC and then gave general reasons for why they thought UC was a great school.

To top off our wonderfully insightful luncheon; we had an incredible dinner with Ms. Brown. To start off the wonderful dinner we met Mr. Jesse Jackson outside our restaurant. And once we got inside and ordered the food was great! I have never had such wonderful mashed potatoes.

Callie was a great help; she taught us more about the college application process. For me (as I mentioned beforehand) the college process is a daunting cloud that I know is hanging over my senior year, but thanks to Callie that cloud got a little bit less daunting.

Until tomorrow, over and out blog readers.

Goodbye Chicago, Hello Ithaca!

Highlights of the day:
1. Touring the University of Chicago
2. Eating lunch on campus with real UChicago students
3. Purchasing a Chicago White Sox hat
4. Eating dinner with Callie Brown, the northern california admissions officer for UChicago
5. Seeing Jesse Jackson at dinner

1. Our tour of the University of Chicago was amazing. Our tour guide, Elin, showed us all of the nooks and crannies of the campus and told us a lot about UChicago's culture. We learned about Scav-Hunt, which is the largest scavenger hunt in the United States, and also toured the University's library, which is the largest library in the United States. Both were extremely impressive features and left great impressions about their student life and the amazing academic resources that they have to offer.

2. Lunch with the students was awesome. We ate on campus with three students (Lucy Peterson, Elin Meliska, and Cullen Seaton) who told us all of the in's and out's about their school. They answered all of our questions completely and honestly and made it perfectly clear that they did not want to leave the university. Cullen even stated that he was disappointed to even be half-way through his time there.

3. On the way back from UChicago we made a quick stop at a sports shop, just because I wanted a White Sox hat, and I purchased my very own Chicago White Sox hat. I look very good in it.

4. Dinner with Callie was great as well. The whole dinner felt very relaxed and I felt like I could ask her anything that was on my mind. She informed us that she personally chose UChicago because after her tour it just felt right to her. It felt like an enviornment that she could really immerse herself in and where she could greatly broaden her academic horizons. This piece of information resonated with me personally because that is exactly how I feel that a college should be chosen. Statistics and general information should definitely come into play, but if you don't feel at home at that certain campus, then you will never be happy there.

5. Seeing Jesse Jackson was insane!! I looked to my left and saw Ms. Neal flagging down some man, yelling "Mr. Jackson! Mr. Jackson!" and admittedly, I thought we were going to see Randy Jackson at first, but when Jesse Jackson turned around and shook our hands, it was like a piece of history had just reached out and touched us.

Overall, this experience in Chicago has been phenomenal and I can't believe that tomorrow it will come to a close. Ithaca is going to be great but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this great windy city. Every time I wear my hat, I am sure that will think back on these days and smile.

Goodbye Chicago, Hello Ithaca!

University of A Phoenix

Our last day in Chicago has finally come to a close and it has culminated with the University of Chicago that started with a campus tour and closed with a fine-dining restaurant.

While we took the L for most of our stay in Chicago, we used the as-efficient and extensive bus line offered throughout the city. We arrived a few blocks off of campus and walked through the quiet street of college-town activity. From barbershops to cafes, it was certainly like the neighborhood of any college. Once we arrived at the university’s admission office, we were quickly introduced to Callie Brown, the Northern California Admissions Director, whom we have kept in touch with prior to our arrival.

Our only stopover for our bus was located beside Michigan River.

We went straight into a conference room where we were given complimentary t-shirts and a folder detailing pamphlets and papers of information regarding the school. Because this is my second college visit (the first being Northwestern), I was more familiar with a lot of terms and topics that were completely foreign to me before. I quickly learned that the University of Chicago is too, on a quarter system. We were also briefed on how one’s education at Chicago would consist of one part “Core Classes” and two parts “Extracurricular,” which encompasses more focused classes that are usually associate with one’s majors and minors. Throughout the conference briefing, we were all asking questions left and right. We learned that athletes do not receive preferential treatment or exceptions compared to others and that the school. The University of Chicago also holds many similarities to Northwestern including the fact that they both take either the SAT or ACT and that the university is also on a “need-blind” basis, which means that no financial information of any applicant is given to the people that read their application. Granted, because I have very little experience with college considerations, many of these similarities may exist throughout all or most colleges.

Outside of the admissions office.

We were given our campus tour by an upcoming fourth-year student by the name of Elin. Like many have said before, going through campus was like stepping into the world of Harry Potter. The architecture was splendidly vintage and had this very lovely, almost gothic tone. We walked through their updated sports facilities and a few classrooms. Throughout the trip, she explained to us many student traditions including their famed scavenger hunt. During one event, she told us that students had simply "Chocolate Rain" on their list of items and a few decided to poor Hershey's Kisses down from above. Our tour concluded at one of their dining halls. At our table, we dined with Elin, and two other students who go by Cullen and Judy. Our entire group shared hilarious anecdotes and simply enjoyed ourselves in a relaxed environment. Afterwards, we ended our trip by adventuring into their state-of-the-art library, which recently opened a newly constructed dome expansion. The basement floor was absolutely chilling because of the fact bookshelves could be mechanically moved so that some areas could be accessed and others "folded in" to preserve space. While sensors are implemented for safety, I was terrified that eventually, someone may get caught in between two shelves.

Elin, our tour guide, is explaining the gift shop behind her.

After a quick rest at our hotel, we headed out to dinner with Callie Brown at a steakhouse called Gibsons. While the food was absolutely amazing (as always), the conversations with which we shared with Ms. Brown was top-notch. While it is normally expected to ask questions regarding the college to get a better insight as to what to expect, we felt that most of our concerns were addressed during the morning briefing. Instead, a majority of our talks with Callie were more about her life and interests where only help with learning about the University of Chicago was only a minimal part of the night.

An exterior shot of Gibsons.

Every day here in Chicago has certainly been a learning experience. Today in particular taught me that after conversing with admission officers long enough, you shouldn't ask so many questions for the sake of asking about the school. This is because the campus tour should help resolve all of that. Instead, it is important that when you meet these people off of campus, one should always make the initiative to get to know her better and allow her to get to know oneself better. While questions regarding the person's school should still be asked, this opportunity allows one to put a "face" on himself so that he can gain valuable contacts and confidants. Ms. Neal, our chaperone, even told us once over lunch that she kept in touch with an admission officer she met during one college tour. Who knows? If that admission officer whom one had a heart-to-heart conversation over dinner is reading his application, that experience a couple of months or years back may surely resonate in the officer.

Northwestern presents "The Color Purple"

With the alarm ringing at 6 AM, we all got prepared to head back onto the “L” for a very long train ride. Today, we traveled all the way to Evanston, a quaint college town on the border of Chicago, to take part of a college visit tour at Northwestern University.

The school is one of the most heavily funded research universities in the nation, so I was quite intrigued as to what all the fuss is about. As we entered the admission office, we met Aaron Zdawczyk , the Associate Director of Admission. He gave us a brief introduction and we were off to explore and discover the school. We learned a lot about the school, including their unique Quarter System. Instead of splitting the school’s time periods into semesters, they are split into four quarters that allow students to take up to twelve classes in a year. I also discovered that the university is split into six different schools that focus on specific fields like Communications, Journalism, and Engineering.

The English building at NU.

For the actual tour, we all split up into groups as five tour guides were accessible to us. Terilyn, Taylor, Jobel, and I chose to go with Andrew, a rising Junior who is an executive on the school’s fraternity board. We explored campus as he explained almost every building as we passed by them. We even entered the Engineering building and actually walked through the halls and classrooms. He went into details about instances of school culture including a 30-hour dance marathon and a tradition which they refer to as the “Rock.” The Rock, which has spawned from a broken water fountain, is a local landmark for students. Many students get hands-on involvement with the Rock by painting on it. However, to do this, they are required by the school to guard the Rock for 24 hours.

The famous Rock.

After the tour, we ate out in college town and then took the L train back to the hotel. With a few hours of break prior to our dinner with Aaron at Spaggia’s, we ventured out to the beach across the street. Once we concluded our small excursion, we all got ready to fill our minds and stomachs.

Aaron Zdawczyk delightfully answered our questions and helped clarify many things regarding Northwestern during our dinner. I brought up how I was always skeptical with the university system and how I was always under the assumption that it was "the name you were paying for." He brought up some really insightful info including how a community college wouldn’t give you the same support a student from a university would normally receive. I also asked how much the Communications school is well-connected with Journalism considering the fact that there is a dedicated Journalism program. Northwestern has tons of flexibility when it comes to class and majors and Aaron certainly brought that up. He also brought up that picking either Communications or Journalism will depend on what the endpoint of your career will be like.

An amazing dinner and conversation was taking place at Spaggia's.

Today has truly made me reconsider that going to a university, especially with all of these resources available to prospecting and existing students, is a decision worth thinking over again. Although I still have some drawn out skepticism, this first-ever college visit has certainly set the by high as we explore the University of Chicago tomorrow.

Words of a Prospective Wildcat

I was blown away today, but not because we’re in the Windy City.

As you’ve all probably already garnered from the blogs of my fellow Cornellians and their photos, Northwestern’s campus is just gorgeous and filled with incredible, friendly people whom have nothing but wonderful things to say about the place. They love it here, and that is delightfully reassuring.

Today’s tour really confirmed my previous perceptions that Northwestern was THE place to spread one’s wings; it’s a place where one can discover and explore all his/her interests (or even the world via study abroad), while still being able graduate without delay (oftentimes easily picking up design-your-own dual degree) and gaining experience for the professional world. The flexibility and resources available are found nowhere else.

I learned so much about the former Fighting Methodists known today as the Northwestern Wildcats from Josh Bay, our amazing tour guide. The campus architecture is a beautifully eclectic synthesis of gothic spires and their edgy modern counterparts.

As I had anxiously planned, we took a very special photo in front of The Rock (Northwestern’s famous, ever-changing stone drawing board/bulletin/mural/window of expression) by accessing the online RockCam. We went shopping for Wildcat wares, sunned up at the beach at the southern edge of campus, watched college students on the green spin their heads on a rotating baseball bat and crash to the ground in some sort of relay race, and stuffed our faces at Clark’s Diner. I remember smiling to myself when Joe commented that I had picked a great 1st choice school.

It’s so odd that this is technically my first college visit. A fine way to start off!

While the campus tour was a nice surprise, dinner this evening with Northwestern’s Associate Director of Admission, Mr. Aaron Zdawczyk was the real eye-opener, one that oddly left me a bit conflicted.

He is a really awesome guy and interesting conversationalist who Taylor is convinced resembles Jake Gyllenhaal. This is a guy who has been all over, working in places from Wuhan, China (even more humid that Chicago) to Columbia University, and who is happy to say Northwestern is where he belongs. We’re lucky to have him as the admissions director for Northern California.

I will take to heart his advice about the essay portion of the application process. The key is to strike a balance of personal relevance to showcase your best writing and so college admissions officers can get to know the real you. I’m glad Aaron didn’t give us the usual useful, yet tiresomely over-repeated, advice to avoid infamously overused topics such as that trip to Spain or building houses in Costa Rica. The essay can really make or break.

He explained that the components of a Northwestern candidate are “like building a house.” There has to be a balance between a solid foundation of academic excellence built on by extra curriculars and a really strong essay.

Aaron went on to talk about a great many things regarding Northwestern’s amenities and the admissions process, but one topic was of particular attention for me: HPME. He corrected me that the program admits up to 40 instead of 30 people, but I also learned this is out of roughly 800 applicants. 100 are chosen to be interviewed and 60 more are weeded out. It was nice knowing the numbers but mostly daunting.

Aaron also introduced me to a different path. The top Pre-med sophomores at Northwestern automatically gain acceptance to Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine, almost similar to the HPME’s arrangement. However, I have my doubts. I feel like there’s a better chance with HPME because while Northwestern’s campus seems really friendly, it also must be highly competitive since it’s filled with the best of the best. I have no idea where I would stand in the 8,000 undergrads, or even if I can (get accepted). Regardless, I will be working my hardest… wherever I end up.

Then there is issue of financing Northwestern in the first place. While the university has a highly generous financial aid tradition, it would be virtually impossible for me to gain access to it due to personal situations. Their financial aid is need-based and they offer no merit-based aid, except National Merit Scholarship. Tonight, I learned that Northwestern offers $2,000/year in the NMS Finalist scholarships. I know that USC’s NMS Finalist scholarship offers half tuition and University of Miami offers almost a full ride, so when someone put me under the false impression that tuition could be reduced by $25,000 at Northwestern, I should have known it was too good to be true . I feel foolish now, because I had previously thought that I could actually afford to attend the school of my dreams. Now understand that so many National Merit Finalists attend elite schools like Northwestern, so it wouldn’t be logical for such prestigious universities to give all that scholarship money to everyone.

This has certainly been a learning experience. While Northwestern will always be number one in my heart, I am uncertain if I will be listing it as my first choice college with NMS if I’m chosen as a finalist or if I can even afford to attend at all if I’m miraculously accepted either to regular undergrad admissions or (even more inexplicably) to HPME. What I do understand now, is that I should start being more open to other colleges as well.

Dinner at Spiaggia's

Swept Up By a Nor'wester

For the second day in a row I had to wake up about five hours earlier than I would if I were in any sane universe. We all headed over to Starbucks to keep everyone awake, although that didn’t really seem to help me. We took CTA again and headed over to Northwestern University on the Purple line. We arrived at Northwestern about an hour early, so we were able to spend about an hour on a beach right off of campus

We started our tour at Northwestern at 10:15, and broke off into separate groups so we could all hear all the different tour guides’ perspectives. Luckily for me, I ended up with by far the best tour guide, a Northwestern student name Josh Bay, who will be graduating next year. While I had gone into this tour with absolutely no intention of applying to Northwestern, Josh showed that the school was really supportive once you got in, and I am pleased to say that because of him and Aaron Zdawczyk (who I’ll talk about later) I will be applying to Northwestern a year and a half from now.

After the tour, we went out for lunch and then went back to the hotel to prepare for a dinner with Aaron Zdawczyk, the associate admissions director for Northwestern. We went to Spaggia, a restaurant that was by far the fanciest restaurant I have ever been to. While the food there was incredible beyond belief, the highlight of the dinner was getting to talk to Aaron, who helped explain the college experience as a whole and showed just how Northwestern could help me enjoy that experience. Northwestern was an amazing school, and I hope I can enjoy the University of Chicago tour and dinner as much as I enjoyed this one.

Magic in Chicago

I wasn’t planning on wearing a floral crown today, but I woke up severely tired this morning and decided that I would wear one to give myself a little boost.

Our day started with a quick breakfast at Starbucks (for me, it was a slice of banana walnut bread and a strawberry smoothie). After that, we all walked to the CTA and traveled to the stop nearest Northwestern University.

We split up into different campus tour groups. I was in a group of strangers since no one else picked the tour guide I did, Meghan White.

The tour was absolute magic.

Before the tour, my first impression of Northwestern was definitely one of admiration, but there were no real feelings. The moment Meghan started talking, though, I began to imagine myself at Northwestern: lying in the grass, chasing the squirrels, reading in the Harry Potter- like library, guarding The Rock, sitting in a classroom writing about the extinction of dinosaurs. It was a very instant transition.

I have only recently begun to feel excited about college, and this is the first time I have felt excited about applying to a college. This was my first campus tour, and Northwestern is the first school that I am sure I will be applying to. These are many firsts. Yes, this is exciting stuff!

After we left Northwestern, we ate lunch at Clark’s and then visited Beck’s Bookstore and the Deering Library on campus. (It’s the one that looks Harry Potter-ish.) When we arrived back at the hotel, I explored a little bit and found an empty conference room. The room had a large window seat and an interesting view of the beach, so I sat in that room for a while by myself, until I wandered back downstairs and the some of the others found me and asked me to go to the beach with them.

It was nice to run around on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan before getting ready for dinner at Spaggia with Aaron Zdawczyk, the Associate Director of Admission at Northwestern. We all dressed up and ate amazing food while talking and laughing and asking Aaron questions. The atmosphere was perfect. Our waiter was funny and excited about us being Californians since he came from California. It was just a very magical day today.

Thank you, ILC.

North by Northwestern

There are a few things I do whenever I go on a trip.  First and foremost, I woke up, dashed to the alarm clock, turned it off immediately and plopped back on the bed.  Yes, these mornings generally start out the same.  Any variance and I do not think I would really be me.  It just ends up that way.

After rushing through the shower and going down to the local Starbucks for breakfast, the ILC Cornellians were off to start another day.  Destination:  Evanston, IL, Northwestern University.

The long ride inside the Chicago trains were quiet, and a tad dreary.  As I would find later, it was just suspense for this very eventful day.

As soon as we arrived at Evanston, we set out on foot to visit Associate Director of Admissions Aaron Zdawezyk.  We had arranged to meet up with him in the past weeks.  Or rather, Kelly took charge of that intiative.  She was the most enthusiastic of all of us, though she would not be outmatched for long.
We introduced ourselves to Aaron and he gave us a few pointers about the city and what to tour.  Since Terilyn and Kevin were not able to join us at the information session last week, they attended the information session at the admissions office.  Meanwhile, the rest of us visited the local beach and soaked in some sun.
At 10 AM, we returned to the admissions office and then we split up into tour groups.  I joined a tour group with Taylor and Kevin.  Our tour guide, Andrew, provided us with an excellent tour with a very personal touch.  We learned tons about the university while visiting places such as Medill School of Journalism and the Deering Library (which looked like Hogwarts!).  It was a brilliant time and I have never been more excited about college before.

Once we ate lunch at Clarke’s (a great diner place), we visited the college bookstore, picked up a few shirts, and made our way back to the hotel.

At the hotel, we took some free time to visit another beach, and then we ran back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.  To recap, we had a dinner that night to attend with Aaron at Spiaggia, a local high-class Italian restaurant, at 7 PM. 

After going through a crash course on how to tie a tie, we ran over to Spiaggia and arrived just as Aaron did.  We took our seats and started discussing the university while giving our order.

The discussion turned out to be very informative.  Aaron went really in-depth about subjects such as courses, financial aid, and admissions.  He specifically outlined that it was extremely important to answer an essay question thoroughly and give ourselves relevance in it.  However, he was quick to point out that it was easy to go too much in one direction, making it a lot worse.

After a nice tartar and splendid goat-cheese ravioli, we started to hit on some of the pros and cons of Northwestern.  It was extremely helpful that Aaron pointed both the pros (such as the flexibility of the university) and the cons (the buildings need to be updated).  It allowed me to place a lot more trust into what I had seen that day.

We retired soon afterwards, but not before joining up for one more group picture.  The only blight was that Aaron had to leave before we took it.